Visit the Historic Monument of Coloso Sugar Cane Refinery
Located near the town of Aguada, in the Porta Del Sol region of Puerto Rico, the Coloso Sugar Cane Refinery was one of the longest running sugar mills on the island – beginning production in the late 1820s and ceasing in 2003. In 1999, the sugar refinery was declared to be a historic monument, with the Coloso Valley classified as an agricultural reserve in the year 2000. Both are currently administered by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
The Coloso Sugar Cane Refinery was founded towards the end of the 1920s as the Caño de las Nasas estate. At that time it operated as a cattle-driven sugar mill which produced around 100 barrels of sugar each day. It was in the late 1860s that the name of the estate changed to Coloso under the ownership of Emilio Vadí. The new owner converted the sugar mill into a sugarcane refinery, being the second and final stage of preparing sugar for sale to consumers. With the change to refining sugar, the production process was almost completely mechanized and produced up to 1,000 barrels of sugar per day. By 1879 the sugar industry suffered some setbacks and Emilio Vadí went into partnership with a German entrepreneur named H. Kuster. However, this failed to save the business and the partners sold the refinery in 1897 to José Arnell Massó.
The new owner consolidated his other sugar-related assets with Coloso, creating an enterprise that processed sugar grown on his own plantations as well as sugar grown by other farmers. Records reveal that in 1902, the Coloso Sugar Cane Refinery processed a total of 20,000 sacks of sugar, with a peak of 1,500 workers employed by the enterprise. By 1904, a group of French investors bought the refinery, changing its name to the Sucrerie Centrale Coloso de Porto Rico. However, in 1915 the refinery reverted to Puerto Rican ownership later becoming Central Coloso, Inc. By 1952, Coloso had the capacity to process up to 5,000 tons of sugar on a daily basis.
After reaching a peak of 73,554 tons of sugar in 1961, Coloso felt the effects of a decline in the sugar industry on the island of Puerto Rico. There were a number of reasons for this decline, none of which could be remedied by the management of the refinery, and in the 1970s the Puerto Rican government took over the enterprise in an effort to revive the sugarcane industry. As other sugar mills on the island closed down, a program of privatization put Coloso under private ownership again, but production dwindled until the refinery officially ceased operations in 2003 – marking the end of an era when sugar production played an important role in the economy of Puerto Rico.