jaimemontilla.com

My father was a photography enthusiast to the extent he built a dark room next to the garage in our house.  Watching him develop black and white pictures using an Omega enlarger, instilled in me an interest in photography at a young age while growing up in Ponce, Puerto Rico . Soon my brothers and I were spending hours in the dark room developing our own black and white pictures.  This interest in photography continued into my High School years when I joined the school photography club and took pictures of all sports and other activities for the school's monthly bulletin.  Now at retirement age, that interest in photography has again surfaced.  Years have passed and technology has changed, film photograpy and dark rooms have been replaced by digital photography and post processing software, but the basic picture taking techniques learned years ago are still valid today.

My idea when creating this webpage was to document in pictures the structures of important industries which are no more and Puerto Rico's historic architecture.  I started with the sugar industry which is also the most widely covered.  Why sugar?  Well, during my youth in the 1950's, being the 7th largest producer of sugar in the world, sugar was everything in Puerto Rico.  As mentioned above, I spent my youth in Ponce where Central Fortuna and Central Mercedita, the largest locally owned sugar mill on the island, were located.  The adjacent towns of Juana Diaz to the east and Guayanilla to the West were the site of four additional sugar mills: Rufina, San Francisco, Cortada and Boca Chica.


Every family in Ponce had in one way or another ties with the sugar industry, everybody had a friend whose family was directly involved in the industry.   The neighborhood of El Vigía where I grew up is at the top of a hill overlooking the town of Ponce, it was there that families directly related to Central Mercedita, Central Rufina and Central Cortada called home.  Members of my family on both sides were directly related to the sugar industry as well.  On my mother's side, my 3rd Great Grandfather Antonio Francisco Negroni Mattei was the owner of Hacienda Florida and Hacienda San Colombano , my Grandfather Juan Antonio Negroni Antonmattei worked at the Guanica Centrale and my cousin Asunción Negroni Albelda was married to Arturo Lluveras the owner of Central San Francisco .   My Great Grandfather Emilio Montilla Valdespino appears in the Catalogue of the Spanish Section of the 1889 Universal Expo in Paris as a producer of muscovado sugar from San Juan, Emilio was at the time owner of the 316 cuerdas Hacienda Santa Cruz in Bayamón.  My 2nd Great Grandfather Juan Francisco Watlington del Toro was at one time owner of Hacienda Buena Vista in Arecibo.


Additionally, part of the reason for this website is to state facts as close as possible to actual history.  As as a result of my research for this project, I found that information available on the internet and the history told of the sugar industry on the island, especially the reason for its demise, is incorrect, incomplete or has been distorted.  Government policies implemented to fight and eliminate the four American owned sugar corporations on the island (Aguirre, Fajardo, Guanica and United Porto Rican Sugar Corp.) not only succeeded in their closure but in doing so caused the closure of more than thirty locally owned sugar factories as well.  Part of the reason for the government actions was stopping the repatriation of profits, practice that existed for many years during the Spanish colonial times probably to a greater extent.

After all is said and done, Operation Bootstrap, as the program established to convert the island from an agricultural economy to an industrial one was known, succeded in transforming a primarily agricultural economy that was the engine behind the island's economy for over 100 years, to an industrial economy that lasted approximately 30 years and is today practically non existent.


Any more the island has no important agricultural or industrial economic sectors and its economy today is a service based economy predominantly centered on tourism.
Pictures
Capturing remains of once great structures.
Thank you for visiting this website.  It was created to publish and share personally taken pictures.  The website is divided in different area of interest to me.  Two areas relate to the sugar industry in Puerto Rico, one relates to architecture and another to the cigar industry in Tampa, FL.  Each one has a brief write up because there is a story to every picture!
 
Sugar was the island's main industry during the first half of the 20th Century but during the second half it was let to die; the remains tell a sad story.  Architecture and construction styles give personality to towns and cities, here I document structures that represent typical contruction styles used in Puerto Rico including the Prairie Style introduced by Antonin Nechodoma.  I also dedictae a page to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright at the Florida Southern College.  Another area is dedicated to the cigar industry in Tampa, FL  which industry was the engine behind its growth and is now practically non-existent.
 
It was convenient in certain instances to include as reference pictures of subjects nonexistent today.  However, all other pictures are original pictures.  I want to thank my brother and his wife for their contribution and time dedicated to these projects.
 
There is no relationship between the different subjects, they have been chosen only on personal interests.  Visit us often as we frequently make changes and add new material.
    
Upcoming Projects
As a result of the decline of the sugar industry around the mid 1800s, ​coffee became the major agricultural product in Puerto Rico.  Many of the Europeans that came to the island as a result of the 1815 Royal Decree of Graces, took to coffee growing and a number of haciendas produced some of the finest coffee traded in world markets.  Some of these haciendas dissapeared or only ruins remain and some still exist today, but the coffee industry in PR has never again reached the levels of its heydays in the late 1800s.  An ongoing project is to photograph the current remains of coffee haciendas from that era. 

Hurricane Maria of September 2017, had a devastating effect on the island, damaging most of its infrastructure, buildings and roads.  The effect of the hurricane has delayed the completion of this  project. 

Another project in development is regarding the Cuban sugar industry which, as it is widely known, was the predominant supplier of raw sugar in the world during the early part of the XX Century.  This endeavor is a more difficult one due to the current travel restriction and the difficulty of traveling throughout the island.