I think I drove by the yellow cement sign marking the entrance to the Puerto Ferro Archaeological Site dozens of times without realizing what it represented. I was usually on my way to the beach or the oceanfront town of Esperanza. It wasn’t until I visited the Fortín Conde De Mirasol, “The Fort”, and spoke with its curator Robert Rabin that I learned the importance of the site and why it would be a must see during my stay on Vieques.
The site is simple to find. Look for the above mentioned marker on Rt. 997 between Sun Bay and the Refuge, near mile marker 6.5. Turn inland onto the dirt road and continue a short distance until you find the site marked by an assortment of large boulders.
What exactly is the Puerto Ferro Archaeological Site, and why do you want to visit?
Puerto Ferro is one of the oldest archaeological sites in Puerto Rico. A 4,000 year old skeleton was discovered here in 1991, the oldest human remains ever found on Vieques. The bones were determined to belong to a male, approximately 35-40 years of age.
Interestingly enough, the discovery of the body in the shallow grave also points to the fact that even 4,000 years ago, funeral practices were performed by the island natives.
The dirt “road” to the site was nothing short of adventurous. I slowly negotiated it, as the road was pitted and washed out in many areas. I half contemplated turning back, except if that had been my ultimate decision, I doubt I would have been able to turn the jeep around in such a tight spot. Thorny brush on either side of the road adds another obstacle to navigating it.
Lumbering forward, I was disappointed to find household items and other refuse discarded on either side of the road. Litter in general is bothersome, but especially in an area that holds such historical significance to the history of the people of Vieques. I hope that since my visit, the garbage was cleaned up by those who work so tirelessly to preserve the past.
You know you’ve reached the site when you encounter several clusters of large boulders. If you’re a geology enthusiast, you’ll be interested to know that these gigantic boulders are the subterranean remains of the earliest volcanic formation of the island. The boulders are made up of granodiorite, which is the median of granite and diorite. Their size is undoubtedly imposing.
I felt like I was on the set of an episode of the paranormal TV show The X-Files. It’s almost as if the rocks were magically arranged rather than being a natural occurrence. The site, because of this, is also referred to as the mini Stonehenge. Although they appear out of place, I have a hard time believing that the boulders were intentionally arranged that way by man.
One thing’s for sure, being in such a sacred spot makes one feel small and humbled. It was if I had stumbled upon a spiritual place, and indeed, it is. The human bones found there were dated somewhere between 700 BCE and 2145 BCE. That, my friends, is a really, really long time ago. I felt like I was an insignificant part of something so much greater than myself.
You won’t necessarily spend a copious amount of time at the Puerto Ferro Archaeological Site, but you’ll be glad that you did. It’s one of those special, one of a kind places that you may only visit once in a lifetime.