Las Piedras is a small town in southeastern Puerto Rico. Its name means "The Rocks" and refers to the gigantic volcanic-rock formations scattered throughout the area. The Taínos, the Indigenous people of Puerto Rico, used these rocks for religious ceremonies.
The Taínos were an Arawak tribe that inhabited most of the Antilles archipelago when the Spanish arrived in the late 1400s, but they were quickly wiped out by the Europeans. Today our only connection to the pre-Columbian era is through petroglyphs found carved into rocks and caverns, as well as the remains of Taíno settlements found around the Island. You can find one such settlement among Las Piedras' most popular landmarks.
Visit the Cueva del Indio
Located in a lush park, the Cueva del Indio (Indian Cave) contains not only a cave but also a batey, or ceremonial site, used by the Taíno people who lived in the area more than 500 years ago.
A series of standing stones with Taíno symbols carved into them are placed in the form of a rectangle to mark the batey. The grounds were used for ceremonies during certain times of the year, and also as a playing field for a ball game.
The cave itself is actually several enormous rocks leaning into each other, creating an opening. The Taínos would smoke tree bark with hallucinogenic properties and go into the cave to communicate with the gods. Whatever they saw in their vision they would carve into the stones. There are more than 200 petroglyphs in just one area of this cave.
To visit the park you must make reservations with the municipal tourism office, 787-733-2160 ext. 2474. They offer a guided tour of the park and cave in Spanish or English.
Festivals of Las Piedras
Las Piedras is also known as The Town of the Artisans, and they hold a yearly artisan festival in September at Paseo de los Artesanos, a plaza designed as a tribute to the craftsmen of Puerto Rico. This square is decorated in festive colors and the entrance has a giant rock with Taíno symbols carved into it and a giant Taíno sun on top.
Other festivals held in Las Piedras include the Güiro Festival in March (güiro is a type of instrument made from a dried gourd with lines carved into the side that is scraped with a metallic comb), and the Festival del Lechón in November to celebrate the exquisite slow-roasted pork that's one of the most important culinary traditions of Puerto Rico.