Monumento a los heroes de El Polvorín (tomb)

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For the obelisk at Plaza Las Delicias, see Monumento a los heroes de El Polvorín (obelisk).
Monumento a los heroes de El Polvorín
Mausoleo Bomberos de Ponce, Cementerio Civil, Barrio Portugués Urbano, Ponce, Puerto Rico (DSC05401).jpg
Image of the monument
Coordinates 18°00′47.7714″N, -66° 37' 58.2954"W
Location Cementerio Civil, Barrio Portugues Urbano, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Designer Alfredo Wiechers Pieretti
Type Tomb, obelisk, and statue
Material Stucco and Concrete
Length approx 40 feet
Width approx 40 feet
Height approx. 50 feet
Beginning date ca. 1904 (source: the monument's front plaque)
Completion date 1911
Opening date 1911
Dedicated to The "El Polvorin" fire heroes
Note: This monument is not the same as the obelisk at Plaza Las Delicias. Both are dedicated to the same group of men.

The Monumento a los heroes de El Polvorín (Monument to the "El Polvorín" fire heroes) is a mausoleum monument in Ponce, Puerto Rico, dedicated to the seven firefighters and one civilian who subdued the flames of the "El Polvorin" fire on the night of 25 January 1899.

Location[edit]

The monument is located in the Cementerio Civil de Ponce (Ponce Civil Cemetery), in barrio Portugues Urbano, Ponce, Puerto Rico. Its coordinates are N 18.01327 W 66.63286 (18° 0' 47.7714" N, 66° 37' 58.2954" W).

Background[edit]

On 25 January 1899, a large fire (later dubbed "El Polvorin") threatened the lives of Ponceños, as well as the economy of Puerto Rico as a whole, given Ponce's de facto role as Puerto Rico's banking and agricultural capital. A painting inside Parque de Bombas commemorates the heroic acts of seven valiant "bomberos" and one civilian who fought bravely against the voracious fire that threatened the region. Disobeying orders from the American troops that had recently taken control of Puerto Rico, the group was able to appease the flames that had started inside the U.S. Army’s gunpowder reserves. Due to their courageous efforts, disaster was narrowly averted.[1] For their heroic valor and success, the group was honored many times both in Ponce and the rest of Puerto Rico. The mausoleum was built to keep their remains in the after life and honor their memory. Buried in the tomb are the seven firefighters and one civilian who fought the fire. Also buried are 60 other Ponce firemen that have since qualified to be buried there.[2]

The structure[edit]

The mausoleum was built in 1911. This monument is different from the obelisk unveiled in 1948 and on display at Plaza Las Delicias, which is also dedicated to the same group of men.[3][2] The obelisk and statue portions of this mausoleum were rebuilt in 2011, at the 100th anniversary of the original obelisk, statue and mausoleum (1911), and uncovered in time for its 101st anniversary, on 25 January 2012. The monument had been rebuilt in the 1950s and was rebuilt again in 2011-2012. The 2011-2012 restoration was performed by plastic arts artist Ramón Rivera Cáliz, director of the Secretaría de Arte y Cultura (Office of Arts and Culture) of the Municipality of Ponce.[3] For this and many other contributions in the city of Ponce, on 12 December 2013, Rivera Cáliz was honored with a ceremony and added to the list of illustrious Ponce citizens at the Park of the Illustrious Ponce Citizens in Ponce's Tricentennial Park.[4]

The monument is flanked by a 4-foot high foundation and surrounded by 19 3-foot high columns connected by chain segments. The chain segments are adorned with metal stamps depicting Ponce firefighting equipment and the stamps have dates on them. These surrounding columns and chain segments have a total length of some 40 feet on each side and form a square that measures 40-feet x 40-feet. There is also an interior chain located closer to the obelisk itself, this one supported by four 3-foot high columns. There is a marble plaque at the base of the obelisk with an inscription that reads (Note: English translation is not part of the inscription, and it is given here to the right):

- 1904 -
Erijido por subscripcion popular
a iniciativa de
Olimpio Otero y Ulpiano Colom
secundado por Francisca Paz de Cabrera
con la Eficaz Cooperacion del
Honorable Ayuntamiento y Junta Ejecutiva
- 1911 -
- 1904 -
Erected by popular support
under the initiative of
Olimpio Otero and Ulpiano Colom
seconded by Francisca Paz de Cabrera
with the efficient cooperation of
the honorable Mayor and its Cabinet.
- 1911 -

The segments of the exterior chain have metal insignias with dates on them. Many of the dates are repeated. The dates mark significant events in the history of the Ponce Fire Corps. The dates include, 2 February 1883, date on which the Ponce Fire Corps moved to what is today Parque de Bombas Museum. Another date is 30 May 1906, date on which the first group of land lots were awarded to Ponce firefighters for the construction of their own homes on Calle 25 de Enero street. A third date is, of course, 25 January 1899, the date of the El Povorin fire.

The mausoleum proper is located under the obelisk, at below ground level. The entrance to the mausoleum contains another inscription, in a two-column format, which reads:

Spanish Original:

Junta Ejecutiva : Jefe del Cuerpo:
Simon Moret Julio Rosich
Gillermo Vivas Arquitecto:
Luis Porrata D. A. Wiechers
Julio Rosich Ingeniero Director:
Blas C. Silva Blas C. Silva
Olimpio Otero C[onstruccion]: E. Concepcion

English Translation:

Executive Board : Fire Chief:
Simon Moret Julio Rosich
Gillermo Vivas Architect:
Luis Porrata D. A. Wiechers
Julio Rosich Lead Engineer:
Blas Silva Blas Silva
Olimpio Otero C[onstruction]: E. Concepcion

Homage to firefighters[edit]

Another plaque, this one in the shape of a stonehead, protects the final entryway into the tombs of the mausoleum. It reads as follows:

"Hay algo en este grave monumento
que eleva nuestros ojos a la altura.
!En las entrañas la piedra dura
el valor y el deber tienen su asiento!
Tras la breve jornada de un momento,
aqui yacen en noble sepultura
los heroes de una vida de amargura
que a las llamas quitaron su ardimiento.
Amargo es el vivir de los mortales
que lucharon por curar ajenos males,
al mandato divino siempre fieles.
Por eso estos funebres umbrales
reza el mundo sus preces fraternales
y entreteje la Gloria sus laureles".
"There is something in this grave monument
that raises our eyes to the heights.
In the depths of the hard stone,
valour and duty have their throne!
After a brief one day's work,
here lay in noble rest
the heroes of a bitter life
who took away the fire from the flames.
It's bitter the life of the mortals
who fought to cure others' burdens:
to the divine command always faithful.
This is why these sober passways
the world prays its fraternal prayers
and the Heavens weaves its laurels."

The honored[edit]

All Ponce firefighters with five or more years of service are eligible to be buried in this mausoleum, and 60 rest in it so far, in addition to the initial eight.[2] The structure particularly honors the following seven firefighters and one civilian from the 25 January 1899 El Polvorin fire:

  • Rafael Rivera Esbri (civilian and later mayor of Ponce)
  • Pedro Sabater
  • Rafael del Valle
  • Cayetano Casals
  • Pedro Ruiz
  • Juan Romero
  • Gregorio Rivera
  • Tomas Rivera

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Parque de Bombas de Ponce - Video Guide". EyeTour.com. 
  2. ^ a b c Hillinger, Charles (April 22, 1990). "Heroism of Firefighters Still Ignites Civic Pride". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ a b Millán, Reinaldo (25 January 2012). "Hacen justicia con héroes del Polvorín". La Perla del Sur (in Spanish) (Ponce, Puerto Rico). 
  4. ^ "Reconocen a 22 ‘Ponceños Ilustres". La Perla del Sur (in Spanish) (Ponce, Puerto Rico). December 18, 2013. 

Coordinates: 18°00′47.7714″N 66°37′58.2954″W / 18.013269833°N 66.632859833°W / 18.013269833; -66.632859833