What was Mameyes?
Since 1948, Mameyes was a neighborhood that was part of the urban area of the Ponce municipality, located in the Portuguese Urban neighborhood. Most of its inhabitants were of few resources and settled in this space clandestinely, so there are no official documents that include the neighborhoods and sectors of the neighborhood.
However, according to Israel Collazo Torres, a survivor of Mameyes, the neighborhood bordered on Cerro San Tomás, El Vigía, La Cantera, Loma Bonita and Calle Atocha. Similarly, Collazo Torres affirms that the place was divided into five sectors, known as Los Portones, El Llano, La Joya, Las Caobas and Loma Doncella.
In addition, a Head Start, an elementary school (first to third grade), a community center, a ball park, a basketball court and even a medical dispensary were developed on site. Therefore, the Mameyes community managed to establish itself like any other community; There, many families grew, developed and above all created sincere and affectionate support networks among themselves.
October 7, 1985
From Friday, October 4 to Monday, October 7, 1985, a tropical wave passed through the island that would later become Storm Isabel. Its rains caused flooding in various sectors of the country and even registered up to 24 inches of precipitation in 24 hours, the second highest record after Hurricane San Ciriaco in 1899.
As a consequence, in the early hours of October 7, a great roar was heard in Mameyes followed by a landslide that dragged around 250 to 400 Ponceño homes.
Rescue work by bodies such as the Civil Defense and the Puerto Rico Police began in the morning. This is why the first to help rescue the victims of the collapse were the inhabitants of the same community.
That same day, Rafael Hernández Colón, who to date was Governor of Puerto Rico, declared a State of Emergency and a Serious Natural Disaster on the island. He also made a call to the military forces of Puerto Rico, to the State Active Military Service, in order to provide necessary help to civil authorities, both in transportation, rescue, and other tasks that may be required.
After several days of rescue and burial of the bodies, the survivors were taken to shelters and evicted from the place, since the terrain was not safe. About a year later, under the Emergency Housing Program, a community called “El Nuevo Mameyes” was built, where the surviving families were transferred and relocated.
Currently, this community is located in the rural area of the city of Ponce, specifically in the Portuguese neighborhood.
Today, 35 years after the tragedy, we remember and commemorate the lives of all the citizens who died in that disaster. The Mameyes neighborhood was and will continue to be an important community for the town, as it is part of Ponce’s history.
We trust that this event will serve to raise awareness about the structuring and planning of our communities so that each family can live in a safe home.
Let’s walk Mameyes
To keep the memory of the Mameyes community alive, Isla Caribe announces the “Caminado Mameyes” tour this Sunday, October 11, starting at 9:00 in the morning.
This historical and cultural tour will be offered in person and virtually. During it, you will visit the Aqueduct community, where the historic Alfonso XII Aqueduct is located, an imposing structure built in the 19th century.
You will also walk to the Mameyes neighborhood Memorial of Remembrance, learning about the sectors and the stories of this community.
The tour will also feature the participation of Israel Collazo, a survivor and community leader from Nuevo Mameyes. The proceeds of this tour will be donated to the Committee Unidos al Recate del Barrio Mameyes Inc.
The tour will be offered in person ($ 20, limited spaces) and virtual ($ 10). For more information and to separate your space, go to www.islacaribetours.com or call 787-675-1285.
In keeping with the Covid-19 emergency, Isla Caribe complies with all the security protocols established by the Tourism Company and the Government of Puerto Rico.
(Editorial collaboration of Isla Caribe)