The lighthouse on the reddish cliffs of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, was built by the Spanish in 1882 and was the third lighthouse to be built under their master plan. Taken over by the United States after the Spanish American war, it was manned until 1967 when automation took over.
After the Coast Guard left, the light station soon fell into disrepair and was the target of vandalism. It was more or less abandoned except for the tower where the Coast Guard maintained the light.
Although there was a plan in place when we visited in January 2000, there were no signs of any repairs or upkeep. There were holes in the walls of the brick and stone structure, the doors hung open and the windows were boarded, if, indeed, there was any glass behind the boards.
However, restoration of the historic station was started
in 2002, and completed in October of 2004. The mayor of Cabo Rojo is quoted as stating that it was restored to its
The restoration of the lighthouse was the first phase of the development of a National Wildlife Refuge and ecological park. The next phase will cost over three million dollars and will include wooden walkways, a visitor’s center, bike paths, hiking paths and platforms where people can observe the wildlife.
Although this is the latest major lighthouse to be restored in Puerto Rico, there are plans afoot to restore Culebrita and possibly Guanica lighthouses, both of which are in terrible shape.
Recently, I received a short e-mail message from Luis Camacho, who is from that area:
“I was born and grew up in Cabo Rojo. All my life I visited and spent endless hours around the beaches and the areas
surrounding this lighthouse. It was like my playground growing up, and, in my teens, I used to ride my motorcycle up and down the lighthouse area. I used to bring all my girlfriends to the lighthouse to hide from the world – Today this area is protected from vehicular traffic as it has been designated a natural preserve.
“The last time I was in Puerto Rico was in May of this year and I remember, every time I go back home, the welcoming view is that of the lighthouse in the distance to your left as you approach my Barrio - El Corozo.
“But this last time was different. It was dark, and as I looked to my left expecting to see the light from the Faro - there was darkness. Can you imagine going to visit your relatives after a long absence and getting there in the midst of a funeral for one of your closest family members? That was the feeling I felt that night! I was so sad I did not even dare speak about it. I only stayed one day and returned back to NJ wondering about the fate of the lighthouse.
“This morning I was searching the Internet and came across an article (about the restoration) in one of Puerto Rico’s newspapers. I was so happy to see this and immediately sent a message to the mayor of Cabo Rojo to congratulate him and any one involved in the restoration effort of ‘El Faro.’ All my life I saw this faro
neglected and I dreamed of someday making an application to the agency responsible for its care so I could put a team together to restore it and turn it into a museum.
“Well, I never got to that point. Someone has beat me to it and I hope, not having seen their work yet, that they have done a good job of this effort. I’ll definitely see it in January when I go back home. Can’t wait!”
Luis, we can’t wait to go back either and to view the restoration first hand.
Sandra Shanklin, with her husband Bob, are known as
“The Lighthouse People.” They have photographed every lighthouse in the United States. They have published a number of lighthouse books and CDs, and sell their photographs. You can contact them at 850-862-069 or visit their website: www.thelighthousepeople.com
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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