Ponce

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    The Ponce or Cardona Island lighthouse entered service on August 15, 1889. It was designed by Manuel Maese, amended by Rafael Ravena and built by the government itself, on this six-acre island located two kilometers south of Ponce. This lighthouse was not included in the island’s original illumination plan but was added due to the pressure of the Playa de Ponce businessmen, who in 1880 paid for the installation of a light on the Port Authority building.

     The initiative was quickly rejected by the central government, which ordered the light seized and operated by an auxiliary keeper until an adequate lighthouse could be constructed. The Ponce port and Cardona were considered as possible locations and Cardona was chosen mainly because it was one of the obstacles to navigation in the area. The building measures 48 feet long by 27 feet wide and resembles superficially the Arroyo and the two Vieques lighthouses, but is smaller, has a different distribution of spaces, and its 32-feet tower is cylindrical and connects to the rear face of the building. The structure was originally painted light blue with white details and black baseboard. The sixth-order lens projected its light eight miles away and was used at least until 1978. Today it is housed in the Coast Guard museum in San Juan, its base bears the inscription Sautier, Lemonier & Cie Paris 1888. The lighthouse was closed around 1950 and automated in 1962, it currently operates with a lantern fed by solar panels. The building is in fairly good condition but it is surrounded by vegetation and salt spray has severely corroded the lantern. Humidity has also affected the ceiling’s wood support. To visit Cardona one can rent a private boat at La Guancha or at the fishing village in Playa de Ponce, the author visited the island with Rodolfo Rodríguez (787-348-3063) and later with the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. Cardona can be observed from road no. 2’s overpasses near Ponce, from the tower at La Guancha, and from the end of the La Guancha boardwalk.

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