By: Jorge López Martínez
Located in the beautiful municipality of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, Los Morillos Lighthouse is one of the most amazing places to visit in the west coast of the island. It’s splendorous view and beautiful surroundings attract a lot of tourists and locals looking for self-delight.
Visiting the lighthouse can be a tremendous adventure, but due to the height of its location a lot of people decide not to take the risk. Last Saturday November 5th, youngster Tatiana Velez lost her camera when she was standing by the cliff in where the lighthouse is located. Many accidents have happened in this area. For example, in June of this year, a 29 year old man fell off the cliff and hit the rocks beneath it (Vocero 2011). Fortunately, he was rescued alive.
Even though many accidents have been reported, the site still hasn’t a fence to protect visitors from the edge of the cliff. But although, people still visit this incredible piece of architecture and natural paradise.
The lighthouse was designed by Manuel Maese, E. Gadea and M. Sainz, all Spanish engineers. The lens which reflexes its light was manufactured by a French firm called Sautter, Lemonnier and Co. All the materials used to build this simple but still amazing structure were imported from Europe (Municipio Autónomo de Cabo Rojo 2007).
Its light flashes white every minute and is visible 18 miles apart from the coast. It has a spiral staircase that leads to the tower in which the lantern room is located. This room has two windows: one for the light reflection and the other used by the keepers to receive water during the operation.
The name Los Morillos comes from the Spanish word for andiron, a piece of metal that holds the wood inside the hearth. The name Los Morillos was given to the lighthouse as establishing its function of holding the light.
According to Kevin Murphy, renowned historian, its construction was finished by 1882, six years after it started. It is located over a 200-feet white lime cliff, right beside natural salt water lagoons and marshes. The purpose of its construction was to permit the navigation of ships through the Mona Passage. This passage is a strait that separates Puerto Rico from Dominican Republic and the one that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. It is known for being one of the most difficult passages in the Caribbean because of its variable tidal currents and sand banks throughout the way (Murphy 1984).
Murphy also discovered that Los Morillos was the second lighthouse constructed under Spanish domination of the island and third one ever constructed in Puerto Rico. He identified that it was managed by two keepers and one engineer. Also, it served as a house for them and their families. It had five rooms: two bedrooms, a kitchen/dining room, a bathroom and a living room. It wasn’t until 1967 that the structure was renovated and its whole operation was automated. It was sealed during the process to prevent any act of vandalism which could affect the structure and engineering machinery (Murphy 1984).
In 1981, the lighthouse was included in the National Register of Historic Places of U.S. Department of Interior. The government of the municipality of Cabo Rojo decided to take over the place. In 2002, a restoration of the structure was started. It was kept closed until 2007, when it was re-opened to the public. Ever since, it’s been turned into a museum and art gallery (Municipio Autónomo de Cabo Rojo 2007).
Lots of caborrojeños have been celebrating the existence of the lighthouse. Citizens like Tatiana Velez enjoy visiting this incredible place every week. “The lighthouse is my favorite place in the world. My parents got married there and I plan to celebrate my wedding there too”, she said. Her parents said that “they chose the lighthouse as the place to celebrate their wedding 20 years ago because that’s the place they used to go when they started their relationship… and since they went there they fell in love with the place and each other.”
Los Morillos is an enchanted paradise in which any person can enjoy some quality time in a place far from the urban conditions. It is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information, you can contact the office of the Major of Cabo Rojo or the tourist office of the municipality.