It is believed, but not certain, that Christopher Columbus disembarked in 1493 on the coast where Aguada is now located. While we don’t know where Columbus landed, we do know that many of the first attempts to set up a town on the island were in Aguada. Cristobal Sotomayor founded the Villa de Sotomayor from 15081510 in a sector near Aguada. This town was destroyed in the Indian uprising in 1511 and all of its residents were killed except Juan Gonzalez who escaped and was able to alert other dwellers on his way to tell Juan Ponce de León in Caparra.
In 1516, Franciscan friars built their monastery in Espinar, a sector of Aguada. This monastery was destroyed in 1528 and the five friars living there were killed by the Indians. The friars rebuilt the monastery in 1590, and in 1639 they built a Chapel on the very spot where the five friars were killed.
Aguada was a stopover for ships on their way to Spain from South America. Here they would rest and get new supplies of food and water for the remainder of their trip. Like other coastal towns, Aguada was attacked by English, French, and Dutch enemies.
Juan Ponce de León
Juan Ponce de León was a footsoldier and a member of Columbus’ second expedition to the New World. In 1508, he obtained permission to go to San Juan Bautista with a group of men to explore the island further. He met no resistance on part of the Indians and with the aid of the interpreter, Juan Gonzalez, was able to communicate with Agueybana, the Elder, and agree on a pact.
Agueybaná agreed to let Ponce de León select any spot on the island to build a Spanish stronghold in exchange for assistance in fighting against the Carib Indians. Ponce de León selected Caparra, on the northern coast of the island near to what is now San Juan. The bay that was close to Caparra was one of the best that Ponce de León had seen and he named it Puerto Rico, which means rich port. In time, however, the island came to be called Puerto Rico and the city, San Juan.
Caparra turned out to be a bad choice not only its location, as it was difficult to reach from the bay, but also because of the mosquitoes that abounded there. Ponce de León remained in Caparra for about twelve years after which the city was moved to a place closer to the bay and with a more advantageous location in case of an attack from the sea.