The 1918 Earthquake
On October 11, 1918, an earthquake devastated Puerto Rico, especially in the area between Mayagüez and Aguadilla. It also brought about a tsunami, which further devastated the town. Numerous strong replicas would continue to impact the area as well, long after the initial damage as done. Not only were coastal buildings, like the US Customs House and the Infantry Headquarters, heavily damaged, but also the farther inland buildings like the Cathedral Church and the original Convent, were damaged as well. The nuns held a fundraising for their new building, and it was thanks to these donations, and the contribution of Engineer Alonso Aguilar, the actual building was made in 1930, in the same place as the former.
The former inhabitants' seal. This corresponds to room #24 (The Seal), which was part of the former chapel . There's a second seal at the façade.
Bishop James McManus, CSsR (1900-1976)
The Actual Building
The new building was divided in 2 principal sections: the residences, and the chapel. In tune with classical Mayagüez architecture, the structure boasts tall ceilings, most noticeable in the chapel. The building's style can be described as a mix of Renaissance and Baroque, which can be seen both in the façade as well as the interior of the chapel. It has a vaulted roof, and a dome sits in a squared tier above what was once the altar. This structure contains beautiful decor, with Ionic order capitals, cornices, and pilasters, including the seal of the Order, seen on the façade and the interior of the building. Both wings’ floors have hydraulic mosaic tiles, imported from Spain.
The Mother Superior’s office, a kitchen, a courtyard, and a small parking were in the first floor of the convent. In the second floor were the 8 nuns’ rooms, and in front of those were their activities rooms, where the nuns and their pupils crafted and passed the time. The novices’ rooms were near the courtyard.
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The Hotel in the 1980s. The original name was Hotel Plaz until 1998, when the actual owners bought it.
Hotel Colonial is a Spanish Posada styled hotel, located in the historical downtown of Mayagüez. In its building resided once a Catholic Nun Order, who inhabited the premises until 1969. Since the 1970s, the structure has undergone numerous alterations to its interior, until the most recent renovations in 2014 restored the traditional aspect of the building.
From Convent to Hotel
The Sisters, noting their monastic life was being affected by the urban growth of downtown Mayagüez, decided to sell the building in 1969, and live outside of the city. Since 1970, the hotel has gone through various administrations, each making changes to its interior the chapel was renovated, adding rooms to the upper part. A pub was also added, and for a while, a restaurant in the bottom half of the building. There’s no courtyard anymore, and the parking space was expanded.
Original altar inside the chapel, circa 1950s.
The Founding of the Convent
The Siervas de María came to Mayagüez in September 15th, 1897. The original building was erected in the same place as the actual one, at the corner of the Sol (now Santiago R. Palmer) and Iglesia Streets.
The Bishop of Rome
Probably the most curious note of the time when the Siervas de María lived here, is that the former Bishop of Ponce, Bishop James McManus, was frequently a guest here. McManus is the subject of a locally famous plena song, called El Obispo de Roma. The tune sarcastically describes the controversial cleric, who was very critical of the then Governor Luis Muñoz Marín. The bishop was also the co-founder of the prestigious Pontifical Catholic University of Ponce, in 1948.
Hotel Colonial and its Restoration
The most recent restoration done on 2014 brought about many fixes, both to the interior and exterior areas, as well as rescuing the old chapel façade’s cross, and the rooms inside it.
The official re-inauguration of the Hotel was held on October, 24, 2014, when it became the first hotel of the Posadas of Puerto Rico program.
The Posada Hotel Colonial is the #1 hotel of Mayagüez, according to TripAdvisor’s users. The website awarded it their Certificate of Excellence on 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020 based on the constant, positive opinions and reviews of their travelers. The hotel also possesses the prestigious Almirante Award, granted by the Movimiento Mayagüezano Pro Desarrollo del Oeste, for its distinction in the historical, cultural, and social development of the city.