Ponce, nicknamed The City of Los Leones after Ponce de León, has one of Puerto Rico's richest histories, dating back to the 19th century.
In 1883, Ponce was ravaged by an enormous fire. The fire was threatening to destroy all of Puerto Rico's South, but thanks to the brave firemen of Ponce, after an historic and dramatic battle with the fire, Ponce and the South were saved. The fire station where these firemen came from has since become a museum and touristic attraction to all Puerto Ricans and tourists from abroad, while still serving the Ponce community.
Ponce, a place that welcomed thousands of Black immigrants in the earlier centuries, also became the birthplace of La Plena, a music rhythm that was the precursor of Salsa music. La Plena combines the sound of la pandereta, la conga and las maracas, which combined with dances by women and their couples, makes for a very sweet music to hear.
Ponce's touristic appeal did not go unnoticed, and since the 1960s, the Holiday Inn Hotel branch located there has become almost as famous as Ponce's touristic attractions. International flights were once flown there into Mercedita Airport by Eastern Airlines and later by American Airlines, while domestic operations were overseen by Prinair. Nowadays, Mercedita is strictly a domestic airport, with Cape Air dba Continental Connection flying from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Connections from SJU are easily available.
Ponce is also the home of El Museo de Arte de Ponce, operated by Puerto Rico's former Governor Luis A. Ferré, the Don Q liquor manufacturer and the Leones de Ponce, Puerto Rico's national basketball champions.
Ponce in October 1985 suffered a great tragedy, when at least 129 people lost their lives to an avalanche in an area known as Mameyes. International help was needed to rescue people and corpses. The United States and many foreign countries, such as Mexico, France, and Venezuela, sent economic, human, and machinery relief. Ponce, and all of Puerto Rico, has always been thankful of the countries that helped.
Famous Ponceños include former world boxing light heavyweight champion José Torres, former world champion Carlos Ortiz, international singer Ednita Nazario, former governors Luis A. Ferré, Dr. Pedro Rosselló, and Rafael Hernández Colón, former Menudo Roy Rosselló, Ferré's sister, Sor Isolina Ferré, and teacher Lourdes Pamela Pop.