Guánica is the place where most historians concur Christopher Columbus landed during his second voyage to the New World. Juan Ponce de León landed at Bahía de Guánica on August 12, 1508 and founded a town called Guaynía, a word derived from the Taíno indigenous culture that possibly meant "Here is a place with water". Nearby is Rio Loco or "Crazy River," the only fresh water feeding into the bay. Guánica is known as El Pueblo de las Doce Calles (the town of the twelve streets). The town, considered the capital of the island of Puerto Rico (which was at that time named Isla de San Juan Bautista), was destroyed during the indigenous uprising of 1511, and the area was abandoned by Europeans for some years, during which time San Juan (itself at first called Puerto Rico) became the capital of the island. The refounded town of Guánica was at first a part of the municipality of Yauco, itself established in 1756, until Guánica was established as a separate municipality on March 13, 1914.
Nature ahbors a vacuum and following the abandonment of Guánica native Taíno were the first ones to reclaim the area after driving the Spanish out in 1511. However, diseases and war with the Spanish eventually wiped the natives out and the area became a empty again. Sailors stopping by for fresh water would loot the buildings of the town for whatever they could salvage. Sea robbers, looking for an easy home took up residence in the ruins in the 17th Century putting an end to that practice. By 1720 many of the original buildings have been either rebuilt in a ramshakle way or demolished for building materials. The "town of twelve streets" has been reduced to only half that number but it is prospering nonetheless.