Teniente a guerra

Teniente a guerra (roughly translated into English as "War lieutenant") was a title used in times of the Spanish colonial Empire to describe a position exercising duties similar to those exercised by a town or city mayor today (2019). A teniente a guerra was a position that combined the duties of mayor, military lieutenant and justice of the peace.[1]


The position was a combination of military commandant and civil superintendent that the Spanish Crown, via its colonial governors in each of its oversees provinces, such as Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo, planted in each district to oversee a region of the governed territory.[2][3] The position of teniente a guerra was established in Ponce in the 1680s.[4] The United States judiciary has called this position a "royal alcalde".[5]

Powers, obligations and alternates

People holding this position were authorized and empowered to perform the following duties: provide for public safety, levy contributions, collect taxes, carry out orders and circulars of the governor, and administer justice. When the teniente a guerra was not available (sickness, travel, incapacity or death) they were substituted by a sargento mayor. The sargento mayor was the leader of an urban militia in town. The urban militia the sargento mayor led was in charge of patrolling and guarding the urban areas, capturing criminals, delivery of official documents, transportation and movement of prisoners, opening and maintenance of trails, town policing, and the protecting and defending the perimeter to avoid contraband.[6]

See also


  1. ^ Fernando Bayron Toro. Historia de las elecciones y los partidos politicos de Puerto Rico. 2008. 7th edition. p. 21. Mayaguez, Puerto Rico: Editorial Isla. ISBN 1596085010
  2. ^ Puerto Rican Poetry: A Selection from Aboriginal to Contemporary Times. Robert Márquez. University of Massachusetts Press. 2007. ISBN 9781558495623 p.55.
  3. ^ Mariano Vidal Armstrong. Ponce: Notas para su historia. Comité Historia de los Pueblos. San Juan, Puerto Rico. 1986. p. 17.
  4. ^ Luis Caldera Ortiz (Nuevos hallazgos sobre el origen de Ponce. Lajas, Puerto Rico: Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones del Sur Oeste de Puerto Rico. 2019. p. 37. ISBN 9781075058325), citing Dennis De Jesus Rodriguez ("La Fundación de Ponce, 1678-1692", Hereditas, Revista de Genealogía Puertorriqueña, Volumen 10, Issue 2 (Year 2009), p. 65.)
  5. ^ Municipality of Ponce versus the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church in Porto Rico. Appeal from the Supreme Court of Porto Rico. No. 143. Argued 3 March 1908. Decided 1 June 1908. October Term, 1907. 210 US. Vol CCX-21. (US Supreme Court) p. 298.
  6. ^ Eduardo Neuman Gandia. Verdadera y Auténtica Historia de la Ciudad de Ponce. Ponce, Puerto Rico. 1913. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. 1987. p. 47.

Further reading

  • Fay Fowlie de Flores. Ponce, Perla del Sur: Una Bibliográfica Anotada. Second Edition. 1997. Ponce, Puerto Rico: Universidad de Puerto Rico en Ponce. p. 196. Item 1003. LCCN 92-75480
  • "Cuadro sinoptico de las autoridades locales de Ponce, 1692 - 1972." Boletín de la Academia de Artes y Ciencias de Puerto Rico. Volumen 8 (Octubre-Diciembre 1972.) pp. 379–384. (CUTPO).
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