The city of Ponce inaugurated the Seventeenth CACG less than three years after the closing of the Sixteenth Games in Mexico City. The ODECABE staff developed a close working relationship with the Games organizers in Puerto Rico to carry out the Games in the context of the commemorative celebrations of the discovery of Puerto Rico 500 years earlier, in 1493. The Games were due to take place in 1994, but were rescheduled for 1993 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the Island by the Spaniards.
Exactly five centuries before the Ponce '93 Games the island of Puerto Rico had been discovered by the Spaniards and in 1993 the city of Ponce became the second city in Puerto Rico to host the oldest regional games in the world. The organizers had to carry out these games over fewer days than any other previous CACG since 1932, even though there were more countries competing in more sports for more medals and over more venues than at any other time in the history of the Games.
It was the first time that the Games were celebrated over only 10 days, and hosting 31 sports taking place over 21 of the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico. The number of countries competing in these Games, 31, was a record for the Games in 1993 and has so far not been broken by any other celebration of the Games since. Had it not been for the absence of Dominica from the Games, the Games would have hosted a perfect attendance by the countries comprising the Central American and Caribbean region.
The finals amounted to 385, a record, with the addition of the sports of handball, skating, and kárate-do. Canoeing took place in Havana, Cuba, bringing the total number of participating countries to 32. Canoeing was the only event conducted outside Puerto Rico.
The organizing committee was initially presided by Ponce attorney Esteban Rodríguez Maduro until it was dissolved in 1992. A new Committee was formed in August 1992, presided by Dr. Héctor López Pumarejo. The new Committee was formed just 15 months before the inaugural day of the Games.
The Games were not free of controversies. A major one occurred when the Olympic Committee attempted to move several of the events to the San Juan area, provoking a heated debate between the sports community and the mayor of the hosting city of Ponce Rafael Cordero Santiago. Mayor Churumba, as he was popularly known, stayed his course and Ponce was certified as the main host city. The athletic village, however, was located in Salinas, some 40 minutes from Ponce, and the village of the Games' judges was based in the town of Villaba, at some 20 minutes from the host city.
There was also a debate over moving the inaugural date from November 1993 to the Summer of 1994, when the Government of Puerto Rico cut off funding for the Games in the last phase of the planning and actually organized a popular referendum over the issue just days prior to the opening ceremony of the Games. The controversies drained the organizers and athletes alike, but the Games took place nevertheless.
The Games centered on the Francisco “Paquito” Montaner Stadium. It accommodated 31 countries and 20,000 spectators. The torch was lit by famed Ponce basketball player Juan “Pachín” Vicéns, having received the torch from the Puerto Rican silver medalists that participated in the 1930 Games in Havana. These were Eugenio Guerra and Manuel Luciano, as well as from Rebekah Colberg, the first Puerto Rican woman to win gold in the 1938 Games in Panama.
The opening ceremony occurred in the midst of the use of laser ray effects, plus local plena music, including vejigantes shows, plus a whole array of other shows including Chayanne and the Gran Combo. The top brass of Puerto Rican artists also provided nightly appearances for the participants and spectators alike.
There were 4,853 participants, comprising 2,510 male athletes, 1,060 women athletes, and 1,283 officials. The Cuban delegation was the most numerous with 786, including 565 athletes. Puerto Rico had the largest delegation in its history with 741 participants, including 544 athletes, made up of 366 males, 178 females, and 197 officials, delegates, physicians, and coaches. Puerto Rico participated in 31 of the 32 sports. It did not participate in the canoeing competition. Mexico was the next-largest delegation with 616 participants.
Cuba won the most medals, at 364. It was Cuba's largest win ever. It included 227 gold medals, a record-breaking number in the Games. Mexico followed next with 240 medals, including 66 gold medals. Venezuela and Puerto Rico followed closely after. Venezuela beat Puerto Rico by a 2-medal count, winning third place with 155 medals, including 23 gold medals. Puerto Rico won fourth place with 153 medals including 23 gold medals. It was Puerto Rico's highest medal win ever. Colombia followed in fifth place with 101 medals, and tied with Puerto Rico on the gold medal wins.
The XVII Games witnessed the world records in weight-lifting by the Cuban athletes William Vargas and Pablo Lara.
A commemorative plaque for the games was given to Puerto Rico's CACG Committee by the head of the Cuban delegation to the Games. The plaque reads (in Spanish) "XVII Juegos Deportivos Centroamericanos y del Caribe. Ponce '93. Cuba y Puerto Rico son de un pajaro las dos alas. Recuerdo de la Delegacion Cubana. A.G.C." (XVII Central American and Caribbean Games. Ponce '93. Cuba and Puerto Rico are the two wings of one same bird. A commemorative gift of the Cuban delegation. A.G.C.). The plaque was then added to the podium structure at the Pedro Albizu Campos Park in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where is still stands today.