Things to say about Puerto Vallarta

 During the first part of the 19th century, at the mouth of the Cuale River  between the rugged sierra, the ocean and the powerful Ameca River, remained isolated from the rest of the world.
The hubs of economic activity were up in the mountains, in the towns of Cuale, San Sebastián and Mascota, where silver mines abounded but where salt, an essential element for the metal processing, wasn't found, we'll return to that further on.
Puerto Vallarta is located on the Pacific Coast on one of the largest bays in the world (member of "The Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club". Banderas Bay measures 42 kilometers from north to south. The northernmost limit of the bay is at Punta Mita which is the end of the Sierra de Vallejo mountains and, to the south, the bay ends in Cabo Corrientes, part of the foothills of the Sierra del Cuale range.

During the XVI Century, safe harbors all along the Pacific Coast were a vital necessity so that ships returning from the Philippines would have a place to find refuge in case of attack by pirates.These harbors were also necessary during the long journeys, to and from the Orient so that ships could be repaired if necessary and crews could take on provisions. It is known that a shipyard was built on the bay in 1644 (probably where Mismaloya is located today) and two ships were built for Bernardo Bernal de Pinadero that would be used in the colonization of Lower California.
In the XIX Century, the site that is today Puerto Vallarta was used for the loading and unloading of supplies and materials for the mining companies that worked the mines in Cuale and San Sebastian. At that time the site was known as Las Peñas.

In 1851, Don Guadalupe Sánchez Torres, originally from Cihuatlán, Jalisco, began to make regular deliveries of salt from San Blas or the Marías Islands in his small boat since the mines required large quantities for refining the silver. Don Guadalupe and his men built a small lean-to from tree trunks and palm leaves so that they would have a place to rest that was out of the sun while the sale was being loaded onto donkeys for transport to the mines. Towards the end of 1851, Don Guadalupe decided to bring his family to Las Peñas de Santa Maria de Guadalupe. With the arrival of new families, the village grew bit by bit and its economy began to change. While some families brought in salt, others began to devote themselves to agriculture or cattle raising.
In 1880, Las Peñas had a population of 1,500 inhabitants. New families from Cuale and San Sebastian came to settle in the port. Five years later, on July 14, 1885, the port was opened to national maritime traffic and officially given the name of Las Peñas. On the 23rd of July, a Maritime Customs Office was established. The following year on October 31, 1886 the town was given official political and judicial standing when decree No. 210 was passed by the State Congress. During the last decade of the XIX Century and the first of XX Century, Las Peñas gradually progressed thanks to the combined efforts of the people and the enthusiasm of Don Guadalupe.
In March 1914, the first post office was opened and in September of the same year a telegraph was installed.
On May 31, 1918Las Peñas was granted the title of municipality as well as a new name: Puerto Vallarta, in memory of the illustrious lawyer and Governor of Jalisco, Don Ignacio L. Vallarta.
In 1925 when the Montgomery Fruit Company purchased about 70,000 acres in near-by Ixtapa, Vallarta began to boom due to the surplus of jobs available on the newly-opened banana plantations. They also built a railway to transport the bananas from Ixtapa to El Salado estuary where they were loaded onto ships to carry them to the United States. This operation ended in 1935 when the Montgomery Fruit Company had to leave Mexico because of the new agrarian law that had just come into effect. Other products were raised in the area such as corn, beans, tobacco and small coconuts used for their oil, were shipped to the interior to be used in the national market.

In about 1930, a few national and foreign tourist began to come o Puerto Vallarta, returning year after year, to spend their vacation enjoying the tranquility and great natural beauty of the port. Slowly word began to spread and each year more tourists came.

In 1951, hundred years after it's foundation, Puerto Vallarta celebrates in earnest.  Mexican president Miguel Alemán ensured the splendor of the festivities. From who-knows-where, three ships arrived in the bay to salute the town with a 21-gun salute. In addition three planes landed in Los Muertos, packed with reporters and cameramen. A relic of the True Cross was brought to Vallarta as well on this occasion.

On November 11, 1954, Mexicana de Aviación airline inaugurated its flight Guadalajara - Puerto Vallarta. Mexicana found in Puerto Vallarta a destination to compete with the famous bay of Acapulco,  Guerrero. Visitors started coming in from other Mexican towns and from abroad.
Guillermo Wulff's arrival - coincidentially as a guest in Mexicana's first flight to Vallarta - marks the beginning of the second phase in the material construction of the town. It was he who introduced the cupola as an architectural element in several homes he built between Gringo Gulch and Mismaloya, where he obtained a very timely 90 year lease.

Jhon Houston met a Puerto Vallarta architect and entrepreneur named Guillermo Wulff In Los Angeles he was thinking about locations for Iguana, and Guillermo urged him to go to Mismaloya. Mismaloya was Indian land, Wulff said he had a lease on it and could build anything he wanted there. (Huston, 1980. An Open Book)
With its wide beach and tropical forest as background for the only set (the old hotel) expressly built for the movie, the site was perfect, and a few months later it was ready for the first call for "action". Filming was not exactly a picnic, though. Gabriel Figueroa, the great Mexican photographer, had a specially hard time getting and installing lighting equipment and power plants in the jungle with the ocean as the only access. It was the year 1963.
For the first time, Puerto Vallarta received simultaneously big Hollywood stars, national celebrities and USA intellectuals. Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner, Sue Lyon and Richard Burton led the cast, that also included Emilio "El Indio" Fernández. Tennessee Williams, author of The Night of the Iguana, visited the set frequently and always in the company of Gigi, his beloved poodle, who, according to John Huston, often suffered from sunstroke.
On the other hand, Liz Taylor, sometimes accompanied by her tow children, spent most the time with Burton, whom she was deeply in love with. Charmed by Puerto Vallarta's magic, Richard and Elizabeth purchased a house, Casa Kimberley, and became the center of a fairly large group, that, according to those close to them, certainly enjoyed themselves. John Huston built his house in the small cove of Caletas where he lived until his death.
This extraordinary gathering of celebrities, captive in an out-of-the-way spot, was too tempting for the international press that soon began arriving in hordes. In addition to the gossip about the famous stars, the media showed the primeval beauty of the place. From that moment on, Puerto Vallarta ceased to be "a secret hide-away waiting to be discovered".
In the face of the growing demands of tourism, the need for an adecuate response from authorities and investors became urgent, and the governor of Jalisco from 1965 - 1971, Francisco Medina Ascencio, was there to promote the change. Through his efforts Puerto Vallarta was outfitted with the infrastructure required of an urban development and a modern tourist destination. His efforts and needs reached the Mexican President and thus, Puerto Vallarta ascended to the category of city on May 31st, 1968, and was granted funds to build a bridge over the Ameca river, the coastal highway from Barra Navidad to Puerto Vallarta, the Compostela - Las Varas - Puerto Vallarta road and the international Puerto Vallarta airport named after the president: Gustavo Díaz Ordaz.

During Medina Ascencio's government the Camino Real hotel and the Banco Nacional de México (Banamex) branch were built. Thanks to his influence, the city soon enjoyed electric power and telephone service. In addition, the first harbor in Jalisco was built at El Salado. One of Medina Ascencio's great achievements was getting the presidents of USA and Mexico to meet in the recently appointed city. He knew this would give more international exposure to the city. Out of all this promotional activity, the President gave Air France the concession for a flight Paris - Montreal - Guadalajara - Puerto Vallarta, thus attracting European tourism.
In 1970, the President signed a decree declaring "residential and tourist development on the lands surrounding Bandera's Bay in the states of Nayarit and Jalisco as well as existing communities" of public convenience. Motivated by this, the president expropriated 1026 hectares, which in 1973, would finally be regulated through the founding of the Puerto Vallarta Trust. The city chronicler, don Carlos Munguía Fregoso, considers these two steps as instrumental in the building of Puerto Vallarta, paving the way for new and significant investments. It was only after 1973 that the construction of big hotels began.

Two years after the opening of the Sheraton Buganvilias Hotel in 1980, at the end of President José López Portillo's term, the Mexican peso was devalued. Yet one man's trash is another man's gold, goes the proverb; and while the rest of the country suffered, Puerto Vallarta enjoyed a period of prosperity, some say, as yet unsurpassed. "The year 1983 was specially good," says don Carlos. With their budget suddenly doubled, foreign visitors filled the restaurants and stood in long lines in front of the shops that could hardly keep up with their clients' demands. The key to this blissful boom was keeping the prices in pesos.
Between 1980 and 1990 Puerto Vallarta's population nearly doubled from 57,000 to 112,000 citizens. By 1985 the flux of tourism and immigrants demanded, on one hand, the building of new hotels and, on the other, the development of residential options for its employees and executives. Downtown Puerto Vallarta wasn't large enough to house this expansion and nobody wanted to see tall buildings obstructing the view of the bay or destroying the city's typical Mexican-village atmosphere.

With great timing, the Martínez Güitrón brothers from Guadalajara started building Marina Vallarta. Impeccably planned, the development would eventually include a school, condominiums, residential site, a shopping mall and large hotel properties. Work on the Marina proper, with its 450 boat slips, was started in 1986 and by 1990 the Marina was in full swing. The project was basically finished by 1993, ahead of schedule.
The first years of the nineties were hard for Puerto Vallarta. Even though the national tourism grew, international travelers dropped off. In 1993 the destination was fifth in Mexican vacationers' list of beach resorts, after Cancun, Acapulco, Mazatlan and Veracruz. It was crucial to put an end to this decline.
 In contrast with Cancun, Ixtapa or Huatulco - government planned resort destinations - Puerto Vallarta is somewhat of an accidental resort town.
Nobody set out to put Puerto Vallarta on the tourist map, at least not in the early years. But today the primitive charms of yore have been substituted with million-dollar investments and fierce competition. The globe is shrinking, and traveling to places once inaccesible due to distances, is now common practice.
Even though Puerto Vallarta is today measured up against Bali, New Zealand or Ibiza, it still holds its own. The natural beauty of Banderas Bay, with its deep waters (eitehr warm or cool, depending on the season), immensely rich biodiversity. Lagoons and wetland birds can be watched year round, while right in the bay, whales and dolphins frolic. There's fish to be made into ceviche or grilled on a stick; billfish worthy of international tournaments and colorful fish to be admired diving below the bay's surface. In the foothills, the tropical forest welcomes bikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers. Crossing the streams and cooling down in the pools formed by their waterfalls, explorers learn to tell fig trees from parotas and amapas. On the beaches at night, sea turtles lay their eggs during the summer months. Banderas Bay is definitely a marvel and a strong attractive for tourism.

Today, Puerto Vallarta occupies an important position among the rest of the world’s international tourist resorts.

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