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Bernice Starr

Bernice Starr & Edgar "Ed" Starr

Among the first foreigners to establish themselves in Puerto Vallarta was the late Bernice Starr (1915-2002), an artist, educator, philanthropist and writer.

This former Oregon school teacher, traveled from California with her husband, Edgar Starr, to visit the town for the first time during Easter in 1952, they later moved here in 1954 and bought their first house in 1957. She is also known for her minor role in "The Night Of the Iguana" as a school teacher in 1963 [1].

Bernice Starr (Born Jan. 26, 1915) and her husband, "Ed" Starr, a former animation and background painter at Disney, were both great artists that through their paintings made efforts to promote the city and its beauty, creating famous hand-made postcards that showed the town and its folkloric attractiveness [2].

Hotel Belmar by Edgar Starr
Hotel Belmar by Edgar Starr

In order to obtain funds to make a public library in PV a reality, her husband Ed designed a map of the town, in 1957, that included the most important landmarks and added a spot at the end of the malecon reserved for the future library.

In 1964 they intervened on behalf of the town and the library project and were able to show a pre-premiere projection of the "The Night of the Iguana" before anywhere else in the world to collect funds for the library project.

Edgar Starr (born September 8, 1908, died October 1971), was educated in painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Chouinard School of Art.

Known for his work on Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Song of the South (1946). A colorful personality, whose emotional extremes can be grasped through his nephew, Mike Baldwin, recounting how his uncle resigned from Disney with a fiery march into Walt Disney's office, followed by Starr smashing and backyard-burying all his Disney animation celluloids and other artwork. This contrasts strongly with the graceful, smooth, peaceful lines of his brushwork and the soft, inky, pastel-like glow of his watercolors.

Edgar Starr died in 1971, whereupon Bernice submerged herself in philanthropy and aiding children of the area, so they could aspire to better education, this, in part, as a way to continue enjoying her life in her little paradise, even without her life-long partner.

She is also well remembered as co-founder of Becas Vallarta America-Mexico Foundation, which until this day continues to help local students obtain a higher education.

Los Mangos Library

She worked without rest from the 1960's, together with the likes of profesor Carlos Munguía, to provide Puerto Vallarta with a Public library, something that took them over four decades see fulfilled, in 1995. She negociated the land donation where the Los Mangos Public Library now stands and organized and planned its building too. The public library now has an exhibit hall named in her honor.

Reading about both his and her life, and their contributions to Puerto Vallarta, it's certainly important to give credit where credit is due, without valuable ex-pats like Bernice and her husband, Vallarta would certainly not be the city it is today.

"To forget is to die a little."

Author: M. A. Gallardo

More: Memoria "Bibliotecas Públicas", CONACULTA
[1] Full cast of The Night of the Iguana - IMDB
[2] "Puerto Vallarta en mis recuerdos", 1982, Catalina Montes de Oca de Contreras.

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