History of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
During the first part
of the 19th century, at the mouth of the Cuale River - at
that moment in time, inhabited mostly by crocodiles - there
were practically no human dwellers. Between the rugged sierra,
the ocean and the powerful Ameca River, this beautiful piece
of Mexican geography remained isolated from the rest of
View of the Capilla Guadalupe
without it's Crown
Historical Vallarta Photos
Vallarta past versus present (comparisons)
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.
Today, visitors to
Puerto Vallarta can enjoy a breathtaking view from
any of the hills that surround the city.
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" [visit
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.
The bay has been known
since the XVI Century when Spanish soldiers, during the
expeditions to Lower California (or island of pearls, as
they called it), landed on the bay’s beaches in order
to supply their ships with water, firewood and fresh food.
There are many chronicles from that time that mention the
beauty of the coastline, the fertility of the land and the
safe harbors that the bay offered ships.
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.
One of the first to
propose a settlement on Banderas Bay was Captain Pedro de
Unamuno after the trip he made in 1587 from the Philippines.
Famous navigators like Sebastian Vizcaino, Lopez de Vicuna
and Gonzalo de Francia more than once landed on these beaches
and also proposed the establishment of a colony, but their
petitions never received any attention.
Main Plaza view from the
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 document and in
ships logs dating from the XVIII Centuries, constant references
are made to whaling ships and fishing boast that harbored
in the bay. At the time, Banderas Bay was also known as
Humpback Bay (Bahia de los Jorobados) because of the number
of humpback whales that were seen in the bay.
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 because he arrived early in the morning
hours of December 12, the feast of Our Lady of 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.
Sánchez Torres Family 1915
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.
view of Juárez and the Cathedral
The discovery of silver
in United States of America brought down the price of the
metal and old prosperity became affliction. The miners from
the mountain townships left their recently acquired trade
to go back to agriculture. They chose the fertile Ameca
valley, so rich that it produced three corn harvests a year.
In March 1914, the first post office was opened and in September
of the same year a telegraph was installed.
On May 31, 1918, by
Congressional decree No. 1889, Las 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.
view of the Malecón boardwalk 1950's
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 these years a new
source of wealth was found in sharks. From the waters of
Banderas Bay, the fins ended up on the tables of New York's
Chinese restaurants. During the II WW, shark liver oil was
given as a nutritional supplement to the soldiers
In 1951, hundred years
after it's foundation, Puerto Vallarta celebrates in earnest.
The marriage of Doña Margarita Mantecón, from a well-established
Vallartan family, to a counselor of 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.
from the "El Cerro"
On November 11, 1954,
Mexicana de Aviación airline inaugurated its flight Guadalajara
- Puerto Vallarta. Aeronaves de México (Aeroméxico) had
enjoyed a monopoly on the route to Acapulco, but Mexicana
found in Puerto Vallarta a destination to compete with the
famous bay in Guerrero. Visitors started coming in from
other Mexican towns and from abroad. Among them, Guillermo
Wulff, a Mexico City engineer - and famous movie director
John Huston, who wrote:
When I first came
here, almost thirty years ago, Vallarta was a fishing
village of some 2000 souls. There was one road to the
outside world - and it was impassable during the rainy
season. I arrived in a small plane, and we had to buzz
the cattle off a field outside town before setting down.
(Huston, 1980. An Open Book)
Reinforced by intense
advertising campains, Mexicana launched the Puerto Vallarta
- Mazatlán - Los Angeles route in 1962. Thanks to its affiliation
with Pan American Airlines, Mexicana's promotion was seen
in its offices all over the world.
and Hotel Paraíso.
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.
In Los Angeles I
met a Puerto Vallarta architect and entrepreneur named
Guillermo Wulff [...] I was thinking about locations for
Iguana, and Guillermo urged me to go to Mismaloya.
[...] and although 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
On the other hand, Liz Taylor, sometimes accompanied
by her two children, spent most the time with Burton, whom
she was deeply in love with. Charmed by Puerto Vallarta's
magic, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor purchased the house they had initially rented, Casa Kimberley,
and became the center of a fairly large group, that, according
to those close to them, certainly enjoyed themselves. Richard also purchased the villa on the other side of the street and Guillermo Wulff built the famous bridge that connected them. John
Huston later built his house in the small cove of Las Caletas where
he lived until very short before his death.
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".
International Airport without Terminal 2
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
In 1970, the President
signed a decree declaring "residential and tourist development
on the lands surrounding Banderas 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 development 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.
Marina Vallarta, view of the lighthouse
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.
On May 31, 1996, the
Puerto Vallarta Tourism Fund was created. This institution
has since been in charge of handling the funds raised through
a two-percent tax on hotel room occupation. Fortunately,
Puerto Vallarta decided to use 100% of these funds in promoting
the destination at national and international level. The
joint efforts of the fund, hotels and restaurants, free
agents, tour operators and guardians of the environment
turned things around and Puerto Vallarta began the process
of earning a position among world-class beach destinations.
Vallarta has become a resort town by accident.
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 hikers, 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.
These assets have earned
Banderas Bay membership within the Club des Baies plus
Belles de Monde (The World's most Beautiful Bays Club,
[visit the page of the bay],
whose main objective is the promotion of exceptional, world-renowned
bays. People have little by little noticed the pricelessness
of their surrounding paradise and have undertaken efforts
to preserve it intact.
One of these efforts
is the regional sewage system and treatment plant that have
been installed in the last years. This state-of-the-art
plant, biologically treats sewage waste so it can be released
again as clean water without fear of pollution.
Tall and elegant, palm
trees never bend too much in Puerto Vallarta. Although winds
may blow, they never reach the fury of hurricane force.
The geographical situation of the bay protects it from the
storms that cause such devastation in other tropical destinations.
All in all, our climate has to be among the best in the
world, especially during the winter, when the days are sunny
and the nights are cool.
In the downtown area,
overhead wires are being cabled underground, to the delight
of photographers and strollers, that now will be able to
enjoy Puerto Vallarta's architecture where white walls are
interrupted only by flowerpots blooming with bougainvillea,
geranium, hibiscus, copa de oro and splendid ferns.
The city streets have always been paved in cobbled stones,
but now, these river rocks have been set in concrete to
create a much smoother and durable surface.
Fortunately water is
abundant in Puerto Vallarta. And now, thanks to a new radial
well in the Ameca river, our source will soon double, enabling
the destination to continue its growth without water concerns.
Things have changed
since the first airplane landed here in 1931. Today Puerto
Vallarta hotels range from small, economical inns
to magnificent luxury hotels. Important national and international
airline companies provide services that connect Vallarta
to the principal cities of the U.S. and europe. Luxury cruise
ships dock here on a daily basis and a good highway connects
the town to Tepic, Guadalajara and the rest of the country.
Puerto Vallarta offers a multitude of things to do and places to see, but
there are also some great two-day or weekend trips nearby
available. These getaways are for those who frequent Puerto
Vallarta Mexico or perhaps live here full-time and are looking
for something new. You can travel by car, bus, ship or by
airplane, and the accommodations can range from small countryside
inns to luxurious villas long the coast - something for
All around PV, just
minutes from downtown, there are easily reached areas of
great natural beauty, ideal for a day’s outing or
a picnic. Some even have there own hotels where it is possible
for a visitor to "get away from it all" for a few days.
Some of the favorite spots are Bucerías, Mismaloya, Quimixto and Yelapa, most of these only reachable by boat.
The Puerto Vallarta real estate market
continues to expand, not only
in terms of value but also in the size of territory. Real
estate agents now realize they have to be knowledgeable
with what is happening in real estate with properties as
far south Boca de Tomatlán, and as far norht as San Pancho. It no
longer is just Puerto Vallarta Mexico. For some time now
we have referred to this area as Costa Vallarta.
For shopping and strolling,
downtown Vallarta can't be beat. It has what
must be the best boardwalk (Malecón) in all Mexico, lined
with restaurants, nightclubs, and fine shops. There is also
an open-air market with artists. In this area is where you'll
find many of Vallarta's landmarks such as the Church of
Guadalupe, the sculpture of the boy on the seahorse and
the open-air theater of Los Arcos. Right through the center
of Puerto Vallarta Mexico runs the Cuale River. In the middle
of the river is Isla Rio Cuale, a picturesque island with
shops and restaurants scattered throughout. This is a great
place to take a break from busy day of shopping and sightseeing.
The area between Marina
Vallarta and downtown Vallarta is where you can find most of the
hotels and three shopping malls with over 100 shops offering
everything from traditional souvenirs to fashionable boutiques
and modern grocery stores as well restaurants and coffee
Marina Vallarta is
Mexico's most sophisticated marina and one of the most popular.
It includes an 18-hole golf course, a 450-slip marina, a
waterpark, several 5-star & Grand Tourism hotels. Along
the marina boardwalk are numerous shops, boutiques, galleries,
cafes, and restaurants.
South of Puerto Vallarta are some of the most prestigious residential areas,
featuring homes with spectacular architecture nestled in
the jungle, with fabulous views of the Puerto Vallarta and the bay. This is where the Sierra Madre mountains meet
the shores of Banderas Bay, creating an environment of beautiful
beaches with a rich jungle backdrop.
rest in Pto. Vallarta
The Federal Government,
in conjunction with the state governments of Jalisco and
Nayarit as well as some private enterprises, have begun
an important program for the development of tourism in the
entire Banderas Bay area under the name Vallarta Nayarit.
The latest developments have been various malls in the hotel zone, including Plaza Galerias, Plaza Peninsula and Macroplaza. In 2009 the Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center (Centro Internacional de Convenciones en Puerto Vallarta) was inaugurated in Estero El Salado. In town the malecon (boardwalk) was remodeled and inaugurated Nov. 2011. In the romantic zone the Los Muertos Pier was rebuilt and inaugurated January 2013.
Puerto Vallarta is
the ideal place for anyone who likes water sports. Here
one can skindive, waterski, go deep-sea fishing, windsurfing
or even try the exciting parasailing.
One of the most important
annual events in PV is the International Sailfish Tournament
held during the first week of November. Ardent fishermen
from all over Mexico and U.S. participate. Vallarta is also
the site of important conventions and business meetings.
Today, Puerto Vallarta
occupies an important position among the rest of the world’s
international tourist resorts.
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