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View of Gringo Gulch from Cuale Island

Gringo Gulch, history, tradition and legend

The Gringo Gulch is a picturesque residential area in the historical part of Downtown Puerto Vallarta, located on the hillside to the East and uphill from the main square and on the North bank of the Cuale River. The Gringo part of the name comes from the term, mainly used in Spanish-speaking countries, to refer to an English-speaking foreigner, especially someone from USA.

Gringo Gulch

Without a doubt it was the paparazzi photographs and reports of the greatest 20th century love affair that helped promote Puerto Vallarta as one of the most romantic places in the world, and this all started in the area of the city (town at that time) called Gringo Gulch.

Gringo Gulch 1963
Gringo Gulch from the Cuale River, 1963

After the celebrations marking the 100th Anniversary of the town, in 1951, many visitors and tourists started hearing about this paradise town by the sea, US citizens arrived along with other Mexican visitors too.

Freddy Romero y Liz Ruby

Throughout the decade of the 1950's the area on the hill of the downtown area north of the River Cuale developed as an expatriate neighborhood. One of the first important newcomers to arrive in Puerto Vallarta, that would direct the development in the area, was Fernando "Freddy" Romero.

Unlike the rich local's architectural tastes, that included more modern construction designs and materials, Romero wanted a more typical Mexican pueblo style and atmosphere, something that later would become known as the "Vallarta Style". It included red-tile roofs, white-washed adobe facades, wrought iron decorations and stone walls.

Bridge to the Gringo Gulch from Cuale Island

He built many of the houses - a time when most of the materials were transported on donkey - in the Gringo Gulch and later on built the hideaway in Las Caletas for John Huston too.

Some of his houses and designs include, Casa Caracol, Casa Catalina, Villa Bursus (the house Burton bought in 1977 for his second wife, Susan Hunt), Casa Puesta del Sol and Casa Tabachín, built in 1957 and which John Huston rented after leaving Casa Kimberley to house Burton and Taylor.

Gringo Gulch 2012

Another important personality linked to this neighborhood includes Guillermo Wulff, who left a profound mark in Puerto Vallarta and the Marina Vallarta, it was he who introduced the cupola as an architectural element in most of the homes he built.

He participated building many of the houses in the Gringo Gulch, among these the houses of both Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, who enjoyed and relished in their Vallarta Love Story, during the peak of their film careers.

Casa Kimberley

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love at the set of Cleopatra in Rome, after that they traveled to Puerto Vallarta in 1963 where Burton was to star in the 25th movie directed by John Huston, "The Night of the Iguana" to be shot mostly on location in the jungle at Mismaloya.

Puerto Vallarta was not well supplied at the time with adequate hotels for cast and crew and most were quite primitive to say the least. Hotel Océano was a local favorite on the malecón beside one of the lighthouses and was the production's headquarters.

Hotel Oceáno in the Movie
Changed the name of the hotel for the movie.

When Liz Taylor arrived with Burton to both a dirt floor and flying cockroaches in what was to be their suite, Richard immediately called Huston and told him: "My friend, if we don't find suitable accommodations for Elizabeth, I'm afraid I won't be able to star in your film".

John Huston immediately had the couple transfered to his own rented villa on the hill in Gringo Gulch, Casa Kimberley, and the rest is, as you may know, history.

Bridge Casa Kimberley

Not only did Huston fall in love with the place, so did Liz and Dick, Burton ended up buying Casa Kimberley, a nine-bedroom villa, for $57,000, and gave it to Elizabeth as a birthday gift for her 32nd birthday, February 1964, a few months after finishing the movie and a month before they officially married.

Bridge from Taylor's home to Burton's

So take a trip down memory lane, enjoy the cobblestone streets, the relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, enjoy the views and traditional mexican town architecture and you'll really get an idea of what actually made Puerto Vallarta such an important tourist attraction.


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