Long before Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess and Carnival Cruises started mooring their ships in Puerto Vallarta, the bay welcomed huge freight vessels. Ships were also the primary form of transportation for people arriving in the port, as well. Entire households were transported by mid-century settlers.
The first passenger and freight ships, with names like El Sin Nombre, El Bolivar and El Salvatierra anchored in the bay, since there was no pier at the time. Everything was transported via primitive canoes. There was nothing that couldn’t be brought to shore, including furniture; large crates, suitcases and trunks; dry goods and things that weren’t available in Puerto Vallarta. Silk, perfumes, and the well loved parasols were among the treasures that found their way through the shipping lanes that led to all parts of Mexico.
Loading and unloading was the job of the sailing crew and the stevedores (estibadores) on land. They worked fast and enjoyed the labor. Everyone had a nickname, El Bule (Big Tummy), El Zurrón (Husky), Tres Pelos (Three Hairs), El Niño, El Chiri and El Zun. They wore only pants, rolled up to the knee, and were shirtless, and barefoot, of course. Their skin turned as dark as coconuts, which contrasted with their gleaming white teeth and they were always smiling. Some sang and many were excellent singers. Sometimes, when the sun beat down and the heat got to be too much, they wore flour and sugar sacks on their heads and looked like toiling monks.
When it was time to eat, their wives brought them lunch and dinner, tortillas, tamales and other homemade food in baskets, covered in brightly embroidered, highly starched towels and napkins.
The stevedores of Puerto Vallarta are a thing of the past and the modern cruise marina is now the place of disembarkation. The smoke of the steamships and their blasting whistles has been replaced by the low grade diesel that blows through the air and sometimes leaves a big trail of black. The horns announce arrivals and departures in much the same way as their ancestors.
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Thanks to our guest blogger Adam Garcia for this article!
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