Puerto Vallarta has long been a bustling, active town. It didn’t start with the Hollywood invasion, though the way some people talk, Vallarta was nothing but a sleepy fishing village before the event of movie-making.
Las Peñas, as Puerto Vallarta was originally called by Don Guadalupe Sánchez, got her start as a port in the mid 19th century. Many villages in the mountains were founded by miners seeking their fortunes in silver and gold. With no roads coming into the area, the sea was the logical choice for coming and going. While the precious minerals were shipped out, resources were brought in. Salt, mining equipment and tools, were all in high demand, as well as basic necesseties of life, such as clothing, shoes, housewares and food that wasn’t available locally. Villages such as San Sebastián, Talpa, Mascota, San Antonio de Cuale, Los Reyes became wealthy enclaves on the roads that developed over the mountains. Ladies required gloves and hats, the most recent fashions. Schoolbooks were ordered and delivered. Stoves, building materials, chimney bricks and wagon wheels. Furniture, fabrics, buttons and thread, pots, pans and kitchen supplies. Churches, tiendas (stores), cafés, homes and assorted businesses sprang up like daisies in springtime. Everything of any use was brought into the seashore at Las Peñas and growth from north to south was impressive.
Before long, exports were as vital as imports. Hardwoods and bamboo, harvested from the jungles; animal and crocodile skins; pearls from the ocean, along with whale and shark products and, of course, an abundance of seafood. Coconut and coconut oil, both widely used globally; root and vegetable dyes; silver and gold.
In 1910, with the arrival of the Mexican Revolution, more people migrated to the coast, causing agriculture and livestock to expand exponentially. Huge haciendas and ranches developed and spread over the land, spilling down to the seaboard. Corn and beans in great quantity along with enormous amounts of tobacco became chief exports and Puerto Vallarta, after Luis Vallarta, Ogazón, became a municipality and officially known by her new name and international port.
Four decades later, the road from Mascota to Vallarta was begun and the march to the sea was implemented. The airport and electric plant began construction and all resemblances to a sleepy little fishing village would have vanished in their wake. Once and always a very important west coast port, Puerto Vallarta began to attract tourists. A costal highway began winding down the coastal path; bridges were built, large and small; the marine terminal took root on the banks of the town and people began to flock south along with the birds.
In the early sixties, John Huston chose Puerto Vallarta as the setting for The Night of the Iguana, his movie based on the famous novel of the same name by Tennessee Williams. By the end of that decade, a new era was in bloom.
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Thanks to our guest blogger Adam Garcia for this article!
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