A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Puerto Vallarta bursting at the seams during the long weekend holiday honoring Mexico’s beloved Benito Juarez. I mentioned my first trip to PV in 1976, which struck a chord with some of you who remember Puerto Vallarta when it was a much different place.
How different? The Chicago Tribune published an article on February 15, 1976 – written by Richard Joseph – that was headlined: “Puerto Vallarta: Slow-Paced, Quiet.”
Joseph began his article by saying, “As Mexican resorts go, this is the step-child of Mexican tourism.” His point was that the government was pouring millions into Cancún and Ixtapa but PV developed without major government investment.
As many of you know, PV’s growth spurt came after the international press descended on Puerto Vallarta to cover the volcanic romance between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Burton was one of the stars of John Huston’s film “The Night of the Iguana” in 1964. Taylor was staying in PVs “gringo gulch” in Casa Kimberly on a hill above Centro overlooking the bay and the Cuale River. Casa Kimberly is now a small luxury hotel catering to well-heeled visitors.
I had a home in Mismaloya for a few years overlooking the hill where the set for the “Night of the Iguana” was built. My street? Avenida Richard Burton, of course.
By the time Joseph arrived and stayed at luxury hotel Posada Vallarta in what is now known as the hotel zone, even Air France was flying to PV from Paris four times a week.
Then, there was a distinct difference between world-famous Acapulco and PV. Acapulco had been a major international resort for decades, frequented by high-flyers and Hollywood for its glamour and chic.
PV, on the other hand, was still a relatively sleepy cobblestoned town of red tile roofs and whitewashed shops. By 1976, the population was still under 40,000 people. Posada Vallarta and the Camino Real were the major luxury hotels for visitors, along with the discreet bungalows of Garza Blanca farther south towards Mismaloya.
Today, Posada Vallarta is a memory, the Camino Real has gone through a number of owners and is now a Hyatt and Garza Blanca has changed from a string of hillside bungalows to mainly several high-rise towers looming over the bay from the steep hillside above Highway 200.
Although the city has grown to well over 300,000 people and condos continue to sprout inappropriately in Zona Romantica (my own personal bias), the soul of PV remains.
When you stroll along PV’s magnificent Malecón from the northern edge of Centro to just past the city’s beautiful new municipal pier in Zona Romantica at sunset, the magic is still there. You just share your moments with many more people than in 1976.
Joseph concluded his article by saying, “Whatever you want to do, you do at your own pace, unhurried and unharried. The pressures are all somewhere else – but not in Puerto Vallarta.”
Another time, but still the place.