When Did Puerto Vallarta Become a Tourist Destination?

In 1968, Puerto Vallarta was officially designated a city due to the growing interest of the federal and state governments of Mexico in making it an international tourist destination. Hotel and resort development skyrocketed in the 1970s, and today there are more than 50 five- and four-star resorts in the area. In the 1930s, Puerto Vallarta began to become a more popular tourist destination. However, it was in 1964 that Puerto Vallarta became famous, with the release of John Huston's film version of Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana.

Since its inception, Puerto Vallarta was a matter of money, and it still is. Unlike Cancun, the resort was not founded exclusively for tourism. Puerto Vallarta began as a Mexican city, and it still retains parts of this identity. The first visitors recognized the beauty of its coastline and the economic potential of Banderas Bay (one of the largest natural bays in the world). In the 16th century, Spanish soldiers replenished their ships here.

They also built a shipyard to build vessels used in the colonization of Baja California. In the 18th century, the area became a rich resource for whaling (Banderas Bay was also called Humpback Bay) and fishing (which is still important today).Puerto Vallarta became a tourist destination after the shooting of La noche de la iguana, a Hollywood film from the 60s. The famous director John Huston was captivated by Mexico, especially Puerto Vallarta. He thought the tropical setting would be the perfect place to shoot his adaptation of the Tennessee play William.

The film starred Richard Burton, who at the time was having a public affair with Elizabeth Taylor. The two stars fell madly in love with Puerto Vallarta. The celebrities felt that they could stay away from the press and decided to stay quite a long time after the shoot. The city is especially popular with domestic tourists during Easter (Easter, one of the most important public holidays in Latin America) and during Christmas. By the 1950s, Puerto Vallarta had begun to attract Americans, mostly writers and artists, seeking a retreat from the United States from the Eisenhower and McCarthy era. Visibility in the water off Puerto Vallarta, near river mouths, is poor in summer, but far from these places, visibility in summer is greater than in the dry season.

Banderas Bay offers 34 miles of unparalleled coastline in the states of Jalisco and Nayarit, and home to many great destinations such as Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit. In 1954, Air Mexicana started the Guadalajara-Puerto Vallarta flight, which made the city more accessible. However, the legacy of the boom of the 1980s continues even today, where peripheral areas of Puerto Vallarta suffer from poor provision of basic services (i). Puerto Vallarta is located on a narrow coastal plain at the foot of Sierras Cuale and San Sebastián, parts of Sierra Madre Occidental. The official history of Las Peñas' founding (and thus Puerto Vallarta's) is that it was founded by Guadalupe Sánchez Torres, his wife Ambrosia Carrillo and some friends such as Cenobio Joya, Apolonio de Robles, Cleofas Peña and Martín Andrade on December 12th 1851. It was given the name Las Peñas de Santa María de Guadalupe since it was dedicated to Virgin of Guadalupe. The presidential visit contributed significantly to Puerto Vallarta's name being featured in news and visibility as a tourist destination. Puerto Vallarta also exports bananas, coconut oil and other products from its interior where pigs, horses and bees are also raised.

Francisco Medina Ascencio, governor at that time was able to move forward with his vision of growing Puerto Vallarta. Any foreigner who wants to buy real estate in Puerto Vallarta (or anywhere along Mexico's coast) cannot own real estate directly but needs to establish a beneficial trust or trust that is held in Mexican bank on behalf of owner. The prevailing winds come from southwest and most weather systems approaching Puerto Vallarta weaken as they pass through Cabo Corrientes. The visit showcased Puerto Vallarta's newly developed infrastructure of airports and international resorts. However, Vallarta is an accidental tourist spot unlike places like Cancun and Huatulco which were government-planned tourist destinations. In mid-1980s Puerto Vallarta experienced rapid expansion of makeshift communities underserved even by basic public services.

Léa Payamps
Léa Payamps

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