Puerto Vallarta History
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Discover the historical past of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
A Port in the Storm Since the 16th century, when Spanish soldiers first landed on the shores of the Banderas Bay, it has been known as a safe haven. During that era, the need for ships to find shelter along the Pacific Coast was of vital importance. These safe havens helped to provide ships with shelter if pirates and renegades were to attack. They also provided ships with a place to seek repairs and to stock up on needed supplies such as food, water and firewood.
In the late 16th century, Captain Pedro de Unamuno proposed that a settlement be built on Banderas Bay; however, he was not he first to suggest this. Other navigators such as Gonzalo de Francia, Sebastian Vizcaino and Lopez de Vicuna had proposed ideas that such colonies be constructed, but their requests never received any formal attention. However, in 1644, a shipyard was built in what is now known as Mismaloya. Two of the ships constructed in that shipyard were built for Bernardo Bernal de Pinadero and were used to help colonize the southern region of California.
A City is Created During the 19th century, mining companies from Cuale and San Sebastian used the area to load and unload materials and mining supplies. At that time the area was known as Las Peñas. Halfway through that century, the area was dubbed Las Peñas de Santa Maria de Guadalupe. This formal name was bestowed by Don Guadalupe Sanchez Torres (he delivered salt to the mines, which was needed in order to refine the silver). He named the area this because he arrived there on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Don Guadalupe Sanchez Torres was so fond of the area that in the latter half of 1851, he brought his entire family there to live. It wasn't long before other families began to arrive and a small village began to emerge. Each family did their part to help the local economy grow. Some brought salt while others devoted themselves to agriculture and raising cattle. It was during this time that the French and Germans began to appear in this area in search of Brazil wood, a strong wood that they processed in order to acquire dyes.
By the year 1880, Las Peñas had a population of 1,500 inhabitants. Families from various places including Cuale and San Sebastian, came to Las Peñas to make lives for themselves. Within a few years the port was officially known as Las Peñas thanks to Admiral George Dewey's report to the U.S. Naval Hydrographic Office, which was used to establish the exact geographical positions of cities along this coast in order to make an accurate map.
In 1885, Las Peñas was open to national maritime traffic and on July 23rd of that same year, a Maritime Customs Office was established. In October of the following year, the town was given its official political and judicial standing by the State Congress. Over the next 20 years, Las Peñas flourished thanks to the collective efforts of Don Guadalupe and the many families who settled there.
Growing pains In Puerta Vallarta The people of Las Peñas also suffered their share of setbacks. In mid-1888, a pot of grease, which was being heated over a fire in local restaurant, burst into flames and set the structure ablaze. The fire spread quickly, destroying more than half of the homes in town. It is said that the fire would not have caused such extensive damage had nearly all the town's male inhabitants population not been at a cockfight. In 1911, a waterspout hit the village, leaving more than 100 inhabitants homeless. In 1922, an outbreak of Yellow Fever spread through the city, causing more than 150 deaths.
In early 1911 Las Peñas' first post office was opened, and later that same year a telegraph was installed. In 1889, the port of Las Peñas was upgraded to a municipality. It was at this time that the settlement's name was changed to Puerto Vallarta, in remembrance of the Governor of Jalisco, Don Ignacio L. Vallarta.
Thirty-five years later, the Montgomery Fruit Company purchased 70,000 acres for banana plantations in the neighboring town of Ixtapa. Because of the surplus job opportunities created by these plantations, Puerto Vallarta began to flourish. Eventually, a railway was built in order to transport the bananas to El Salado and eventually onto the United States. Unfortunately, in 1938, the company was forced to leave the area due to new laws and restrictions that had been put into effect. Other products such as beans, coconuts, corn and tobacco continued to be grown and shipped to national markets.
The World Discovers Its Beauty Unlike some other cities in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta was not created for tourism. However, in the 1930's, the city got its first taste. Those who visited the area loved it so much that they began returning year after year. Word of Puerto Vallarta's beauty quickly spread, and each year the number of tourists grew. By 1950 the city was known internationally, but what really put Puerto Vallarta on the map was the movie Night of the Iguana (filmed in 1963) and the steamy romance between film stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Thousands of tourists flocked to the area, eager to see the location where the movie was made. That exposure helped the city grow quickly. Transportation improved, hotels were built and the city now had a new primary income source, tourism.
Because of that growth, Francisco Medina Ascencio, governor of Jalisco, and Sr. Jose Vasquez Galvan as mayor of Puerto Vallarta, pronounced decree No. 8366, which elevated Puerto Vallerta to the status of a city. Puerto Vallarta has come a long way since 1930. Today, hotels and restaurants line the beaches. Cruise ships come into port on an almost daily basis. Tourism, which was once nonexistent, now draws in more than half a million visitors a year, turning this once a tiny fishing village into a sought-after vacation destination.
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