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Happy Anniversary Puerto Vallarta! More than 100 Years of History

NEWS | Published on 20/05/2022
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Despite the city’s international fame, you can still feel Puerto Vallarta’s rich history and unique culture as you stroll down cobblestone streets and up narrow alleys around the city’s plaza. For many of years, people have been enjoying the lush vegetation of the mountains and the sparkling waters of the sea. However, the city hasn’t always been the luxurious travel destination it is today. In fact, before 1950, few people outside of Mexico even knew about Puerto Vallarta. With these interesting facts about Puerto Vallarta, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the city as you take in the sights.

Indigenous Puerto Vallarta History

As you study where Puerto Vallarta is, you’ll learn that Mexico’s west coast was home to several different indigenous tribes as early as 580 BC, including the Aztatlán people. Today, the Huicholes are the main group with a significant presence in Puerto Vallarta Mexico. While seafood was an abundant part of their diet, they also felt strongly connected to the mountainous jungles, and in their traditional artwork made with tiny glass beads called “chakiras,” you can see flowers, lizards, deer, coyotes, and other natural symbols that were part of their sacred world-view. Browsing traditional art galleries and watching Huichol performances is an important part of appreciating all of Puerto Vallarta history.

Growing Puerto Vallarta Mexico


During the colonization of Mexico between the 1500s and 1800s, the Bay of Banderas was not an important area for the Spanish. Still, various sailors, explorers, and even pirates took advantage of the calm waters to drop anchor and rest ashore, even hiding from enemies and royal armies. Eventually, a small fishing village named Las Peñas de Santa María de Guadalupe developed in the center of the bay, the location where Puerto Vallarta is today. However, the main attraction in the area was further inland, buried in the mountains of the mining towns, like San Sebastián del Oeste, Talpa de Allende, and Mascota in the Sierra Madre mountains. As these towns mined silver and other metals, Las Peñas became the main port for shipping supplies in and taking precious minerals out of the region.

Ignacio L Vallarta

As Mexico grew and developed, the little fishing village of Las Peñas became an official municipality, and in 1918, the name was changed to honor a well-known lawyer and former state governor: Ignacio L Vallarta. Governor Vallarta was a fundamental leader in the state of Jalisco, rebuilding the Government Palace and finishing the Public Education Law of 1874. The main construction of the city’s central cathedral, The Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe, finished in 1952, and it was topped with its iconic crown in 1965. During the first half of the 20th century, agriculture and fishing were the primary economic source for the people of Vallarta, but some vacationers were already making their way here.

Hollywood’s Vacation Destination


One of the most interesting facts about Puerto Vallarta is that a Tennessee William play helped make the city famous. In the 1960s, American film director John Huston set up his film set on the beaches of Mismaloya to film The Night of the Iguana, bringing Hollywood stars Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Sue Lyon with him to Puerto Vallarta Mexico. During the filming, Elizabeth Taylor flew down to Puerto Vallarta, where she and Burton carried on a very public affair away from their spouses. Burton even purchased Casa Kimberly for Taylor, a villa that’s still in Gringo Gulch in Puerto Vallarta, and he built a bridge to connect it to his own home. As paparazzi photos and gossip filled Hollywood tabloids, Puerto Vallarta’s natural beauty and romantic charm became world-famous.

An International Vacation Destination

As Hollywood stars and international travelers began to flock to Puerto Vallarta, the Mexican government invested in building up the city while preserving its charm. Every year, new hotels and restaurants are created in the city, but when you walk up the cobblestone streets to Casa Kimberly, spot the statue of Ignacio L Vallarta in the plaza, or visit the iconic cathedral, you’ll be able to feel Puerto Vallarta history all around you. Soaking up the city’s culture and learning more interesting facts about Puerto Vallarta makes traveling to this vacation destination such an enriching experience.

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