History in Puerto Vallarta

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A warm, sunny vacation destination with wide, sandy beaches boasting calm, turquoise waters is what most people picture when they think of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It is located on one of the largest bays in the world, Banderas Bay, which is over 41 km wide. However, before having this beach getaway reputation, the city was rather rustic and unknown.

The Early Years

In the early 1800s, the area we now call Puerto Vallarta was simply a place of natural beauty located between the ocean, the sierra, and the strongly flowing Ameca River. It was isolated, and basically no one lived there until around the mid 1800s. It was during that time when Guadelupe Sanchez, a boatmen who transported salt from the area,  tired of going back and forth and decided to settle there with his wife. This is often considered the founding of Puerto Vallarta. 

The city, during the early 1900s, was buzzing with agricultural activity. The land was extremely rich and fertile, and the Montgomery Fruit company took advantage of that by growing and exporting unripe bananas, or "green gold", to the United States. This created much economic success in Puerto Vallarta, but the success only lasted until Montgomery's land was repossessed by the government.

At this point, the town had to figure out another way to stay afloat economically. They figured out that they could use sharks and fish from Banderas Bay to make money. During World War II, shark liver oil was used to provide nutrition to the American soldiers, so sharks were high in demand. Delicacies made from shark in U.S. restaurants were also in high demand at the time, so everything worked out well for Puerto Vallarta.


During the 1950s the style for which the city is now known for was developed. The white adobe houses and buildings with red tile roofs and intricate wrought iron gates and stone walls became the distinctive, iconic image of Puerto Vallarta. Famous houses like Casa de la "O", Caracol, and Los Arcos were built in the '50s as well, some of which can still be seen today. All through the '60s, Puerto Vallarta was emerging as a tourist destination due to intensive advertising and promotion. It was declared an official city and given the funds to build a highway, an international airport, and a bridge across the Ameca River. Hollywood movies such as "Night of the Iguana" were filmed there, and during the Medina Acencio's presidency, electricity and telephone service was made available in the area. In the '90s the city was really promoted heavily both domestically and internationally as a beach lover's paradise, and it still is today.

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