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Guadeloupe Catholic Church in Puerto Vallarta


    Unlike other Mexican Pacific resort cities, Puerto Vallarta lacks a significant ancient history. But that doesn't mean its not interesting. 
This beautiful land at the mouth of the Cuale River remained isolated as late as the early 1800s. Economic activity sparked in the towns of Cuale, San Sebastián and Mascota when silver and salt mines were found.

    In 1851 Guadalupe Sánchez, a boatman from Cihuatlán who used to bring salt from nearby islands to beach fortrade, became weary of waiting for the muleteers to come and pick up the load. A young man of 19 and recently married, Guadalupe established the first settlement in what he called
Las Peñas.

    With the collapse ofthe silver market around 1914, miners left the mountains and returned to cultivate agriculture in a fertile valley next to the Ameca River. Vast amounts of local produce were shipped from here by boat to Manzanillo and Mazatlán. In 1918, residents changed Las Peñas name to Puerto Vallarta. This fertile valley soon attracted American agricultural interests.

    Bananas were grown and exported to the USA by the Montgomery Fruit Company increased economic well-being to Puerto Vallarta and nearby Ixtapa until 1935. But the Mexican Revolution repossessed most of Montgomery’s agricultural land, ending the intensive agricultural phase of old Puerto Vallarta. Locals turned their eyes toward the ocean, where they found a new source of wealth -- sharks. More specially the key ingredient for shark fin soup that ended up on the tables of Chinese restaurants in America. Also, during the Second World War, shark liver oil was given as a nutritional supplement to American soldiers. A new horde of immigrants benefited from this trade until World War II ended in 1945.

    Tourism took off a bit earlier in 1942, when the first Puerto Vallarta ad Modern Mexico magazine, published in New York. Wealthy Mexicans began patronizing the area and developing villa resorts. White-washed adobe facades, pitched roofs covered in red tiles, decorative wrought-iron grids and stone walls became the rage. Puerto Vallarta attracted A-List Hollywood director John Huston’s to buy getaway here. Soon afterwards, more intellectuals and artists from the United States and Mexico arrived. 

    In 1954, Mexicana Airline inaugurated Guadalajara-Puerto Vallarta direct flights and was followed by Aeroméxico. 
By 1960, abuzz with realtor and hotelier ad campaigns, Mexicana launched direct flights from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán in 1962. Mexicana’s affiliation with Pan American Airlines amplified Puerto Vallarta promotion worldwide. Puerto Vallarta was hot property despite a glaring lack of infrastructure. Not only did cows trespass airport grounds, visitors had to cross the Pitillal River in a canoe during the rainy season. There were only a few taxis, donkeys were used to carry the luggage. For many visitors, this only added to the adventure.

    It just a matter of time before Hollywood movies arrived in 1963.
In addition to celebrities and American intellectuals, Puerto Vallarta hosted Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner, Sue Lyon, Richard Burton and Mexican star Emilio El Indio Fernándezwere cast in the movie, The Night of the Iguana. Ofcourse smitten Elizabeth Taylor spent most of her time with Richard Burton off set. Charmed by Puerto Vallarta, Richard and Liz bought a villa.. John Huston built a larger house as well, where lived until his death.

    With growing toursim in 1965-1971, Puerto Vallarta government placed major tourism infrastructure development front and center. Bridges, highways, airport expansion and hotel construction accelerated. The port was modernized, and the city soon enjoyed electric power and telephone service. In addition, the first port in Jalisco was built at El Salado. Air France began Paris-Montreal-Guadalajara-Puerto Vallarta flights, attracting European tourism.

    In 1973, the the construction of large hotels began and the city population swelled with immigrant worker families.  When the Mexican Peso devalued in 1982, Puerto Vallarta and other Mexican resorts enjoyed booming tourism. Between 1980 and 1990, Puerto Vallarta’s population doubled and a new marina was built  with a shopping mall, large hotels. Work on the marina proper, slips for 450 boats.

    The early 1990s, national tourism grew, but international travelers dropped off asthe Peso strengthened, following Cancún, Acapulco, Mazatlán and Veracruz. It was crucial to put an end to this decline. So in 1996, the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Fund created a 2% tax on hotel rooms to promote the destination at national and international levels. The program was a massive success and Puerto Vallarta earning a reputation as a world-class beach destination.


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