The real Oceano Bar is long gone. And, the iconic seahorse statue has been moved down the Malecon. Even the dusty cobblestone main drag has been replaced by one of the finest pedestrian zones we have seen. But, Puerto Vallarta, at its heart, is still very much like the village that John Huston put on the map with his 1964 film. The culture is in tact.
Of course, if you have been to Puerto Vallarta, you may see it as a glitzy Pacific mega-resort with a beautiful setting. It is. Or, you may see it as hundreds of thousands of people seemingly all moving around at the same time, often in one of the 1500 taxis careening down the road. It is that, too. It is a tourist city. It is a tolerant city. And, there is always someone trying to sell you something, or to take you deep sea fishing. But, there is a lot more.
Still, in the center of the town, and in the surrounding villages, the culture thrives. Good, honest, very hard working people are friendly to all. They value their families. They walk along the Malecon as often as possible. They show up for endless festivals and concerts at the seaside amphitheater in the center. And, on Sundays, the municipal band plays concerts in the bandstand between the church and City Hall.
This is a beautiful area to spend a few days…or, like us, a few months.
We have come to the Bay of Banderas for over forty years. Just a few years after Liz and Dick. We tacked Vallarta onto the end of several trips to other cities in Mexico. We even ran into John Huston and Angelica at breakfast one day. By the late eighties, Marriott had built a very fine resort near the Marina and we started to stay there. As of last week, several of the same people we have gotten to know over the years were still working at the Marriott. And, they remember you. We started this trip there last week with a short three-day stay.
Then we moved. For the next several months, we’ll be in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, a quiet fishing village about 25 kilometers north of Vallarta, but easily within reach. This little town did not really even exist until the 1930’s, and only about 1200 people actually live here. Some good local restaurants, lots of cold beer, an active daily fish market and skateboard-proof cobblestone streets. Often with chickens walking across them.
This blog will fill you in on life here as we go along. There is plenty of time for that. We will be here for a while. It is summer and the rainy season will be here by August. Too bad Dick and Liz couldn’t stick around to see this area now. Take all the hotels, taxis, buses, nightclubs and most of the tourists out of the picture…and it looks pretty much the same. The iconic adjoining houses that the couple built up the hill behind the church are still there, too.
Stay tuned, we’ll try to photograph the next iguana we see.