History of Puerto Vallarta - Part I
Puerto Vallarta is a city situated on the Pacific Ocean's Bahía de Banderas. A population of over 400,000 people, prominent schools, shopping centers, multinational companies and a growing International Airport makes Vallarta the sixth-largest city in the state of Jalisco.
Puerto Vallarta's proximity to Banderas Bay, the agricultural valley of the Ameca River, and the important mining centers in the Sierra have given the town a more interesting past than most Mexican tourism destinations. Puerto Vallarta was a thriving Mexican village long before it became an international tourist destination, yet tourism still played a major economic role due to the climate, scenery, tropical beaches, and rich cultural history.
Few details are known about the area’s history prior to the 19th century. Nonetheless, there is archaeological evidence of continuous human habitation dating back to 580 BC. Evidence also proves that the belonged to the Aztatlán culture which dominated Jalisco, Nayarit and Michoacán from approx. 900-1200 AD. The limited evidence and relative lack of interest in occidental Mexican archeology have limited the current knowledge about pre-historic life in the area.
During the 19th century the history of Puerto Vallarta, then called Las Peñas, was linked to the history of the Sierra towns of San Sebastian del Oeste, Talpa de Allende and Mascota. While today these towns are considered quaint tourist destinations, during much of the 18th century, Mascota was Jalisco's second largest town, after Guadalajara. Mascota and its neighboring towns located in the high plateaus of the Sierra, developed as agricultural towns to support the growing mining operations.
La Peñas grew during the 18th century, transforming itself from a small fishing and pearl-diving village into a beach-landing port serving the Sierra towns. At the time the main port serving Jalisco was located at San Blas, but the inconvenient overland route from San Blas to the Sierra towns made Las Peñas a more convenient alternative for smaller shipments, not to mention smuggling operations, which evaded the tax collectors at San Blas. Puerto Vallarta also became a vacation destination for residents of the Sierra Towns, and by the mid 19th century, the town already had its regularly returning population of vacationers.