Puerto Vallarta was founded in the mid XIX Century, originally named “Las Peñas”. It emerged from the need mining towns in the mountains had for a port in the Bay of Banderas, where they could onload salt for their mines as well as other supplies from national and international markets and ship products from mining, agriculture, fishing and forestry.
Clearly three historical stages can be seen in the development of Puerto Vallarta, marked by a succession of economic models.
Commerce and natural resources.
The first stage encompasses the time from 1851, the year it was founded, to 1900. The foundations laid out in this land by Don Guadalupe Sánchez and the other founders sealed the fate of the old port of Las Peñas as a window to the sea for commercial exchange between mountain mining towns and the world. These mining towns were isolated due to its abrupt geography and the lack of effective communication routes by land.
Gold and silver from the mines of Los Reyes, San Sebastián, Aranjuez, San Antonio de Cuale and others were shipped from the old pier. Salt, tools and machinery for the mines arrived at the port of Las Peñas, as did supplies, material, footwear, wine, luxury items and other merchandise destined for the then prosperous towns of Mascota, Talpa and Real de San Sebastian among others.
Due to these circumstances and the beneficial geographic location of Las Peñas, commerce flourished notably, transforming the Port into the regional center of reception and distribution of consumer goods. The region at that time had abundant natural resources: alligators, pearls, whales, sharks, coconut oil, animal skins, hardwood, natural dyes which were very much appreciated by the English textile industry. All of these formed part of the commercial exchange with the world at that time.
During the second historic stage, from 1900 to 1960, events of vital importance change the economic focus of this Mexican Western Pacific region. At the beginning of the XX Century, countless numbers of families living in the mountains moved to the coastal areas, which increased population. People were looking for work as the international price of silver had collapsed and some mines had closed. A short time later, starting in 1910, the armed movement of the Mexican Revolution, caused another large migration to the coast. This demographic increase kicked off the agricultural and livestock activities considerably in the haciendas and ranches of the area. From then on, great quantities of corn, beans, coconut oil and above all, tobacco were shipped from the Las Peñas/Puerto Vallarta pier to the ports of Manzanillo, San Blas or Mazatlan, where they were later distributed to national and international markets.
During this second historic stage, Las Peñas was elevated officially to a “Municipality” in 1918; and changed its name to Puerto Vallarta in honor of illustrious Mexican lawyer Ignacio Luis Vallarta Ogazón.
During this time, the North American Montgomery Company, producer and exporter of bananas was established in Ixtapa in 1924, it had a great influence on the area’s economy. During the 20’s and 30’s the Municipal “ejidos” (community property) were established; and fishing activity flourished during the years of World War II. Puerto Vallarta and its region greatly contributed with large quantities of shark and coconut oil, as provisions for the war. Tobacco shored up the regional economy by being its production leader. The national tobacco industry maintained strong interests here during the first half of the XX Century.
The third stage begins in the 50’s, with the implementation of public policy at both Federal and State government levels such as “Marcha al Mar” and “Comisión de Planeación de la Costa” (National plan created to help the people in the crowded inland move to the coast) resulting in the original road Mascota to Puerto Vallarta; the construction of the airport is begun on land near the El Salado estuary and a thermal electric plant is installed in Puerto Vallarta, with service 24 hours a day for the county seat and the towns in the municipality of Puerto Vallarta, and for those in the neighboring state of Nayarit, such as Valle de Banderas, San José del Valle and San Juan de Abajo as well.
From 1965 to 1971, during Governor Francisco Medina Ascencio’s term, the main tourist infrastructure projects of this destination were built, strongly backed by the Federal Government. These include: the highway from Puerto Vallarta to Compostela and Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad; the bridge over the Ameca river, the Marine terminal, the expansion and modernization of the international airport and regional connection to the Occidental Electric System.
From that time on, the explosion of development in this new economic tourism model, positioned Puerto Vallarta as an important international tourist destination. The hotel and construction industries and real estate markets have held up the economy during this third stage.