So, if you are a baby boomer or perhaps a little older than a baby boomer, you may already know why Puerto Vallarta is the bustling resort city it is today. But, if you were born after 1960 or the story of Puerto Vallarta’s rise to fame somehow passed you by, please allow me to fascinate you with a brief history lesson.
The late John Huston with two Oscars and 14 nominations was arguably one of the world’s greatest directors. Through his adventurous travels, he came across a sleepy little fishing village by the name of Puerto Vallarta. He decided to use this location for the film adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play, “Night of the Iguana.”
Perhaps, Puerto Vallarta would have become famous because of its beautiful weather, spectacular scenery and delightful local people, but it is “Night of the Iguana” that really put it on the map. The star-studded cast of Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, and Sue Lyon all played a part in the fast growth of Puerto Vallarta. But, what really made PV famous was the illicit affair between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Both of them were married to other people at the time, so the Vatican didn’t approve, but Hollywood and the tourist industry certainly did.
If I were to design a tour featuring the “Night of the Iguana” and the romance of Liz and Dick, here are the places I would feature:
John Huston’s statue– If you walk down Insurgentes, you will run into a park by the River Cuale that separates Old Town from Gringo Gulch. In this park you will see John Huston’s statue guarding the feral cats, the principal inhabitants of what many refer to as “the cat park.” I’m not sure if Huston liked cats, but man, I sure hope so.
Mismaloya– A 20-30 minute bus or cab ride south of PV will take you to the beautiful little resort- type suburb of Mismaloya. Even though Mismaloya is now lined with hotels, resorts, and condos, the scenery and beaches are still spectacular. You can visit the wave crashing spot where much of “Night of the Iguana” was filmed. You can almost picture Pedro and Pepe cavorting with Ava Gardner and Sue Lyon as Richard Burton struggles with Deborah Kerr above. Anyway, worth a visit, even if you have not seen the movie.
Casa Kimberly– Liz Taylor shamelessly tagged along for the filming of “Night of the Iguana” even though she didn’t even have a part in the movie. All I can say is she must have really had the hots for Richard because they filmed the movie in August. Believe me, I don’t want another living creature near me in August in PV, especially without A.C! But, Liz was rewarded for her extramarital affection by Richard purchasing a beautiful home for her in Gringo Gulch. Casa Kimberly has now been restored to a museum and a fabulous restaurant with mariachis and all. I was fortunate enough to get to go there for my birthday, thanks to the generosity of my friend Betsy.
Archie’s Wok– If you are in Puerto Vallarta and have a craving for Asian food, make sure you find your way to Archie’s Wok. Head for the pier on the Malecon and walk up the adjacent street. Archie’s is one of the oldest restaurants in PV and frequented by John Huston and his daughter Angelica. Not too surprising that this was one of Huston’s favorite restaurants since Archie was his chef at his home on Las Caletas.
Las Caletas – And speaking of Las Caletas…this is the place where Huston built his party home. There are still people around who remember the wild and crazy times. Now, Caletas’s is the destination for the Rhythms of the Night tour, and also a place people go to during the day to scuba dive and just relax.
Again, with its incredible vistas and nearly perfect weather much of the year, Puerto Vallarta may have found her way as a prominent place on the map even if John and Liz and Dick hadn’t come along, but I think it makes it more interesting.
We love it here in PV, and it is with mixed emotions we are pulling up stakes and heading back to the U.S., at least for a while. There are health and family reasons, but for me, the biggest reason is that I cannot collect Social Security and work part-time outside the U.S. until I reach 66, that’s four years from now. And, while we could comfortably live on two Social Security checks here in PV, I can’t imagine not working at all for four years. Yet, my final walks on the Malecon are incredibly sad and I hope to be back soon, at least for vacation.
And yes, I swore I would not return to live in the U.S if “he who must not be named” became president, but I decided I needed to go back and fight the fascist beast, by working for the arts or environment and volunteering for local politics.
We are not leaving behind a house, museum, or statue to mark our time here in PV, but we do have this blog. I am turning this blog into a book, both a Kindle book and a quality paperback. I hope to have it published and available on Amazon before the end of April. We will keep the Mexico Bound Boomers Facebook page active.
Thanks so much for following us on this adventure. We will be back for extended visits and who knows what might happen four or five years from now. ¡Hasta luego!
So, out 18-month Mexican experiment is now winding down big time. No sense whatsoever of failure; many fond memories and insights derived. Returning to Minnesota knowing I’ll always carry a little bit of Mexico inside for the rest of my days. Also, returning with a new, deeper appreciation for the advantages American Life offers.
Some things I will miss:
- Inexpensive, delicious and frequent restaurant meals
- The openness and often inexplicable happiness of the Mexican people
- Watching the frigate birds soaring effortlessly
- $2.50-$5 cab fares
- Roosters and burros
- Pacific Ocean sunsets
- Sleeping without covers
- Drinking cheap, refreshing Pacificos with friends at Monchi’s Bar
- Shorts and sandals every day
Some things I’m looking forward to:
- Speaking English and assuming I will be understood
- Incredibly enough: Comcast
- Seeing family and old friends
- Summit Extra Pale ale
- Top-notch, nearly free VA healthcare
- Becoming a Master of Public Transportation
- Change of seasons
- Smooth, flat streets and sidewalks and stairs of uniform height
- Watching Rachel and Lawrence on MSNBC
- Closely following my perennially pathetic Minnesota Twins
Marcia and I have accomplished what we set out to do: namely, to shed our material belongings and to substantially “shake up” our lives by moving to Mexico. While we encountered some challenges, overall it was interesting and fun and I feel neither of us would trade this experience for anything.
Marcia seems to have been captured more than I by the popular “romance” of this place. Personally, however, I am glad that Liz and Dick and John Huston are dead…the sun and the sea and the birds in the sky don’t give a rat’s ass about them either, nor do they require a dress code.
¡Adios amigos y muchas gracias!