Does Puerto Vallarta Have a Problem With Gentrification?
Nicole Garcia Merida - Gay Times
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March 14, 2024

There’s a long running myth that it was John Huston’s 1964 film The Night of the Iguana, starring Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr, that launched the Mexican city of Puerto Vallarta into the international stage. “But really, that was only part of it,” says Otoniel Sosa Rodriguez, a professor and researcher at the Universidad de Colima.

Puerto Vallarta sits on a strip of coast in the Mexican state of Jalisco, at the foot of the Sierra Madre Occidental, a major mountain range that runs through the Western part of the country. The Night of the Iguana, and the drama surrounding its production, did play a part in Vallarta’s publicity back in the 60s. Puerto Vallarta has existed as a tourist destination for over seven decades – you only need to look at pictures to figure out why. However the film’s publicity and a combination of infrastructure development on behalf of the government kick started the city’s growth.

Today, Puerto Vallarta is described as the San Francisco of Mexico. The city is Mexico’s top destination for LGBTQIA+ tourism, especially for gay men. “We can say it’s LGBTQ+ tourism,” says Otoniel. “But if we’re being honest it’s more gay men than anyone else really.” Around a third of tourists in Puerto Vallarta are members of the LGBTQ+ community, and they have contributed a massive amount of money to the city’s finances – tourism makes up for about half of Vallarta’s economy.

But the city wasn’t originally built for the massive numbers of people that descend upon it each year, which has forced it to change to accommodate this huge source of revenue. The landscape of the city started to change as property developers moved to meet demand.

“There wasn’t any forced displacement, from what I understand,” says Otoniel, who wrote his PhD dissertation about LGBTQIA+ tourist destinations in Puerto Vallarta, and moved to Vallarta for four years in 2015. “But there was displacement in the sense that [property developers] offered locals a lot of money for their lots. So these little houses then turned into high rise buildings.”

“They’re not skyscrapers like in Mexico City,” Otoniel adds. “But in 2015 I noticed the amount of construction. And in Puerto Vallarta where the average house has two floors, you notice these concrete mammoths. Construction has slowed now, but only because they’re running out of space.”

A lot of work has gone into the cityscape, but queer activists have worked just as hard to turn Vallarta into an environment that is safe for queer people. Puerto Vallarta is recognised as one of the safest destinations from the LGBTQIA+ community in the world.

Read the rest at Gay Times

Related: Objections Raised Over Proposed Murals in Downtown Vallarta (Tribuna de la Bahia)

Related: Stop the Construction! Urgent Call for Preservation of the Historic Center of Puerto Vallarta (Vallarta Daily News)

Related: Vallarta’s Romantic Zone Upholstered With Advertisements, Violating Regulations (Tribuna de la Bahia)

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