John Houston lived at Las Caletas in his later years. The local guide, who was giving us a tour of Puerto Vallarta, told us that Houston had spent most of his life here. Wrong. So much for Rafeale’s credibility.
John Huston was a noted movie maker with 41 directing credits who was deservedly nominated for 10 Academy Awards. He came to Puerto Vallarta to make The Night of the Iguana in 1964. His star was Richard Burton, and Burton was having an infamous affair with Elizabeth Taylor, who accompanied him to Mexico, at the time. During filming Houston fell in love with Las Caletas, a cove with some great beaches. The beach Houston doted on was only accessible by sea. He leased it from local Indians and subsequently spent a lot of time there until he died in 1987.
Puerto Vallarta, in many ways, has fallen on hard times. It’s in the troubled state of Jalisco. Jalisco, but not Puerto Vallarta, is under a Level 3 Travel Advisory due to crime and gang activity. The US State Department considers all of Mexico a Level 2 risk. In late July, 2018, Mexican authorities released crime statistics for the first half of this year, and the travel advisory reflects a 16% increase in homicides, mostly much closer to the US border than Jalisco. After Mexico’s national election, there were reportedly 29,168 murders. Jalisco has experienced an uptick in crime, but not Puerto Vallarta, a resort city that still attracts 2 million visitors every year.
I know 2 visitors who will not be returning, Ruth and me. We saw the decrepit old part of this city and its downtown seafront. The old part of town reminded me of photos of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck last year. Graffiti and decay were everywhere, and Puerto Vallarta’s air and water seemed questionable.
On its seafront known as El Malecón, we saw some public sculptures, like an enormous seahorse that’s this city’s main symbol. They were OK. But then Rafeale took us to a retail store where no one bought anything despite free beer. One lady we talked to would have bought a piece of jewelry but could not get the owner to agree to her price. She was tough. We also saw Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the only church in Mexico with a new crown due to an earthquake in the last century when John Houston came to town. Cabo has replaced PV as a Hollywood hangout.
Our tour ended up at a tequila distillery. This visit seemed interminable despite free tequila samples, and the whole operation seemed like it had seen better days. I, at least, met and talked to a young Chinese musician from our ship. Ruth & I could have, but didn’t see Las Caletas, which I hear is still quite beautiful.
Puerto Vallarta’s Sister city is Santa Barbara, California. Go figure.