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Mountain architecture in Puerto Vallarta, in the middle of the 20th century

Traditional architecture of Vallarta, a legacy that makes us fall in love

Although the years go by and modernity has penetrated Vallarta, there is something that distinguishes our city and makes it unique: the beauty of its traditional architecture.

One of the main elements of the Vallarta's identity is its architecture, whose original physiognomy derives from the mountain code or style. This happened because at the beginning of the 20th century the arrival of inhabitants from the Sierra Occidental of Jalisco began. Inhabitants of places: San Sebastian del Oeste, Cuale, Mascota and Talpa de Allende, naturally transferred the construction style, characteristic of those communities.

It was so, that in Puerto Vallarta was modeled a grid-shaped outline, similar to a chessboard, which was applied in flat and mountainous areas, which is why there are streets that go up and down according to the terrain.

Characteristics of the architecture of Puerto Vallarta

When one walks through the characteristic streets of our city, it is impossible to stop thinking about the history that surrounds those details that make it so picturesque.

We talked then about all that he conferred on a town with a physiognomy of rustic simplicity, cobblestone streets in gray tones, (taking advantage of the nearby beaches and rivers) plastered walls and painted with white lime and roofs or sloping roofs with traditional orange or red clay tiles that gave it a particular touch.

Mountain architecture in Puerto Vallarta, in the middle of the 20th centuryArquitectura tradicional de Vallarta

Source: public domain.

The mountain code constructs also dictate the following: 

1.- Predominant use of materials from the region. The walls were mostly made of adobe or bricks of baked clay. The decks, or ceilings, were built with wood using beams, poles, andirons, sash and crowned with clay tiles. The mezzanines, were armed with boards or wooden staves; finally, complementary elements, such as windows, handrails and stairs, also assembled with wood.

2.- The walls are plastered with plaster and their geometry predominates over the openings (doors and windows) occupying the largest surface area on the façade.

3.- The openings or frames are rectangular and elongated, due to the fact that the enclosure has wooden beams that crown them; the doors and windows are assembled in wood, they are usually tall and cannot be missing even now more contemporary the ironwork railings or balconies characteristic on the top floor of the houses.

4.- The openings are surrounded by a wide molding, in the form of a frame, which in the entrances has a base on both jambs.

5.- When a construction with two levels is on the corner, a reinforcing pilaster is used, equipped with a capital and a base.

6.- The roofs or covers are inclined, decorated with tiles of baked clay and discreet eaves.

A legacy that still falls in love with us.

The physiognomy of traditional architecture was preserved for more than half a century, managing to combine a peculiar integration between mountain values implanted in a coastal landscape with a tropical climate; it it facilitated the formation of an image of a small Mexican town that the first visitors to the port liked so much.

This characteristic constituted a competitive advantage in relation to other beach destinations in Mexico. Puerto Vallarta, had the authenticity and mountain architectural uniqueness that became a legacy to this day. 

Unfortunately, with the adoption of tourism as the main economic activity in the region, a very high percentage of these beautiful traditional farms were demolished and replaced by other types of construction to make way for "progress". That is to say, we allow ourselves to be dazzled by a fashion and by the imaginary of a misunderstood modernity instead of potentiating and protecting the Vallarta identity elements. 

Mountain architecture at the corner of Morelos and Mina streets, Puerto Vallarta.

Source: Alfonso Baños

Casitas Vallarta: a tourist icon with history and identity

 Despite the wide diffusion of traditional mountain architecture, confusion, ignorance and errors of appreciation of emblematic elements of this type still persist. For example: many people believe that brick arches, domes and tiles symbolize authentic local elements, which is inaccurate. However, the nice note is that, despite the loss of many of the best examples of traditional Vallarta architecture, there are still some houses that maintain their dignity and pride. Houses that remind us that local identity is consolidated with the recognition and appreciation of the sites and places that preceded us.

Therefore, if you live here or come to visit, we invite you to visit the historic center of Puerto Vallarta, so you can discover one of the golden pages of our city. Its traditional mountain architecture is a fragment of history that deserves to remain as a legacy.

Traditional Vallarta architecture, today, has become a tourist icon with history and identity. One more pretext, to enjoy the walks and small details that characterize our Puerto Vallarta. 

José Alfonso Baños
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