I don’t remember the first time I went to Puerto Vallarta. That’s how long I’ve been going there.
I used to walk barefoot on the cobblestone streets in my pajamas, swim in the open ocean, whine so I would be allowed to jump in the pool immediately after lunch (the answer was a consistent, steadfast no), listen to Guantanamera, take rides on a parachute pulled by a motorboat to see the world from a bird’s perspective, take long walks on the beach with my father or a brother or a sister or a stepmother or a friend, hold my breath under water from one end of the pool to the other, pretend to play chess, play backgammon, tan with coconut oil way before SPF, highlight my hair with beer, go dancing and eat tacos at the corner stand at 4:30 a.m. before heading back home under the light of the moon. I celebrated my birthday at the round dark wood table in that apartment at least 8 times before I turned 15. Puerto Vallarta was my default vacation spot all through high school and college.
It’s so different now. When I first started going, the Posada Vallarta was the only hotel in a long, pristine beach. Nuevo Vallarta didn’t even exist. Now there is traffic, shopping centers, a Starbucks, high-rise after high rise right on the sand and a real airport with an international wing with direct flights to Phoenix, Denver, San Francisco and who knows how many cities in Europe.
This weekend, lying on a cot under a Palapa, Salvador - the man who brought me a drink and whom I’ve known for at least 25 years - asked me what I thought of all the changes. I just looked at him and shrugged. He said sadly “I guess you can’t stop progress”.
I can’t talk about what Puerto Vallarta is like now because I have no perspective. I know it for what it used to be, and it’s definitely become something different. I guess that’s what happens to everything.