Welcome to my first column, Ian-sanity. My name is Ian Hayden Parker and I am co-founder of Vallarta Daily News. I am a self-diagnosed dyslexic and sufferer of Adult ADD, which makes the launching of a media site all that more interesting and unexpected.
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I have been writing my first column for a week now and rewriting, editing, and even changing the subject matter at least 12 times. These are all clues that my self-diagnosis is true. However it’s Tuesday, a day late on when I committed to my weekly column, so I am forced to remain focused and stick to one subject.
While I am a likeable guy, and even downright loveable, I also have faulty wiring between my thoughts and my tongue that seems to restrict my ability to filter my words or express myself in a way to be the least offensive, let me assure you it’s all uncontrollable. If you have this same faulty wiring you understand what I mean. I suspect my column will take on many of these same traits.
My column is an opinion column and should be treated as such. Opinions are as unique as we are individuals; they are based on our own personal experiences in life and are not something that can be argued as right or wrong, only accepted but not always agreed upon.
Today I want to look at the growth and development of Puerto Vallarta. A topic that came up in a discussion this week with a meeting of local expats concerned about the new development underway in Old Town at the old Club Mañana location.
Puerto Vallarta and private developers in the area have big plans for 2015, including upgrades at the Marina Terminal where the city expects a record breaking number of cruise ship arrivals in 2015, and the remodel and reconstruction of the Marina Vallarta promenade and boat docks.
In private development, new condo buildings are either planned or already breaking ground for 2015, along with some new and remodeled area shopping complexes.
Many expats moving and retiring to the area choose the city’s small town feel among the top reasons they relocate to Puerto Vallarta. However as more and more people discover the small town feel and add to our population, our city is forced to expand through development, sometimes beyond what the infrastructure of the city can manage.
Adding to the growing pains of Puerto Vallarta is poor development planning by the city and private enterprises. The condo development that began several years ago in front of Parque Lazaro Cardenas in the Romantic Zone is a prime example, now a high rise eyesore and a very expensive bus terminal with graffiti walls, broken windows, and the smell of urine.
The increase in development over the years has strained the city’s water systems and electrical grids resulting in common water line breaks and city congestion. Electrical services experience regular outages as more developments are added to the grid, and more so in the summer time as air conditioning has become common place throughout the tourist and expat zones of Puerto Vallarta.
The growth of Puerto Vallarta, both in tourism and retirees, has a positive impact on the business and tax revenue portion of the economy; however the growth has a negative impact on the personal economy of the Mexican people living in the area and working in the service industry, the number one employer industry in the area.
As more foreigners move to the area with a demand to be on the west side of Highway 200 in the Marina, Centro, and Old Town areas, the affordable housing options are getting pushed further out into the suburbs offering a much lower standard of living for the Mexican people who cannot compete with the flow of the US dollar and foreign owned business investments in the city.
Many employees working in the tourist zone commute nearly an hour by bus to work each day because the cost of living near the downtown is no longer affordable. Even many of the street vendors and beggars, are bussed into the city each morning and then picked up in the evening.
So my self-diagnosed ADD is compelled to explain why I feel the urge to share these opinions.
During my conversation with this group of expats last week we discussed the development of Puerto Vallarta, it was informative, friendly, and mostly in agreement that no one wants the Cancunism of Puerto Vallarta.
It was a true love fest until my left ear picked up sound vibrations that sounded like “we need to preserve the true Puerto Vallarta”.
Because I am very aware of my faulty brain to mouth wiring it took great control not to respond with ian-sanity, I took my thoughts elsewhere as I imagined the Kids in the Hall skit of “I’m Crushing Your Head”. You simply raise your fingers at eyelevel in a pinching position and align your victims head in the viewfinder of your fingers and crush their head.
What was frustrating for me is that apparently people are unaware that the true Puerto Vallarta is a tourist resort town with a clear plan for steady growth; it was built for the purpose of tourism and was never a small romantic fishing village as the postcard stories tell. Just 100 years ago Puerto Vallarta was home to just over 1000 people who were uneducated and illiterate labor workers in livestock and salt with a brief horary during the silver boom. In the 40’s it did start to see some interest by artists and writers looking for some inspiration and politicians looking to hideout.
Now look at the city today compared to just 100 years earlier and convince someone that big growth isn’t what Puerto Vallarta is all about. 100 years is not really a long time in a country where 13,000 year artifacts are on display.
After the filming of Night of the Iguana in the 60’s, the Mexican government saw an opportunity to appeal to American tourists with the success of the film, something very common for small towns around the world when they are thrust into the spotlight by Hollywood.
Puerto Vallarta is a resort town and that is not going to change, eventually we will see more and more Cancunism creeping into our city and there is no stopping that. If that is what you fear, chances are you are best to make your escape now. Cities are businesses and businesses require year over year growth to sustain them. To wish the growth of Puerto Vallarta to stop is to wish the crash of the housing market and thousands of people who have purchased homes in our area. It is also to wish the collapse of thousands of businesses, and tens of thousands of jobs feeding families.
There is no preservation of Puerto Vallarta’s culture, because our culture is tourism. There is no doubt that growth is planned and will continue each year. The question isn’t do we want to stop the Cancunism of Puerto Vallarta, because those wheels are already rolling. The question is how do we grow our city wisely to accommodate demand, maintain our healthy economy while strengthening it to include everyone, and how can we grow without losing the character of the city? Growth is inevitable and wishing it away isn’t the option, the option is to think further than the next condo development, it’s to think of our city and projected growth long term, and how do we manage that growth to maintain the things we love the most.
It’s one thing to have Cancunisim as part of our growth, but we need to do it wisely to avoid the Acapulcoism of its collapse.
Just a little Ian-Sanity.
This column is an opinion, which means there is no right or wrong.