Along the northernmost tip of Banderas Bay lies one of the most enchanted corners in the Mexican Riviera, Punta Mita. Covering just over 1500 acres, Punta Mita is a spear-shaped peninsula surrounded on three sides by crystalline waters and nine miles of pristine coastline. Punta Mita is the chosen spot for what promises to become the most privileged residential resort community in Latin America.
Early Punta Mita History
The name itself comes from the Aztec word “mictlan” which means “gateway to paradise.” Evidence of civilization in the Punta Mita and surrounding areas dates back to at least 2000 BC. It is believed that at least six major cultural groups were present in the area before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. The first recorded civilization in the region was the Cora, an agricultural tribe who survived from about 400 to 1200 AD. Although the tribe is not around anymore, many of its descendants still live in the area.
Other tribes that inhabited the region include the Tepehuano, Totorano, Aztatlán, and Huichole (WEE-chol), the latter of which is believed to be the only pre-Columbian tribe existing in North America today. Several of these tribes formed a confederation, but were later pushed back by neighboring tribes and eventually, with the exception of the Huichol, melded into Spanish culture by the “Conquistadors (cone-KEE-stuh-dors.)
In the 1500s, the Spanish arrived on the shores of the beautiful Riviera Maya. The infamous Hernán Cortés briefly visited the Nayarit region in 1523. For nearly two centuries, there continued to be uprisings from the Native American tribes against the Spanish. The Franciscan order of the Catholic Church spent a lot of their time and energy trying to make peace with and convert the indigenous people to Roman Catholicism.
Although the fight for Mexican Independence from Spain started under Miguel Hidalgo in 1810, the state of Nayarit, along with the rest of Mexico, did not gain its independence until 1821. A local priest named José María Mercado helped the fight for independence by occupying Nayarit’s capital city of Tepic and also the port city of San Blas. However, these two cities eventually were re-captured by the Spanish forces during the war.
If you happen to be in the Punta Mita area on September 16th, you will surely help enthusiastic locals celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day, which does not actually commemorate the date of independence in 1821, but actually observes the day that the revolution for independence began in 1810. It was on that fateful day that Miguel Hidalgo let forth his famous “Cry of Dolores,” inciting Mexicans to rise up and shake off the tyranny of Spain. Mexicans take their celebrating seriously with parties, fireworks, dancing, music, flags, whistles, horns and confetti. You will likely hear “Viva la Independencia!” (Long Live Independence!) shouted throughout the streets all day and late into the night.
Punta Mita still bears the powerful mark of its ancestry. Hike up Careyeros Mountain and roam the ancient Aztatlán ruins of celestial observatories nearly 2000 years old. These protected sites are believed to have had great ceremonial significance, as well as having been used for astronomical observations and coastal navigation. The ruins include an observatory, a priest’s residence, and a ceremonial platform.
The Huichol Indians are a living tribute to Punta Mita’s history. Isolated high in the Sierra Madre Mountains west of Punta Mita, they are the most pure pre-Columbian culture in this hemisphere. A tribe of mystics dedicated to the balance of nature, the Huichol Indians have remained unspoiled by civilization. Their ecological wisdom has influenced the continuing journey of Punta Mita as a place of preservation and peace, and their artwork, history and philosophy are celebrated throughout Punta Mita. For an interesting and historical excursion, take a tour to visit the Huichol in the nearby Sierra Madre Mountains.
Nestled in the heart of the Sierra Madre Mountains, San Sebastian del Oeste’s remote location and historic appeal have made it one of Mexico’s last great getaways. Even though this little mountain enclave (elevation 4500 ft.) is not very far from Puerto Vallarta, this half-forgotten former mining town is a world away from typical resorts and ordinary tourist attractions.
At the north end of the Riviera Nayarit, just two hours away, lies San Blas, a peaceful fishing village with a host of colonial era ruins. There is an old fort called the Contaduría (con-TAH-doo-ree-ah) because it served as an 18th century accounting house where the Spanish counted their riches coming from their extensive sea trade. Also gracing San Blas are ruins of a colonial church called Our Lady of the Rosary, which reportedly held bronze bells that inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Bells of San Blas.”
Just 35 minutes by boat or 45 by vehicle lies Puerto Vallarta, a bustling town filled with cobblestone streets and endless plazas. At the town’s center is the church of Guadalupe, topped by a crown held aloft by angels. Paralleling the cobalt Pacific is the charming boardwalk known as the malecón, dotted with bronze sculptures. Visitors may also experience a taste of local heritage at traditional bullfights, rodeos, fireworks, Mariachi concerts, and annual holiday events.
Even if you are not a history buff, you will surely find Punta Mita and the surroundings areas to be rich in ancient, colonial and more recent Mexican history and culture. Interested in finding out more? Contact our knowledgeable staff while you’re here to find out more about Punta Mita’s rich heritage or to help book you an excursion.
Punta Mita Art and Culture
It is not surprising that the Punta Mita area, given its natural beauty, would be a hub of art and culture in the Riviera Maya. In addition to being present-day home to the Pre-Columbian Huichol (WEE-chol) Indians, who create and sell intricate handcrafted works of art, the area is also home to one of the area’s most dynamic art scenes.
The Punta Mita area is the home of the Huichol Indians, one of the last remaining links to pre-Columbian times. For centuries, the members of this tribe, who live high in the Sierra Madre Mountains, have kept alive the language, traditions and customs of their unique culture. Huichol artists use peyote to invoke messages from their ancestors in the form of colorful visions, manifesting these visions in intricate yarn paintings, bowls and beaded masks. Huichol galleries are abundant in downtown Puerto Vallarta where visitors can learn more about the people and their art. Additionally, visitors are welcome to take a tour of a Huichol village high in the Sierra Madre Mountains to experience their culture first-hand.
Try Arte Mágico Huichol in downtown Puerto Vallarta (Corona 179) to find beautiful Huichol masks, clothing and yarn paintings, called Nierikas. Friendly Maho, who runs the gallery, will be able to give you the local history of many of the pieces.
Contemporary and Folk Art
Both the St. Regis Resort and Four Seasons in Punta Mita host rotating art exhibits throughout the year. The Galleria Corsica opened in Punta Mita’s St. Regis resort in 2013 and houses works from some of the most well-known contemporary and traditional Mexican and Latin American artists. The Galleria Corsica partners with other galleries on a national and international level to be able to offer some of the best pieces for the most discerning art aficionados. The Four Seasons Cultural Center has on display fine Mexican art as well and ArteMita, a local curator creates special exhibits and events for Punta Mita locals and resort visitors. The Cultural Center, located in the lobby of the Four Seasons, along with offering breathtaking ocean views, provides an educational opportunity for guests and visitors to learn about some of Mexico’s rich history and culture.
The María Bonita in downtown Punta Mita is the place to go for Mexican folk art, gifts and decorations for your home. They are carefully hand-picked from all over Mexico and form an eclectic collection of quality pieces. From the state of Chihuahua are clay pieces made by local artists who must go through a complex process of molding and drying the clay. On the walls are beautiful frames with stencils inside that would be perfect to take back to your home. If textiles interest you, Maria Bonita has plenty for you to peruse. Artists use intricate needlework to make clothing, tablecloths, table runners, handbags and more.
Halfway between Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita is the small beach resort community of Bucerías (boo-seh-REE-ahs.) Take a day and peruse the many artisan shops in Bucerías, featuring local handicrafts from all over Mexico: clay figurines, glass pieces, jewelry, and textiles. Additionally, the weekly Bucerías Art Walk is a unique event in which over 17 local art galleries participate and show local and national artists’ work. If you’re interested, there are also workshops on art-related topics. Make your vacation here an opportunity to tap your own creativity! Restaurants and other shops join in the fun and participate to create a unique experience for locals and visitors. Try Arte Oaxaca to find colorful textiles such as rugs, bedspreads and bags. Or visit Casa del Artesano to peruse both traditional and contemporary pottery pieces as well as handcrafted woodwork.
Puerto Vallarta has been an artistic center since the 1950s. The surrounding natural beauty of the area has inspired national and international artists to want to create and show their works here for decades. It is home to too many galleries and museums to count! In fact, there are more galleries here than anywhere else in Mexico, aside from Mexico City! The diversity offered in Puerto Vallarta’s art scene is one of the reasons it makes it so special. Visitors can find galleries featuring internationally acclaimed artists, local up-and-coming artists as well as handcrafted artisanal works from all over Mexico.
Every Wednesday during the winter and spring, you can take part in the Historic Center Art Walk, a self-guided tour that will take you to over a dozen galleries in the El Centro neighborhood. The majority of the art galleries in Puerto Vallarta can be found in El Centro. In the same vein, every other Friday evening, the Southside Shuffle Art Walk takes place in Emiliano Zapata’s old stomping grounds—the Basilio Badillo Street neighborhood. Visit restaurants, galleries and shops and make an evening of it!
For days when you’ve had enough sun and are ready to venture out and try something cultural, explore the many art galleries and shops available to you in Punta Mita and surrounding areas. After a long day of exploring and shopping, make sure you have booked one of our luxury vacation villas, where you can kick up your feet, listen to the surf and let our staff do what they do best!