When I first arrived in Puerto Vallarta nearly twenty years ago, I never thought a) I’d still be here nineteen years later and b) if I WAS here after nineteen years, that I’d be speaking more Spanish than “Yo quiero Taco Bell.” I couldn’t imagine that a time would come when I wasn’t deathly afraid of spiders, or earthquakes, or hurricane warnings.
I was pretty much terrified of everything for the first couple of months. I was stung by a bee in the dark and I burst into tears, already convinced I was allergic to the scorpion that had surely attacked me. A land crab scuttled out from behind a box in my classroom one morning and I panicked, kicking the box and accidentally killing the crab as a wooden block then toppled over on top of it. I was a bit of a sweaty little wreck, I’ll be honest.
But time and Mexico have a way of folding in on you. Suddenly you are employing a tender catch-and-release program with the arachnids in your shower and sighing over another lost school day as Tropical Storm Narda spins near the bay.
And then, one day, someone hears your Spanish and calls you a “pata salada” (salty foot). From then on, you are officially a Vallartan. There are other signs, of course. Here are a few more ways to tell you are forever a pata salada:
- You comment on the cool mornings and evenings without a hint of sarcasm. If you snort after reading “cool” in the same sentence as “Vallarta”, then you still need a few years.
- You wore a light cardigan in the morning at least twice this week. Extra points if you called the morning “fresh”.
- You open up the Cheerios, a tiny lizard runs out, and you just sigh and toss the box. Extra points if you simply shake the bag and pour yourself a bowl.
- You cringe when you see tourists jumping in the pool any time after sunset from November to April.
- Someone asks you if your doctor speaks English and you aren’t exactly sure. Because you only speak Spanish to them.
- The lateral lanes make perfect sense and you roll your eyes and honk when someone tries to turn in the center lane.
- You can at least hum along with all the Spanish Christmas carols piped over the Soriana store speakers as you shop. Extra points for knowing the words to the chorus of “El Burrito Sabanero”.
- You have a special cucaracha-smacking flip flop that you affectionately call “La Chancla”.
- Your social media cover photo has at least one palm tree in it (a sunset is also acceptable).
- You have an inner conflict before civilly answering someone who asks “But do you even feel SAFE in Mexico?”
Now, if many of these don’t apply to you, don’t worry. You can still be welcomed into our warm, wonderful Vallarta community with a few simple steps:
- Come to Vallarta.
- Be kind to people you meet.
- Open up your heart big and wide.
- Let in all the sunshine.
Welcome to Puerto Vallarta. Whether it’s your first time here or the twentieth, we want you to settle right in and stay awhile. We hope you enjoy our town. And we would like you to know that if you find the mornings fresh and the lizards adorable, you should consider making it official.