Punta Mita History

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.)

Spanish Arrival

Hernando CortezIn 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.

Live History

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.”

Spanish ChurchJust 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.