The Internet as a Social Introduction to Puerto Vallarta
Pata Salada is a colloquial term used to identify people who live in Puerto Vallarta. Literally it means “salt leg.”
One of the first hurdles facing many people visiting or moving from one culture to another is a lack of familiar reference points or a diminishing of social comfort zones. To some people, these are the benefits of international travel but to others they all too often are the main drawbacks.
Efforts at reestablishing familiar and comfortable relationships in strange surroundings are the inspirations for social clubs and organizations. Puerto Vallarta has many such organizations and groups and, in the computer age, many of these are initiated and maintained on the internet. Often these seemingly random collections of expats and tourists take on an identity of their own.
A brief survey of local organizations finds internet bulletin boards, social clubs, charitable organizations, common-interest clubs and self-help groups.
The most physically visible of these organizations to a newcomer to this area, in particular, are the charitable organizations. There are a multitude of children’s aid organizations, poverty and scholarship assistance programs, animal rescue groups, religious charity outreaches, ecology clubs and government assisted programs.
A brief glance at any of the local English speaking newspapers, the PV Mirror, the Vallarta Tribune, Vallarta today or current events websites like Banderas News and the PVScene will instantly provide a broad overview of the more popular organizations and their activities. Even a few hours working with one of these groups can be an eye-opener, broadening an individual’s comfort zone.
There are broad-based social clubs here such as the International Friendship Club, which has regular meetings, events and charitable programs. There are umbrella organizations like PEACE which operate direct outreach animal welfare and poverty assistance and Becas which holds events to provide scholarships. Similar, but more individually focused, are the common interest clubs such as the PV Writer’s Club or Mundo Ceibo, a bicycle/environmental organization, or the FidoClub, an in-home dining club. The new Vallarta Garden Club or SETAC, a community center/health and social organization for GLBT individuals add to this list. On a more organized and professional scale, the Cuale Cultural Center offers performances and classes in the arts, providing very popular artistic/theatrical/musical venues and activities for the area and the Los Mangos Biblioteca, another umbrella organization here in Vallarta, offers a wealth of inexpensive programs and activities that often lead to community integration and personal fulfillment.
On the internet is a plethora of widely varied Bulletin Boards or Forums. These range from the totally commercial TripAdvisor and PuertoVallarta.net forums to individually owned and operated general interest forums like AllVallarta.com, OurVallarta.com, VallartaScene.com, the Puerto Vallarta Old Town South Side Forum (and its offshoot, the Puerto Vallarta Gay Travel Forum). There are others but these are, by far, the most popular internet forums in Puerto Vallarta at this time.
On these forums any reasonably internet-savvy person can find information, recommendations and social activities enough to outlast any stay here. The information and “recommendations” are sometimes slanted, according to the commercial orientations of the particular forum and posters but, especially on the privately owned forums, there is usually enough variety of response to generate fairly accurate impressions. Some of these forums also offer “meet-ups” or sponsored activities like horseback riding or short tours or even bar crawls. Three of the forums (OurVallarta, VallartaScene.com and Expats in Vallarta) have regular meetings at local restaurants to provide introductions and to stimulate socializing.
Each of these forums has its own personality and it’s best to shop around if interested. Some are quite placid and some quite raucous. Some are adult-oriented and some family-values oriented. One of the more popular forums is run by a bar owner, one by a tour promoter, one by a restaurant critic and one by a former underground magazine publisher so the content and regular posters will vary considerably.
Similar to the forums are the popular social networking websites like facebook and Twitter where many locals and visitors digitally interact. These websites should probably more appropriately be called free business advertising networking websites (with humor, good grace and a touch of apple pie) because they are dominated now by commercial interests but frequented by people hoping for something more personal.
Beautiful scenery is nice but it’s more often the people and exchanges with them that provide the most memorable aspects of any vacation. All of the organizations and activities mentioned here provide these exchanges, and most at a very modest cost. Tourist guide books are useful but they are often outdated and financially influenced. People you meet at local charity and social events are much easier to read and to experience.