Planning a trip to Nuevo Vallarta, the popular tourist development just north of Puerto Vallarta?
Not anymore you’re not.
The name of the tailored enclave — known for its luxury accommodations, golf courses, marina and long, sandy beach — was officially changed to Nuevo Nayarit in a vote this week by the local municipal council.
The new name makes sense to some, since the development is in the state of Nayarit, across the Río Ameca from Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, and is the southernmost part of the 300-kilometer stretch of coastline that for 15 years has been branded as the Riviera Nayarit.
In fact, the governor of Nayarit, Miguel Ángel Navarro Quintero, has been the No. 1 proponent of the renaming since he announced it out of left field in early January. “We are no longer determined to promote a municipality in the neighboring state, but rather our own municipalities and our own state,” he declared at the time.
Shortly thereafter, a huge sign welcoming people to the area was changed to “Bienvenidos a Nuevo Nayarit.”
But numerous business people, residents, property owners and members of the tourist industry and chamber of commerce are up in arms for a handful of reasons. Many, for example, like how the name Nuevo Vallarta created a marketable twinning with Puerto Vallarta.
Moreover, some accused the governor of strong-arming the mayor and members of the Bahía de Banderas municipal council into voting for the change.
The 14-member council of the municipality, which includes the newly-named Nuevo Nayarit, approved the new name at its June 21 meeting by simple majority.
That meeting turned into something of a circus, with opponents of the name change trying in vain to voice their opinions. After an hour of rigmarole and threats that the meeting would be suspended, a vote was finally taken.
The newspaper Tribuna de la Bahía reported that opponents of the Nuevo Nayarit name confronted the municipal council for “not listening to them and changing the name of Nuevo Vallarta just by raising their hands.” At one point, the session was interrupted by citizens who wanted to present all of the economic and legal implications of the name change — so the council members could cast an informed vote.
Nuevo Vallarta has been sold as a tourist brand alongside Puerto Vallarta for nearly four decades. José Ludwig Estrada Virgen, a longtime but now retired tourism director for Puerto Vallarta, said he regretted the name change, as it will undermine joint promotion efforts and will have repercussions for the region.
Afterward, Daniela Ramírez, a resident in the area, accused the elected officials of going against the will of the people and succumbing to “political whims.”
“If they are listening to the people, then they do not change that name,” she said. “We are going to go forward with lawsuits and injunctions.”
The newspaper Vallarta Independiente reported that mayor of Bahía de Banderas, Mirtha Villalvazo Amaya, said she did not want to change the name when queried in January, right after the governor’s announcement had taken everybody by surprise. She told reporters, “in an annoyed tone,” that his decision was made hastily and without consulting her, business people, those who promote tourism in the region and residents. However, this week she had changed her tune and said it was a good thing for Bahía, and she voted for the change at the meeting.
Milton Colmenares wrote in the Vallarta Independiente: “Sitting well with the governor has become a priority, even though this means trampling on the voice of the citizenry.”
Council member María del Carmen Arreola told the newspaper Meridiano: “For us who live in this place, it is vitally important to have our own identity. It is time to emancipate ourselves with a vision based on what the region represents in tourism, economic and visionary matters. The neighboring municipality of Puerto Vallarta is always recognized for what it contributed to this destination … I know that it is the right time to enhance the Nuevo Nayarit brand, and I join the effort to have its own identity.”