The local zocalo, (from Spanish zócalo socle and from Italian zoccolo) is the main square in any Mexican town, Puerto Vallarta being no exception, and is often the center of much local activity. At “El Jardin Principal”(The Main Garden) as the local plaza is called, on any given evening, decades seem to melt away while gentlemen have their shoes shined, grandmothers feed pigeons, while children run around flapping make-believe wings, and couples dance to music from the kiosko (gazebo). Sundays are reserved for the municipal band to entertain locals and tourists alike. An evening walk, after a late day Mass is the highlight of many families, who stop for treats such as fresh fried churros, ice cream, cotton candy, cheesy corn and other delights in the zocalo and along the Malecón.
On the eve of Dia de Independencia (Independence Day/September 16) this popular plaza will be packed with revelers, waiting for the mayor to come out on the balustrade and give a long-winded, usually repetitive speech, ending with a crowd arousing Viva Mexico! Good times for all involved, with more than the usual abundance of vendors selling dinners, desserts, snacks, trinkets and memorabilia. The night ends with an amazing fireworks display; the Malecón will be full of visitors until the wee hours of the morning and there won’t be much sleep for anyone in the general area.
The most famous zocalo is, of course, in Mexico City, rich with history, tragedy and triumph. Though the zocalo in Puerto Vallarta is quite small in comparison, it is also a well known landmark, meeting place and gathering of special events. It is the heart of all grand festivals like the Christmas Guadalupana (the processions to the cathedral, which take place the first 12 days of December); the Sidewalk Art Competition in November; major holidays such as the aforementioned Independence Day and Revolution Day, Children’s Day, and New Year’s Eve and many other celebrations.
In an effort to maintain the appeal and originality of the downtown village, neon signs are not permitted, the streets are to remain in the old cobblestone style and city regulations make an effort to regulate architecture and other details. Nothing symbolizes tradition quite as well as the La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the Church of our Lady of Guadalupe. With her gorgeous bell tower and luxurious interior, the street and steps to the east lead directly through the front door and to the altar.
The Municipal Building and Tourist Office are also found on the north side of the zocalo and warmly welcome visitors with any inquiries about the city and surrounding area.
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