STREETS ALIVE: WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Why would someone name a street after a specific date, like 5th February? Who was killed in a hail of bullets defending his house and family from local police and soldiers? Who went to school in the USA and Paris, is considered to be the Father of the Mexican Revolution and was assassinated while President? Who was Basilio Badillo?
Unlike many towns in Canada and the USA, the streets here in Puerto Vallarta are named after significant people from Mexico’s past, like presidents and generals, quite a few dates that are significant in Mexican history and fruits and vegetables. For the next few editions of the Trib I’ll be searching the old, downtown area for interesting street names and their significance to past people and times.
Starting at the Rio Cuale, the first street you come across if you’re walking south on Insurgentes, is a two-block stretch of cobbles and very narrow sidewalks heading towards the ocean, named Calle 5 de Febrero or 5th February Street. That date is one of the most significant in Mexico’s history because it was on 5th February 1917 that the Mexican Constitution was adopted and ushered in profound changes in Mexican law and politics that framed life here for the next hundred years. The major changes included starting a system of free, compulsory and secular education, introducing land reforms and imposing restrictions on the power of the Roman Catholic Church. The Constitution, which was finalised after many months of deliberation, drafting, and lobbying for support, came at a time of world turmoil and became the basis for the Russian Constitution and for the Weimar Constitution in Germany. Why don’t we know more about this stuff? It’s important!
5th February is also one of the 148 official holidays in Mexico and is very popular, even if the majority of Mexicans are totally unable to tell you what it is about. Although the official anniversary is on 5 February, the holiday takes place on the first Monday of February regardless of the date.
A few good places to visit on this street are the tortilleria, close to the swinging bridge over the river, where you can buy half a kilo of steaming hot, fresh tortillas for 8.5 pesos and, across the street is a small fish market, El Guero, that supplies many of the restaurants in the downtown core with shrimps, mahi-mahi and red snapper. Mmmmm! A block to the west is the excellent ‘gringo’ restaurant of No Way Josué.
Walking one block south along Insurgentes you’ll come to Aquiles Serdan (pronounced “A-kill-is Serrr-dan). Aquiles Serdán was born in the city of Puebla, was a shoemaker by trade and a supporter of the Mexican Revolution led by Francisco I. Madero. Serdán became a revolutionary, opposing the hated, dictatorial President Díaz. In November, 1910, Madero called for a country-wide rebellion against the government to occur on the 20th of that month. Serdán, who was living in Puebla, tried to organized a revolution there and bought guns to equip some of the local revolutionaries. But the local police chief found out about the family’s plans and raided the family’s home on 18th November, two days before the rebellion was due to start. Aquiles Serdán, his brother Máximo, and his wife, his mother, and sister Carmen, along with nine men, defended the house. It was a bloodbath. The two brothers, Aquiles and Máximo, and their men all died in a hail of bullets. When Madero, their fearless leader, heard of their death he is alleged to have said “It does not matter. They have shown us how to die.” Nice eulogy! Never mind, they are still celebrated Heroes of the Revolution
The Sea Monkey restaurant anchors this street to the Malecon and is great place to have breakfast on the beach or to watch the sunset while seated at the bar with a margarita in your hand. If you walk inland for a couple of blocks you’ll come to Warique restaurant where the owners hail from Poland and Peru and where the potato balls are wonderful. Follow Aquiles Serdan eastwards, across Insurgentes, and you’ll find a more relaxed part of town that hosts a couple of restaurants, a hardware store and Mexican homes that were built along the banks of the Rio Cuale long before some of us were born. Take a stroll and check it out.

John Warren on Email
John Warren
John Warren is in charge of Publicity for the International Friendship Club (IFC). His articles describe the programs and charities that IFC supports, the sources of income of IFC and the social experiences, lectures and classes that members can enjoy.
He splits his time between Puerto Vallarta and Lethbridge, Alberta. In the winter months he writes for the IFC, this summer he’s focusing his writing on the environment.