Paco Ruiz Known To Be the “Founding Father of Gay Vallarta”

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Paco Ruiz (Francisco Ruiz Aceves),  who founded one of the first three gay nightclubs in Puerto Vallarta, is cited by many as being the founding father of gay Vallarta.

He and his husband, David Lansley, were so involved in gay life on South side of Puerto Vallarta (known as Old Town or Zona Romantica),  that they helped make it into the popular LGBTQ+ tourist destination it is today.

Paco and David were together for 30 years, as boyfriends and then husbands. Their first nightclub, nwhich was initially located on Pino Suárez Street in 1989, and years later to move to Ignacio L. Vallarta Street, where this place called Paco Paco remained for a long time

In addition to the nightclub, the two expanded the brand to include the businesses Paco´s Descanso del Sol (a gay hotel), Paco´s Olas Altas, Paco´s Paradise (a nude beach) and Paco´s Ranch.

Gay Puerto Vallarta Paco
Some of the original Pacos staff members.

“I think that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to a few people who came before us. But two people in particular stand out, Paco Ruiz and David Lansley,” said Paul Crist, who owns Mercurio Hotel and Mercurio Swimwear, and a long time resident and businessman in Puerto Vallarta. “Paco and David were the original owners of Paco Paco (now Paco’s Ranch). They were the pioneers who built the foundations of what has become the most vibrant and popular gay destination in Latin America.”

But it was the activism and challenging local authities that perhaps made the biggest difference in local life. 

Gay Puerto Vallarta Paco
Some of the current staff of Pacos. Photo by Oscar Almeida.

Not long after Paco Paco opened in December 1989, Vallarta Police would regularly harass Paco and his customers, not only putting him in jail but also demanding bribes.  One one occasion, he was arrested for two lesbians kissing in his bar. But this time, instead of paying bribes to get him out, his partner David called media organizations in Mexico City. 

It just so happened that a national TV personality, Nino Canun, was in Puerto Vallarta at the time, taping his talk show, ¿Y Usted… Que Opina? 

Word filtered down and Canun ended up interviewing Ruiz for the show. The show was one of the most popular shows in Mexico at that time, and the attention embarrassed local leaders. 

Gay Puerto Vallarta Paco

”His case became one of those momentary media sensations all over Mexico. It was on all the newscasts on TV and PV’s mayor was not pleased. In fact he pretty much freaked out, because it made Vallarta the laughing stock of the moment,” wrote Ed Walsh in a 2009 article in the SF Gay Travel Examiner.

Walsh went on to note in the article that it wasn’t long after that the city embraced gay tourism.

“But most important was that Paco was probably the first gay activist or business owner who stood up to corrupt and homophobic police and city officials. He was a force to be reckoned with,” Crist explained. “He often accompanied drag and trans people to the local jail when they were rounded up on invented (or planted) charges. He simply said “NO!” when city officials tried to shake down his and other small gay owned businesses. For all they did, they both died in relative poverty and obscurity. There are many reasons for that and blame to go around. But they should be recognized for the tremendous contributions they made.”

David Lansley passed away on Friday, July 4, 2014 at the age of 60. Paco Ruiz died in 2016 at 62 years old.

Lansley not only helped Ruiz with his businesses, he also helped found the city’s first gay publication, Gay Guide Vallarta. 

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