A Gift to Elizabeth Taylor

Richard Burton is said to have purchased a home in Puerto Vallarta for his new love, Elizabeth Taylor, for the equivalent of 57,000 USD in 1964.

This event was not remarkable, but it quietly sparked increased interest in Puerto Vallarta, a small fishing village in one of the largest bays in North America.

Unlike the development of Cancun, where the Mexican government used a computer to find what was judged to be a highly marketable oceanfront for tourism, Puerto Vallarta was ‘discovered’ by famous and not-so-famous foreigners who found great charm in the simplicity, beauty, and non-commercial ambiance of Vallarta.

The purchase of a Mexican home was not possible in the famous name of Burton because, in 1964, there was no mechanism of a fideicomiso for a foreigner to purchase real estate as a primary beneficiary of a trust.

Richard Burton would have had another way of ‘owning’ the property and taking possession. The title could have been either a Mexican corporation with the nationals as majority partners or a presta nombre (‘name lender’) who would be a national named on the escritura as the owner of the home on Calle Zaragoza.

Because Puerto Vallarta was discovered by foreigners and not developed by a government agency, this would later mean that the growth and popularity of Puerto Vallarta as a major tourist destination would follow different development patterns. It would go in its own unique, and some would say unorganized way.

Tourism was a surprise to Puerto Vallarta, and there was no grand plan for infrastructure development, budgets, and long-term plans to control and balance the village’s growth in the Sierra Madre’s foothills.

Casa Kimberly, as the Burton purchase came to be called, became famous as did Vallarta, with the much-published photo of Elizabeth on one end of the terrace, speaking to Richard on the other end, with the Sierra Madre Mountains in the background. The home was sold by Elizabeth. to an American couple who kept it for several years. Later, in the early 2000s, Casa Kimberly was said to be on the market for 1,200,000 USD.

Richard Burton showed a continued interest in Vallarta and bought other homes with his subsequent wives. ‘Bursus’ was the name given. to one of his homes, also in Gringo Gulch, with his wife, Susan Hunt. ‘Bursus’ was purchased and renovated into the heart of the Hacienda San Angel.

The original narrow streets, intended for foot traffic or burros, now strain to accommodate larger automobiles and trucks. Tourists love to walk around exploring this original part of Vallarta built around the church of the Virgin Guadalupe.

Many expats have bought homes overlooking the Rio Cuale. Prices have achieved heights never dreamt possible by the residents long ago in 1964.

This article is based upon legal opinions, current practices and my personal experiences in the Puerto Vallarta-Bahia de Banderas areas. I recommend that each potential buyer or seller of Mexican real estate conduct his own due diligence and review.


  • Harriet Cochran Murray

    Harriet was born and raised in Louisiana. She has a BA in Art Education and has lived in Vallarta since 1996, founding Cochran Real Estate a year later. She is also a Certified International Property Specialist and a long-time Realtor who travels the world to attend courses and give presentations.

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