Xavier de la Torre

The vision of an artist

Xavier de la Torre was a talented artist who discovered Puerto Vallarta during a trip to Mexico, after living some time in New York with his friend, sculptor Louise Nevelson. It was the fifties and this paradise was not yet on the maps.

The place captivated him and he decided (or perhaps without even making a decision) to stay in the port. He soon found a late 19th Century property with an unrivaled location along the Rio Cuale, which he would later convert into Villa Leonarda.

His friends did not take long to visit him; the buzz about his new find ran from Hollywood to Paris, with several stops along the way. Rock Hudson was one of the first to visit Xavier and return on a regular basis, and in this way a new community of friends who would come and go with evermore frequency was formed. Some began to build their own homes marking the beginning of the Gringo Gulch neighborhood. The atmosphere was magical, the “jet setters” delighted in wandering the cobblestone streets, crossing the paths of donkeys and chickens and the oh so friendly people of the village.

By day, they visited the beaches and wondered at the beauty of the bay surrounded by mountains and rivers, while in the afternoons they would meet in the Hotel Oceana bar. With a splendid sunset as a backdrop, they would dine in the early evening in one of the restaurants along the Malecón (Vallarta’s beachfront promenade) and at night, their parties were legendary: Villa Leonarda would come alight with hundreds of candles and conversations that lasted almost until dawn.

In the sixties, Elizabeth Taylor arrived to Puerto Vallarta accompanying her future husband, Richard Burton, during the filming of The Night of the Iguana, changing the history of the port forever. She did not take long to heed Rock Hudson’s recommendation to meet Xavier de la Torre, with whom she formed a great friendship from the very first day and which lasted a lifetime.

The Burtons became Xavier’s compadres when they agreed to be godparents to his adopted son, Sergio Toledano, who then lived with them in Europe for some periods of time. Meanwhile, Xavier began to present his most recent designs in fashion shows in New York, where he shared credits with the great designers such as Valentino, Pierre Cardin, Calvin Klein, Givenchy, and Yves St Laurent.

For her 32nd birthday, Richard gave Elizabeth Casa Kimberly, a house located just around the corner from Villa Leonarda, which allowed the two families to spend time together on a daily basis. When their children came to Vallarta, Xavier (who was a great cook) organized meals for everyone and like that, they passed the time between the two houses.

Experience the magic of the Villa!

The staff at Villa Leonarda, led by Delia, will receive you with a welcome refreshment of guacamole, salsa and chips, with a round of lime margaritas.