American playwright and poet Tennessee Williams visited Mexico on more than one occasion, but didn’t come to the Ribera until 1945, when he summered here as the guest of American poet Witter Bynner. By then more than twenty years had passed since Bynner had first met and befriended D. H. Lawrence during the English writer’s 1923 Chapala stay.
During his Mexico sojourn, Williams continued work on the draft of a play to which he gave several successive working titles, the last of which was A Streetcar Named Desire. The work won him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948.
Mexico, though, clearly left a big impression on Williams. In that same year, he adapted one of his short stories into the play Night of the Iguana, but more than a decade would pass until it was first performed in 1959. It opened on Broadway to acclaim late in 1961, and was released as a motion picture in 1964 starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, and directed by John Huston. (Today Huston’s statue sits on Vallarta’s Isla Cuale, Liz and Dick’s former house is now a boutique hotel, and a local movie theater named after Tayler which once showed G-rated films shows only porn flicks!)
Williams considered the best setting in which to write as “a remote place among strangers, with good swimming.” The Ribera de Chapala may no longer be remote, its burgeoning writers’ community makes strangers increasingly few and far between, and the lake’s reputation as a swimming hole has been usurped by ubiquitous swimming pools, but anyone who doubts that this intimate corner of Mexico still has the power to inspire writers need only look for reassurance to its fourth generation of English language writers!
(Post by Antonio Ramblés.)