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Discovering Off-Malecon in Vallarta

Published May 27, 2008 - (Updated Dec 5, 2012)

Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Winter/Spring 2008 issue.

Every city has its hidden corners, its unseen treasures. While sculpture is featured on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, those who know the city suggest that you not stop there. In fact, some of the more interesting corners are off the main drag.

This piece focuses on Vallarta’s off -Malecon sculptures, as well as tidbits and stories related to them. We chose not to include statues or busts, plastic or fiberglass installations, sculptures that are within a commercial space such as a hotel or restaurant, or those not easily accessible to the public. As most of them are located in or near downtown, you can locate them on our walking map.

Los Muertos Beach: Rafael Zamarripa

Young Rafael Zamarripa was still a teenager when he won the prize for sculpture at Bellas Artes in Mexico City. Shortly thereafter, the Jalisco native’s design for Boy and Seahorse (El Caballito) was created, and then installed on Playa Los Muertos in 1970. For years, the innocent boy on the seahorse has been one of the symbols of this seacoast town. Even today, it is certainly one of the most frequently photographed. The original sculpture on Los Muertos was “lost” twice in storms, once inexplicably showing up in the basement of a prominent Vallartan home. (The second one, on the Malecon, was installed in 1976, although the installation was modified after Hurricane Kenna in 2002.)

Marina Vallarta: Octavio González

A noteworthy greeting for those arriving to Puerto Vallarta is the Whale and Calf sculpture by Octavio Gonzalez at the entrance to Marina Vallarta. Inaugurated in March 2001, the Guinness-nominated piece weighs 12 tons and measures 13 meters in length and 8.9 meters in height, balancing on a flipper surface of less than a square meter. Winter residents of Banderas Bay, humpback whales give birth in the safety of our bay. Conceived in the early ‘90s, the four-year project is Octavio’s homage to women, who not only conceive life but also devote themselves unconditionally to the family.

Isla Río Cuale: Ignacio Granados, Antonio Nava and John Huston

Two sculptures by students of the Escuela Nacional de Pintura Escultura y Grabado de la Esmeralda (Esmeralda National School of Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking) are located on Isla Rio Cuale. Installed in 1997, Espacio Tiempo Movimiento (Space Time Movement) by Ignacio Granados was recently refurbished and painted, removing graffiti and the results of years of neglect. Toward the cultural center on the east end of the island, it is the tall, white modern sculpture on the north side. The other sculpture is located just before the steps leading up to the pedestrian bridge on the west end of the island. Designed by Antonio Nava, the “prehistoric” Marco Solar (Sun Path) was created in 1987 and inaugurated in 1997, along with Espacio Tiempo Movimiento. Both were sponsored by City Hall, in conjunction with the hotel and motel association. The John Huston statue just beyond the entrance to Le Bistro restaurant was dedicated in 1988, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the late director’s 1963 filming of “The Night of the Iguana” in nearby Mismaloya. Present at the inauguration were several cast members of “Revenge,” including Kevin Costner and Anthony Quinn. In March 2002, Huston’s son, actor/director Danny Huston, got married in front of the statue.

All Around Town: Ramiz Barquet

Hands down, the artist with the largest number of public sculptures is Ramiz Barquet, best known for the Malecon favorite, Nostalgia, which was inspired by his re-discovery of Nelly, his childhood sweetheart, now his wife. Incidentally, the current Moon Handbook’s “Guide to Puerto Vallarta 2007” features Barquet’s “Nostalgia” on the cover. But each of his sculptures has its own story:

El Pescador, 1996

Located at the confl uence of Libertad and Agustín Rodríguez streets, the Fisherman was donated by Nelly Barquet and inaugurated in 1996. Ramiz calls this “fisherman/poet” Isidro, a deeply spiritual man who alternated fishing with music, singing to the stars. Several years ago, an unknown assailant apparently was surprised while cutting through the fishing line with a hacksaw and tossed the fish into the nearby brush, where it was later recovered. Since bronze is not easily soldered, it took some time before the fish returned to its original spot at the end of the line.

Tiburón en Espiral, 1996

A Shark in Spiral, a monument to cooperative forces that allow positive change in a community, was installed at a small plazuela on Pulpito between El Dorado and La Palapa restaurants on Los Muertos Beach in 1996. Calling the sculpture Gaspar, after his compadre don Gaspar Elizondo, Ramiz was saddened by the news of his friend’s death shortly after the inauguration. In this, his most non-representational piece, the author honors the shark, reminding us that not all things are as they seem.

La Rinconada del Juglar, 1999

When Ramiz lived downtown, he noticed that trash was often discarded at the foot of the stairs that climb the hill from Hidalgo Street. Conceiving the Minstrel Corner with the aid of friend and engineer Rafael Mijares (co-designer of the Anthropological Museum in Mexico City), a drainage system was designed beneath the street, while a seating area was created for passersby at Hidalgo and Galeana. The trend encouraged further development of the beautiful garden settings along this quiet street three blocks up from the Malecon.

Un Niño, un Libro, un Futuro, 2000

Thoroughly convinced that education is key to the future, Ramiz created A Boy, a Book and a Future to honor the contribution the Los Mangos Library makes to the youth of the city. The young orphan “Juan” is finding his way out of poverty by reading, fervently believing the words of his adoptive father, don Plácido, that knowledge is power. Studious “Juan plus Juan” is teased by his more playful friends, but also acquires the wisdom to give him greater understanding. The sculpture is located outside the library gates on Francisco Villa in Los Mangos.

Familia de Cuatro, 2003

As a symbol of the strength of the family within the culture, Ramiz donated the Family of Four for the inauguration of the new DIF (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, or family development) headquarters in Aurora. He tells the story of the first model he created with a family of three. It was immediately purchased by a visitor, who a year later returned to announce that his family had grown to four. Several models were made, but this one was the final choice for the installment.

Alegria de Vivir, future

The joyful flautist is dedicated to the memory of Guillermo Wulff, architect and first husband of Ramiz’ wife, Nelly. Planned for installation in Marina Vallarta, arguably one of Wulff ’s greatest contributions to Vallarta, the happy-go-lucky dancer symbolizes Guillermo’s “joie de vivre.” Watch for the announcement of the inauguration.

Barquet has another sculpture, San Pascual, on hand for installation on the new Malecon, near Vitea Restaurant, as soon as donations for funding are fulfilled. Contact Gary Thompson at Galeria Pacifico for more information.


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