Puerto Vallarta’s Ubiquitous Public Art… A Walk Along the Malecon

The Rock Eater (El Sulti Comepiedras) on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One of the more amusing works along the Malecon is the 7.8 foot Rock Eater created by Jonas Gutierrez in 2006. The magician, made from bronze with a huge obsidian belly, dangles a rock in front of his mouth.

One way I judge a community is by the quality and extent of its public art– mainly because it shows pride in the community. Other obvious indicators include parks, libraries, sports venues,  performance centers and museums. Each of these suggests a community has moved beyond mere survival mode and is striving to provide its residents with a quality life.

Schools, public transportation, affordable health care, sanitation, electricity, good government, and a fair legal system are essential but more basic.

Underlying all of this is a healthy economy. Puerto Vallarta’s is tourist-based. Huge cruise ships come in two or three days a week and disgorge thousands of passengers. The airport is always busy. Taxis dash about frantically. Hotels, restaurants and tours fill up, providing jobs and money to fuel the economy.

There are hundreds of small shops and individuals selling everything from trinkets to expensive art to visitors. Everyone in Puerto Vallarta, so it seems, is an entrepreneur– from the oily timeshare salesperson who buries you under a flood of words to the little girl who shyly offers you Chiclets.

Puerto Vallarta also has a thriving art community. It is easy to spend a day wandering in and out of galleries. At some point, the community decided that supporting public art projects would benefit both locals and visitors. Today, major works are found throughout Puerto Vallarta.

Nowhere are these art works more visible and accessible than on the Malecon, Vallarta’s beautiful walkway that separates the main part of the community from Banderas Bay. A short 30-45 minute stroll along the esplanade provides an introduction to some 20 works that invite you to admire and, in some instances, climb or sit on the art.

Rock Eater sculpture in Puerto Vallarta by Jonas Gutierrez. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A side view of the Rock Eater.

Photo of Puerto Vallarta Millennia sculpture by Curtis Mekemson.

Millennia was created by Mathis Lidice in 2001 to celebrate the new millennium and is packed full of symbolism relating to the passage of time.

Photograph of Puerto Vallarta's Millennia Statue by Curtis Mekemson.

The top figure on the Millennia sculpture is a woman with a dove, symbolizing a hope for world peace. I find it humorous that giant Frigate Birds often consider the woman and dove a convenient roost.

If searching for whimsical art is your thing, you will find the Rotunda del Mar by Alejandro Colunga a real treat. This series of surreal creatures was created in 1997 and, according to its sculpture, they were “made so they could be used and abused.” Our grandkids Ethan and Cody took full advantage of the offer.

Photo of Rotunda del Mar sculpture in Puerto Vallarta by Curtis Mekemson.

Peggy provides perspective on one of the creatures created by Colunga.

Photo of Rotunda del Mar in Puerto Vallarta by Curtis Mekemson.

Another perspective.

Rotunda del Mar sculpture in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Imagine blowing this nose… These chairs were quite comfortable.

And how about this chair. It was made to accommodate either one very large person, or... (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

And how about this chai? It was made to accommodate either one very large person, or… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

...three smaller people including our grandkids Ethan and Cody and Our daughter, Natasha. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

…three smaller people including our grandkids Ethan and Cody and Our daughter, Natasha. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Sculpture by Alejandro Colunga in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Not sure what this creature is but I am sure it meets the definition of whimsical.

Rotunda sculpture of an octopus in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I’ll conclude Colunga’s work with the octopus.

Sculpture in Puerto Vallarta by Sergio Bustamante in 1990. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

How about this face and what is she yelling at? It is part of a sculpture by Sergio Bustamante in 1990.

Sculpture in Puerta Vallarta by Sergio Bustamante. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

As for the subject of her yelling, it’s her two children climbing up the ladder. According to the artist, the kids are searching for knowledge.

Photo of Triton Nereida sculpture in Puerto Vallarta by Curtis Mekemson.

Leave it to the Italian/Mexican artist Carlos Esprino to introduce Roman/Greek mythology to Puerto Vallarta. In this sculpture, the merman Triton, son of Neptune, courts the illusive sea-nymph Nereida. Triton’ s trident was missing for a while. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A closeup of Triton. You can see the love in his eyes. Or is that lust?

A closeup of Triton. You can see the love in his eyes. Or is that lust?

Seahorse sculpture in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This iconic sculpture of a boy riding a seahorse by Rafael Zammaripa is frequently used in photos representing Puerto Vallarta.

Photo of Puerto Vallarta sculpture Nostalgia by Ramiz Barquet. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

These two lovers come with a story. It begins with the artist, Ramiz Barquet, falling in love with Nellie Galvan Duque as a young man. The two-part company and raise separate families only to be reunited many years later. A romantic walk the two took along the Malecon is the subject of this sculpture titled Nostalgia.

Sculpture of Vallarta Dancers by Jim Demitro. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This graceful rendition of the Mexican Hat Dance by the American artist Jim Demetro was inspired by a visit he made to Puerto Vallarta where he saw it being performed on the Malecon.

Dancing Dolphins sculpture in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

These dancing dolphins were also created by an American artist, James “Bud” Bottoms and were donated to Puerto Vallarta by her sister city, Santa Barbara, California.

This Unicorn by Anibal Riebeling supposedly brings people good luck. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

This Unicorn by Anibal Riebeling supposedly brings people good luck. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

And what's an ocean without sea urchins? These were created by Blu– one of those guys with a single name. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

And what’s an ocean without sea urchins? These were created by Blu– one of those guys with a single name. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The last photo of the day is a sculpture of Pancho Villa, the Mexican Revolutionary. In my next blog Peggy and I visit the small mountain community of San Sebastian and learn about the 1911 Revolution from our guide. Puerto Vallarta sculpture of Pancho Villa. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

21 comments on “Puerto Vallarta’s Ubiquitous Public Art… A Walk Along the Malecon

    • I, too, was impressed with that obsidian belly. 🙂 Have you ever been to the National Volcanic Monument near Bend, Oregon, Hilary? The Monument has a whole mountain of obsidian. –Curt

      • I have only been to the States twice, and although we took the train from Chicago across to Santa Fé, that’s the whole extent of my view of America. I have found some pics online – thank you.

  1. I tried but can not choose a favorite piece. each is symbolic and whimsical in their own right. High Five to Puerta Vallarta for bringing so much art to their community!

    PS-Your daughter is so pretty
    Happy New Year, Curt & Peggy!

  2. This is a very nice collection of public art Curt. It’s good to see some of those tourist $$ going into art. I like the Rock Eater, but I have to admit that with the color and his jacket, he looks more like an eggplant than rock. Happy New Year to you and Peggy. ~James

  3. The one with the snout has a friend in the real world!

    All of these are wonderful. The one Peggy’s standing next to looks like Ganesha from the front, but that side view is all octopus – at least to me. I like the big chair (good looking family there!) and I’m unaccountably drawn to the sea urchins. They look rather like Tinker Toys.

    A great collection, and it’s so good to see it in public space. Thanks for sharing – and happy new year!

    • I turned around and our grandson Ethan was hanging off of the snout. lol I quickly told him that his action probably went beyond the artist’s concept of “use and abuse.” And I love the public space use. A very Happy New Year to you as well. I look forward to more of your great blogs. –Curt

  4. I was the model for the “Rock Eater”; its physique was confirmed a duplication of me by my doctor today (seriously). But one thing is for sure. I am glad someone else provided the model for that chair…

    Your grandkids and daughter are adorable!

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