Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – We have been asked about the sculpture of the ladder on the Malecon. Two children climb to the top while a mother-like figure at the base seems to either plead with them or bid them farewell. Some people claim this is the artist Sergio Bustamante’s tribute to an air flight that went down between Puerto Vallarta and San Francisco. We are here to set the record straight.
Sergio Bustamante, a Mexican artist from Sinaloa, who resides in Guadalajara, is known for his unusual figures of suns, moon, people and whimsical creatures, fashioned into jewelry and statues.
Regarding this particular piece, Bustamante says “I like getting people to interact with it, with my art. It’s about freedom.” What it isn’t about is an airplane crash. Bustamante asserts that his inspiration came from the well known philosopher, Bertrand Russell, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, who said “When the intensity of emotional conviction subsides, a man who is in the habit of reasoning will search for logical grounds in favor of the belief which he finds in himself.” Hence, the beseeching faces of the three figures and their quest to the heavens.
The sculpture is one of the largest and grandest on the Malecon, at a height of nearly two hundred feet (60 meters) and tourists are encouraged to photograph one another in their very own quests, but advised to be careful. It is located at Corona Street. Smaller versions of Searching for Reason, along with other Bustamante pieces are available at his website.
There is, however, a sculpture dedicated to the victims of that fatal flight of Alaska 261 in 2000, though most tourists most likely would not realize this unless they went on a sculpture tour. Indeed, many locals are unaware of its significance. It is “The Friendship Fountain” (Dancing Dolphins Fountain) by James “Bud” Bottoms and Octavio Gonzalez Gutierrez.
The Friendship Fountain can be found close to the Arches on the Malecon. It was dedicated in 1987, long before the airline tragedy. At Port Heuneme, Santa Barbara on the California coast, where debris from the accident washed to shore, is a sundial with a dolphin leaping from it, a similar piece of art and forever joined in spirit. Puerto Vallarta and Santa Barbara are sister cities.
According to the artist Bud Bottoms, heuneme means resting place in Chumash, the local Indian tribe. The Indians believed that drowning humans become dolphins. Que es como es.
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