The Boy on the Seahorse (the original one) by Rafael Zamarripa (1960) Las Pilitas

Seahorse Statue (original one) at Las Pilitas, Los Muertos Beach, Puerto Vallarta

Everybody knows the seahorse sculpture on the Malecon, it’s Puerto Vallarta’s iconic symbol. What most people don’t know is that the original statue is located in Las Pilitas on Los Muertos Beach.

A bit of history

Las Pilitas was the place where the original “El Niño Sobre el Caballo de Mar” sculpture (“The Boy on the Seahorse”, now mostly known as “El Caballito de Mar”) was located, sculpted by Rafael Zamarripa in 1960.

After a strong storm swept it away into the sea, a larger replica was requested from the artist and this one was placed on the Malecon, the first statue of many that are now part of an open-air exhibition along the seaside promenade.

The Seahorse statue at Las Pilitas, Romantic Zone, Puerto Vallarta

“The Boy on the Seahorse” at Las Pilitas, Los Muertos, Romantic Zone, Puerto Vallarta

The original statue was later recovered and once again placed at Las Pilitas (it was swept away again during Hurricane Kenna and recovered once again), you can see it there today, you can see that the concrete block is extra reinforced now and there are iron bars that go into the sculpture :-).

Las Pilitas themselves are just a series of rocks on Los Muertos Beach, before arriving at El Púlpito, that lay between the sea and the beach, nothing sensational, but a good reference point. Now with the sculpture, it’s mucho más interesante.

What does the sculpture symbolize?

Juan Manuel Gómez Encarnación, the official chronicler of Puerto Vallarta:

“interpreting this bronze sculpture requires analyzing the elements that make it up. The hippocampus (seahorse) refers to the sea as the source of the natural environment of our town. The boy symbolizes hope when looking to the future. His smile and open arm show the welcoming spirit, a deep symbol of friendship and kindness. The Mexican hat shows the pride we feel of being from the state of Jalisco, as well as the culture, traditions, and history of our country”.

Where is the sculpture located?

Las Pilitas Playa Los Muertos Puerto Vallarta

Las Pilitas Playa Los Muertos Puerto Vallarta

It’s located at Las Pilitas, a series of rocks and boulders sticking out of the sand in the southern end of Los Muertos Beach.

Los Muertos beach is the main beach in the Romantic Zone (Old Town), the part of the city located south of the Cuale River.

About the artist, Francisco Rafael Zamarripa Castañeda

Francisco Rafael Zamarripa Castañeda

Francisco Rafael Zamarripa Castañeda

Rafael Zamarripa (born February 8, 1942) at the age of 18 he won the Mexican National Sculpture Prize and was immediately commissioned to sculpt “El Niño Sobre el Caballo de Mar” (now mostly known as “The Seahorse”), which has since become one of the main symbols of Puerto Vallarta.

Francisco Rafael Zamarripa Castañeda is a painter, sculptor, designer, dancer, and choreographer. He was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, on February 8, 1942.

His parents were the pianist Luz María Castañeda Torres and Francisco ‘Don Panchito’ Zamarripa López, a shoemaker and painter. He comments that his family, which included 6 other brothers and sisters, was poor, but they never lacked shelter, food, or clothing.

He personally comments that from an early age he was already making figurines with breadcrumbs, a “collection of little figures.” He discovered his talent at an early age and it was mainly puppets that initially fascinated him. He began to make them himself with wood, paper, and cardboard, and he would dress them with cloths. When he was 8 years old, his parents sent him to work with a “santero” (sculptor of religious figures) where he acquired the beginnings of his sculptural ability.

Seahorse Statue, 1976, Francisco Rafael Zamarripa Castañeda - Malecón de Puerto Vallarta

The Boy on the Seahorse, 1976, Francisco Rafael Zamarripa Castañeda – Malecón de Puerto Vallarta

  • He completed his primary education at the Basilio Badillo School from 1948 to 1953.
  • In 1956 he graduated as a school teacher at the Normal School of Jalisco.
  • From 1959 to 1963 he studied Painting and Sculpture at the University of Guadalajara Art School. During his third year of the degree, he sent one of his works to the National Sculpture Contest of León, Guanajuato, and obtained a first place on January 20, 1960.
  • He continued his studies in Sculpture with the teacher Sandro Taglioni in Rome, Italy. He took courses in Sculptural Techniques at the New Zealand Polytechnic School and the Fine Arts School in Melbourne, Australia, and Anatomical Drawing at the University of Los Angeles, California, USA.
  • In 1961 he obtained a first place at the Festival of Nations in Paris, France.
  • After a stay at the Amalia Hernández Folkloric Ballet in Mexico City, he became part of a folk ballet group at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas. He assumed the direction and preparation of the group and they participated in a state contest and in the National Dance Contest, which they won. They become the best folk dance group in Mexico, and the rector Ignacio Maciel Salcedo made it official as the “University of Guadalajara Folkloric Group”.
  • In 1964, he was the general director, choreographer, set designer, and costume designer for the (Mexican Folkloric Ballet) Ballet Folclórico de México.
  • In 1968 the Folkloric Group of the University of Guadalajara took part in the International Folklore Festival of the XIX Olympics where they received a medal of honor and two honorable mentions.
  • In 1969 they took part in the International Festival of Viña del Mar, Chile, where they were awarded a bronze medal.
  • In 1969 he received the Jalisco Award from the Department of Tourism of the Government of the State of Jalisco.
  • In 1966 he founded the School of Dance at the University of Guadalajara.
  • In 1972 he established the Second Dance Group and the Children’s Dance Group at the University of Guadalajara. The teacher comments: “The only way to continue with a tradition and that it lasts over time for the benefit of others is by paying attention to the children.”
  • In 1980 he founded the Folkloric Ballet of the University of Colima, a company that – with more than one hundred performances a year in Mexico, the United States, Central America, and Europe – has been the winner of relevant awards and distinctions at many festivals.
  • On a tour of Italy, he made a presentation in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, in front of more than 30 thousand pilgrims, the members of the Folkloric Ballet of the University of Colima were also received by Pope John Paul II.
  • In 1994 he planned, promoted, and artistically directed the First International Mariachi Encounter, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
  • In 1996 he founded the University Dance Center at the University of Colima.
  • In 1997 he designed and established a degree in Scenic Dance.
  • In 2005 he was appointed president and delegate of the International Council of Organizers of Folklore Festivals.
  • He is currently the director of the Folkloric Ballet of the University of Colima and continues to practice his various passions which include teaching, choreography, painting, and sculpture. He is an icon of dance and sculpture in Mexico.

Some of his sculptures/statues

Closeup of The Boy on the Seahorse (1976) Rafael Zamarripa Castañeda, Puerto Vallarta Malecon

Closeup of The Boy on the Seahorse (1976) Rafael Zamarripa Castañeda, Puerto Vallarta Malecon

  • “Children playing” at the Guadalajara Public Library
  • “Monument to the Worker and Prisciliano Sánchez”, in the Prisciliano Sánchez Unit in Guadalajara
  • José López Portillo Weber, in the House of Culture of San Pedro Tlaquepaque, Jalisco
  • “The boy on the seahorse” official symbol of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
  • Valentín Gómez Farías, in the administrative building of the University of Guadalajara
  • Valentín Gómez Farías in Gómez Farías, Jalisco
  • Marqués de Santillana, in Plaza España, Guadalajara
  • Beatriz Hernández, in Guadalajara
  • Three-Dimensional Shield of Guadalajara, in Plaza Tapatia, Guadalajara
  • He’s held over 58 group exhibitions and 23 individual exhibitions, both in his native country and abroad, including the exhibition of 50 large-format wooden sculptures “Ensamblajes”.


Author: M. A. Gallardo