I first met Calixto Molina Navarrete (Cali to his friends) during last year’s Baja Sand festival where he had been invited for the second consecutive year. With a friendly easy manner, and a smile as big as the sky, the 47 year old Acapulco native readily shared his history and aspirations.
Though the sand fascinated him from an early age, he pursued art studies at the La Esmeralda, a plastic arts school in Mexico City. He soon began applying these techniques in Acapulco on numerous sand sculptures, but his real break as a professional sand artist came as an invitation to compete in Vancouver in 1999 in the Harrison World Championship.
Since then, he has been invited to sand sculpting events in the US and Europe as well as Latin America. He is very proud of having won two first prizes in Moscow in 2008 and 2009, beating artists he considers the best in the art on their own turf. This gave him tremendous impetus in his quest to be to most important representative in an art he considers as unrecognized as it is ephemeral in Latin America.
Cali is back with us this year, and ready to supervise five sand sculptures. He is just back from Le Touquet-Paris Plage in France where he has been invited four times. The smiles this story brings forth leave you pondering as to the nature of these memories. I bet Le Touquet is ready for him next year.
A typical day on the job will see Cali show up at the beach around 9:00 am with the most rudimentary of tools: a spade, a couple of trowels, a knife, a brush and what looks like a feather dust mop. Lots, enormous amounts of water are needed. The finished products will be coated and sealed with a mixture of water and glue.
A very humble man, Cali does not say he is a sort of guru among Latin American artists, but American sculptor Bert Adams explained to me recently that Cali is mentoring his tribe. Other sculptors here have started to view him as a pack leader. The presence of other Mexican artists such as Rogelio Evans of Puerto Vallarta, Jair Perez of Guadalajara, as well as Peruvian Ruben Rebatta, and Colombian Manuel Campos confirm that Cali’s ambition is to prep them for loftier venues in the US and Europe.
Asked whether he lived off his art, Cali laughed and said it was more like survive. He certainly did not get rich by participating in Baja Sand, but he derives satisfaction from the enthusiasm he experiences in Rosarito.
Stating that no one is a prophet in his own country, he deplores the fact that, unlike other countries, Mexico does not have a national sand sculpture association. He intends to continue striving for recognition for the art in Mexico.
Telling a story through the magic of sand figures is Cali’s great talent. Rosarito is indeed fortunate to attract such a vibrant and talented artist as Calixto Molina.