The Island of the Dolls, legend in Xochimilco

By Valeria Bigurra Peñavera

Adorned by terrifying dolls, a mysterious and intriguing piece of Mexico City

Xochimilco is one of the 16 delegations of Mexico City, founded in 1352 by one of the seven nahualtlacas tribes that left the mythical Chicomostoc, is currently one of the most famous places in the city and attracts tourists and locals to enjoy the trajineras that travel by its lakes.

muñecas

In 1987 UNESCO named Xochimilco Cultural Heritage of Humanity, specifically to the area of the Chinampas - floating gardens - located within its 189 kilometers of navigable waters.

However there is a chinampa or island that draws particular attention, due to its tragic history, and its terrifying appearance. Isla de las Muñecas (Lit. The Island of dolls) has become one of the main attractions of the place, and every day hundreds of people go to see it.

The story of Isla de las Muñecas begins with late Don Julian Santana Barrera, guardian of the island, who one day, according to the legend, discovered the lifeless body of a little girl at the edge of the lake.

isla

In desperation he tried to save her but his attempts were worthless and the girl died, apparently from unknown and strange causes. After the incident, Don Julian claimed that the girl's spirit tormented him and one day he found a small doll floating on the shore of his island, and assumed that perhaps it belonged to the girl, so he decided to hang it from a tree to pay honor to the little deceased.

According to locals, after the incident, Don Julian said that the girl's spirit had possessed the doll, and to protect himself - because of his beliefs - began to hang more and more dolls, of all kinds, but after a while the man assured that all the dolls were possessed by spirits of children.

Little by little Don Julian became a hermit, and he began to live on his island with his dolls all by himself. Some people even say that he was perhaps the one who was possessed, because he radically changed his behavior after what happened.

muñecas2Original image: "I see dead dolls ..." by Esparta Palma, used under CC BY 2.0 license, via Flickr.

And in 2001, he was found lifeless right in the same spot where he had found the little girl, years before. Some say that he felt guilty for not being able to save her, and that was why he had lost his mind, but nobody really knows what really happened to him.

After the death of Don Julian the island became one of the main attractions of the area, as people come to see the thousands of dolls hanging from the branches of the chinampa, made of reed, branches of ahuejote, chinami and Zacatónen.

20073174165_cd2c6c33f1_kOriginal image: "Isla de las Muñecas, Xochimilco" by FlyingCrimsonPig, used under CC BY 2.0 license, via Flickr.

There are those who say that the dolls move, or whisper at night, attracting visitors to their island, however we could say that these type of legends are the main attraction of these places, because they generate intrigue in people and that’s why it is so visited.

There are many people who continue to bring more dolls to the island, perhaps because of beliefs. The site remains intact and because there are many dolls, the authorities encouraged a plan to create a museum and save them, so most of the eco-tourism projects that are held in Xochimilco, revolve around The Island of Dolls.

muñecas3

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