Imagine an entire island covered with deteriorated dolls, hanging from the trees and broken structures. The scene is pretty creepy on its own but such kind of place does exist on grounds of Mexico City. Just south of the city, between the Xochimico canals, there is a small eerie island known as ‘Isla de las Munecas’ or the ‘Island of the Dolls’.
Xochimilco or ‘the place where the flowers grow’ was a vast center for agriculture. Later on, in the 14th century the Mexica Aztecs conquered the place and it was razed by Spanish. In the 1900s, the town was sprawled by the local people.
Legend has it….
Although the local legends have some very suspicious stories running about the place, having said that many have seen the dolls luring people to come to the island or moving their body parts. But the history has something different to offer.
The caretaker of the Island, Don Julian Santana Barrera had found a little girl who drowned in a complex situation. He tried to save her but failed. Shortly after this accident, Don Julian saw a doll floating near the canals and suspected that it had belonged to the dead girl. He picked up the floating doll and hung it from a branch of a nearby tree.
He wanted to show respect to the little girl’s departed soul and did such. But to Julian, as days passed it seemed that one doll was not enough. For the next fifty years, Don Julian had scraped dolls from trash and canals, hanging them from the trees in the island. Some of them had their whole structure intact, others had various parts missing.
The tale of the departed girl remains unbelievable to some people, including Don Julian’s family members. But it is a fact that, Don had sacrificed and devoted his entire life to showing respect to the girl’s spirit. And it is clear that, his actions don’t give him a certificate of having a sound mental health.
Don Julian died in 2001 and not too much surprise, his body was found being drowned in the canals, in the exact place where he said to have found the girl’s body. After his death, the island attracted many tourists from far and near. Some visitors even bring their own dolls and hangs it from the branches of the tress in the island.
After Don Julian’s death in the 2001, his relatives are running the place. The locals, to this day, still remain very much respectful towards the island. The relatives of Don Julian who are now taking care of the island, are known as ‘Chinampas’. Besides bringing their own dolls, some visitors also leave different kinds of flowers, trinkets, coins at the shrines of the dolls in the Doll’s Island.
There are many ways to reach the ‘Isla de las Munecas’ or the ‘Island of the Dolls’. One of the easiest ways of reaching the island includes taking a ferry or going on one of the boat trips. The boat trips usually take two hours.
Floating through the maze-like canals and hearing the chirping of song birds with a beautiful natural scenery, it would seem to one that time has suddenly stopped for a while. After taking a bend, one can slowly see the surface of the island coming into form.
Many of the visitors have reported that they have heard whisperings in this eerie island, as well as feeling like the dolls’ eyes are seem to be following them throughout the island.
Tips to follow:
Visiting the island on weekday is much more advisable. On the weekends, the canals usually remain very crowded and it becomes hard to feel the eeriness amongst all this chaos. Before going on the boat trip, make sure to negotiate for a fair fare.
There is a signage in front of the pier that will give you all the information about the pricing. Once you have reached the island, you will have to pay a tip to the caretaker of the island to enter. You can also enjoy a picnic on the boat. There are tables and chairs on the boats, but you will have to bring your own food and water.
Avoiding the fake island
Many visitors do not know about the fake island. While negotiating the fare, also check with the boatman if he is taking you to the actual island. The real Island of Dolls is surrounded with a bamboo fence. Once you have crossed an island of dolls that is covered by a black shade clothe, you will know that the ‘real’ island is just up ahead.