Xochimilco’s Island of the Dolls

La Isla de la Munecas is a bizarre tourist attraction located in Mexico City’s UNESCO World Heritage: Xochimilco. Old mutilated dolls adorn almost every tree growing on the island in silent tribute to the spirit of a child. According to legend, three young girls were playing and one of them drowned. A hermit named Don Julian Santana chose the remote island for his home and honored the spirit of the dead child by making a natural altar out of discarded dolls. He would bring them to the island and tie them to the trees.

The island was known as a haunted spot and locals avoided it until one man’s respect for the spirit of a dead child lit a path for them to honor her memory as well. When they learned that Santana had created a wonderful garden of fresh produce for his own needs, they began to bring dolls to the island in exchange for fresh vegetables. This increased the number of dolls to the thousands, all in varying stages of disintegration, which adds to the general mystique.

Some of the dolls are green with verdigris, many are naked and others are in disarray with matted hair Don Julian Santana was as strange and mysterious as the doll altar he created. Although married, he lived the last 50 years of his life alone, and in 2001 he was found dead by his nephew floating in the same canal where the little girl was said to have drowned.

Some tourists say that the dolls, which are suspended everywhere, whisper to you as you pass by and that you must appease their spirits by offering them a gift upon setting foot upon this strange island.

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