Island of the Dolls


Carolina Troxel

La Isla de las Muñecas, The Island of the Dolls, is an island in Xochimilco, just south of Mexico City, Mexico. The canals of Xochimilco are one of the last existing relics of the Aztecs. The island was a hiding place for people in the early 1500s when Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico on behalf of Spain. This was during the Spanish-Aztec War. During this time Xochimilco was full of chinampas. These were canal systems used by farmers to navigate the land when the Aztecs first started building their empire. After the Spanish-Aztec war, the Chinampas were filled in. They existed where Xochimilco is located. The neighborhood on the island was also used for hiding. It was used by religious Practitioners and Mexican revolutionaries who had lost their power. Many however drowned in the canals or were killed. The island is a popular tourist attraction because of the eerie dolls that are now on the island. There are close to 1,000 dolls on the island located on a single acre.

The 1,000 dolls were placed on the island by a man named Don Julian Santana Barrera. He was the keeper of this island until he passed away in 2001 from a heart attack with a strange tie to the story. Julian moved to the island in the 50s. The island didn’t get its name for being haunted by dolls till many years after Julian moved there. The story goes that Julian had found a young girl drowned in a river nearby. Near this young girl was a doll. He assumed the doll belonged to the girl and put it up in a tree to honor her spirit. It wasn’t long after that he started to hang up dolls throughout the island because the young girl started to haunt Julian. He hoped the dolls would calm the haunting. He soon realized the dolls were actually being haunted by other young girls and continued to put up dolls for many years. He did this for nearly 50 years until his death. He was found in the same place he supposedly found the young girl. Tourists have claimed that dolls would move on their own. They felt as if the eyes were following their every move. Some dolls are missing heads, limbs, and eyes. Some say that he was not sane in his mind. Many also say that he made up the entire story of the little girl drowning in the river. The strangest of all is that Julian devoted his life to this young girl he might have made up all along.

Julian and his wife never had any children because of his obsession with the island. After he passed his brother, Anastacio, took ownership of the island until he passed in 2019. After Anastacio passed his nephew took ownership. His nephew still owns the island, he does not live on the island. He lives about 20 minutes away from the island with his wife and three children.