X is a 59 year old Mexican immigrant from Tabasco, Mexico. He is a university professor, specializing in printmaking. X is reserved and does not talk to many students about his homelend.
The context of this piece was in a printmaking shop after hours, around 8pm. X admitted his skepticism of the story and seemed to disagree with the local value of the piece.
X: “So, the the island of dolls is right off of that famous river, where are the floating islands used to live in Xochimilco. The story or folklore of that started actually somewhat recently within the last 50 years. People decorate all sorts of tourist sites with the dolls now. They’re hung with wires, and they looked down at people, they were often dismembered, it’s a little bit disturbing to newcomers. The story goes that a man, Santana, abandoned his family, a wife and a child and move to an island where the is OG musical canals. A lot of relatives discounted his deciding, but according to him he watched a little girl drown. After that people say he went crazy, others say he just devoted a life to honoring her by collecting the dolls and hanging them up. I personally say the first because he filled up that whole island with them. Usually shrines in the day of the dead are limited to just a few objects all on an altar in one space not a whole island. He said they protected the island and he used it as a torch attraction which I thought was weird also, but the story gets even more ominous when, what in 2001? how old were you then? Well anyways he drowned in the same spot.”
Contextually, the isla de las munecas sits in one of Mexico City’s most toured areas and rumored to be the most spiritually active as well and acts as a legend. This region was where the indigenous Mexica’s technologically advanced floating islands, the Chinampas, existed. For that reason, many tourists find it historically significant, but similarly because of the sheer amount of local culture and tradition that plays out in these areas. As for the Xochimilcan canals, the dynamics foster a hub for folklore, with local festivals showcasing a great amount of visual tradition such as the decorated “canoas” that often sport common Mexican women’s names such as “Ximena” or “Maria.” As a result, the historical and present culture give all visitors a sense of preservation. Don Julian Santana is the documented hermit that doubles as the caretaker of the island. The interesting aspect of Mexico’s folklore is the cultural syncretism. As mentioned in lecture, ghosts and many modern Mexican folklore would have clashed with the Roman Catholicism introduced to them in the colonial periods. For example, the Chinampas, an agricultural wonder would have likely been destroyed if not readapted to colonial taste. The Templo Mayor is one of the larger ruins buried by the cathedrals built in the plaza of Mexico city and is currently causing the cathedrals to sink as the ground and stone deteriorates beneath. Santana’s preservation of this girl’s haunting soul likely followed the Roman Catholic custom of sanctification. In the culturally syncretized Mexico, many of these sanctifications occur during the Day of the Dead ceremonies during early November but can transcend the annual ceremony through a pagan ritual of shrine building. This ritual memorializes mementos of the dead, in this case, Santana attached the feminine baby doll to the little girl’s death. A fair amount of misinformation surrounds Santana’s practice as much of American folklore is bound to the practice by the tourists, despite its contextual inaccuracy. Many compare them to the Chucky’s and Annabelle’s of Mexico and only a select few sources cite Santana’s practice in any closeness to honor rituals of the forgotten dead.