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An Island Full of Dead Dolls

Recently, I woke up in the middle of my sleep and was unable to get back to sleep. It was late at night. Since the rest of my family was asleep, I was limited in what I could do, so I decided to choose the simplest one and turned on the TV. Unsurprisingly, there was a broadcast about mystery and horror. Usually, horror is not my favorite thing to watch, but it caught my attention with the Turk word. I was curious and started to watch. I ended up watching the whole thing. Watching the film, I learned about the Island of the Dead Dolls (which, apparently, has no relevance to the Turk word I heard). The title had a very interesting story behind it. I did not hear anything quite similar. Hence, I wanted to explore the legend and, at the same time, share it with you.

La Isla de las Muñecas, which translates to Island of the Dead Dolls in English, is located in the canals of Xochimilco (See “Island of the Dead Dolls”). Xochimilco is in the south of the center of Mexico City and has many floating islands. In old times, most of the natives would use these floating islands for agricultural purposes ("The Island of the Dolls.”).

Island of the Dead Dolls

One day, a religious man named Don Julian Santana Barrera decided to move into one of these floating islands in Xochimilco. (See “Don Julian Santana Barrera”). (If he was seeking for a peaceful heaven on earth, he was so unaware of what was going to happen. What a dramatic turn of events for him!). While he was pedaling on the canal, he witnessed a little girl drowning. Barrera did not hesitate to help her and jumped right off his kayak into the water. Unfortunately, he was not able to save this poor little girl’s life. But, soon, a doll was seen on the water’s surface by Barrera. Logically, he thought this doll belonged to the girl. He opted to take care of the doll by hanging it on a nearby tree, for the sake of the little girl’s soul. It was his way of showing respect to the dead. This decision of his was a life-changing one.

According to the legend, Barrera got “haunted by the spirit of the girl and started hanging more dolls in an attempt to please her spirit” ("The Island Of The Dolls.”). Hanging more dolls soon became a regular thing for him. Barrera was even trading his crop with dolls. No matter how many dolls he hung, it was never enough. In his late times, he even said dolls were moving, which was sometimes causing him to fall. His close friends and family thought a driving force was making him act in this creepy way. In 2001, “after 50 years of collecting dolls and hanging them on the island, [Barrera] was found dead, drowned in the same spot where the girl did” ("The Island Of The Dolls”). Legend says that and many believe that the girl’s spirit was the reason of his death.

Don Julian Santana Barrera

This legend has a lot of impact on this area. Many tourists visit the island due to the legend. There are episodes of TV shows dedicated to it, as well as a movie focusing on Barrera and his side of the story. If you would like to watch it, it is called La isla de las muñecas (the link will direct you to the IMDB page of the movie). And there is a romantic Mexican movie shot on this island in 1943 called María Candelaria, a romance movie. When I first learned about it, it did not make a lot of sense; I did not expect a romantic movie to be shot on a creepy island.

I would also love to learn about what you think. Do you believe in this legend?

Works Cited

Don Julian Santana Barrera. Accessed 21 July 2022.

Island of the Dead Dolls. Accessed 21 July 2022.

"The Island Of The Dolls." Isla de las Muñecas, Accessed 21 July 2022.

"The Island of the Dolls." WikiPedia, Accessed 21 July 2022.


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