Las Pozas: The "Surrealist Xanadu" Playground Built By A Millionaire In The Mexican Jungle

By on March 24, 2017 in ArticlesEntertainment

The departed Edward James is most well known as a poet, but his greatest life's work isn't ink on paper, and it's located deep in the Mexican jungle, surrounded by the Sierra Madre mountains and in the town of Xilitla. It's called Las Pazas, and it was described by the artist before his death as a "Surrealist Xanadu."  Even though it's been open to the public for more than 25 years it remains something of a secret, even having been recently described by travel website "Elsewhere" as "abandoned."

Las Pozas is Spanish for "The Pools," and the property that sprawls more than 3,200 acres does indeed include multiple natural swimming pools. But it's also home to 36 sculptures designed by James and inspired by two famous artists that James served as a sponsor to in their careers – Salvador Dali and René Magritte. The sculptures are connected to one another by winding walking paths that are spread across the property, as well as staircases that reach up to three stories, obviously inspired by another famous artist, MC Escher.

Other features of Las Pozas, which cost about $5 million to construct, include mosaic snakes lining those walking paths, as well as a few waterfalls. One aspect of the work really is "abandoned" – the flamingo house and an ocelot enclosure, both holdovers from when they contained inhabitants of James' personal menagerie. A related, interesting note of James' eccentricity: The wealthy animal-lover was known to have taken a pet boa constrictor with him when he traveled, and also made the claim to have allowed his crocodiles to sleep in his bed (it's not clear whether he did this while he was in it too)!

Edward James died in 1984, and since Las Pozas was pretty much an ongoing project (he started it in 1947, after encountering a flight of butterflies on what would become the site of the installation), that was probably the only way it would ever truly be finished. If you ever find yourself in Xilitla, it only costs 50 pesos (less than $3) per person to get in, even though it would take days for anyone to explore it fully.

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