Is another of Mexico’s little-known jewels. The English surrealist, Sir Edward James, created a unique testimony to bringing life to an artist’s dreams. In this hot, humid, earthy tropical forest near the little town of Xilitla, Sir James created a sculpture garden in the wilderness. Xilitla looks something like Taxco, with its steep, hilly streets and terraced steps. Only half an hour south of Cd. Valles, Xilitla is a convenient day trip from Cd. Valles.
The sculptures are concrete with inlaid stones or glass where appropriate. The sculptures depict Sir James’ vivid imagination in surrealistic terms. There are stairways to heaven, or at least that don’t go anywhere on earth, houses without walls or ceilings and remarkable Fleur de lis. The sculptures were originally painted and the paint is more often than not still there.
Edward James was an Englishman, perhaps a love-child of English nobility. He was incredibly wealthy and was able to indulge his interests, which included arts and artists. He bankrolled various surrealists (getting valuable paintings at discount prices) and was an artist himself. The sculpture garden at Xilitla was his life’s work. Here, he created a fantasy world with meaning, depending on how you view it. He was called, “the most surreal of the surrealists.”
Take a look at the humble slide-show I created to get a tiny idea of what this unique attraction has to offer. Xilitla is the kind of place you can go to ten times and have eleven different interpretations. You cannot really say you saw Mexico without seeing Xilitla.
Now, for the words of warning. This forest is steamy. Locals call it a jungle, but that is a stretch. I’ve lived in the Amazon jungle and this shares the humidity with it. Try to see Xilitla in the morning. Wear very sturdy shoes that won’t slip on the occasional parts of the paths that are moss-covered, or just wet. Take water. Take your time. There are plenty of places to stop and meditate on the meaning of Life, or at least the meaning that Edward James gave it.
At the end of the trail is a small waterfall and a pool. Yes, you can bathe in the pool. But wear your swimsuit or shorts. Impropriety is dealt with harshly.
There are decent guides at the entrance. Interview them to make sure their English is understandable. There are also stoned hippies selling jewelry and things outside the gates. Talking to them is like talking to the space aliens – except I did not get good vibes from them. There is a DVD for sale about Xilitla that is definitely worth the $20 or so they charge at the gift shop.
A trip plan customer sent back this review of a good hotel choice in Xilitla. The guide we had at Las Pozas today (Miguel) was the son of the cook for Edward James. He remembers James (he was 10 when James died) and could tell us stories about him. It was 200p for a tour from him and it was well worth it. Afterward, he told us to continue up the road that goes past Las Pozas on into Xilitla. If was a pretty rough stretch; all but the lowest slung cars can make it, though. Once the road turns back to asphalt immediately on the right is his mother’s restaurant called Las Cascadas de la Cebolla. Food was excellent and well priced. Right next door they also have a hotel with rooms starting at 300p. Nice place, new and clean. Only a 10 minute walk to the Plaza, without all the parking problems. Miguel’s sister runs the place and both she and Miguel speak English. (I am still surprised when I run into English speakers out here in the middle of nowhere.)
There is one very expensive, very exclusive, very snotty hotel in town. I would not stay there if they asked me. There are a couple of fairly basic hotels, but alas, I do not know their names. If you have an RV, don’t even think about driving in Xilitla. You could drive to the Pozos or sculpture garden. For anyone, after you turn off the highway (maybe at the sign in the video), keep left at any intersections. A right would take you up a steep hill and you don’t want to do that. There is parking big enough for buses at the entrance, so even an RV could park there.