Edward James was best known for his love and support for the surrealist movement. The wealthy English poet sponsored many projects and artists, including Salvador Dalí. He didn’t hold back when it came to financing projects since his family was known to have a fortune – they were part of the railroad and mining industry in the US. So, wishing to create an out-of-a-dream monument to the imagination, where he could care for his orchids and inspire the meaning of surrealism, he chose a spot in the tropical rainforest of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains near the small village of Xilitla, Mexico. Here, he spent about 20 years building the marvelous structures that scream surrealism. He called it Las Pozas.
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From 1944 to 1960, James and his friend Plutarco Gastélum Esquer designed and built dams, mazes, bridges, and stairways that lead to nowhere and everywhere. They hung birdcages without birds inside them, put doors and windows on wall-less rooms, and some of Las Pozas’ many four-level structures don't even have a roof to shelter people from the rain. The sculptures conveyed many ironies and extravagances that were meant to contain his dreams and passions, as well as his love for the imaginary world that had only existed in his head before. He built an aesthetic monument to the art movement that travelers would come across and feel amazed by. Without a set blueprint, but with lots of creatively improvised architecture techniques, he built many artistic structures that were later named after Mexican government authorities.
As seen in these images, the place seems like it was taken out of a fantasy fairy tale, one where an advanced and artistic civilization existed. There are countless pools, waterfalls, and pathways to spend hours walking around and exploring. It’s a creative sanctuary for those who visit. The climate and terrain play beautifully with the concept: the fog adds to the mystery; the water and vegetation add to the magic of the place. And to think it is just hours away from the state’s capital.
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During World War II, James fled Europe, looking for a place where he could have peace and quiet and wouldn’t have to live under the threat of the Nazi regime. The idea to move to Mexico came from his friend Geoffrey Gilmore, who invited him to visit the country in 1944. He then traveled around Mexico, learning about its culture, until he found the village of Xilitla, in the state of San Luis Potosí. There, a revelation came to him as he saw the perfect place with exotic plants and water pools to build his dream monument. Despite being a wealthy man, James was forced to auction his surrealist collection in order to pay for the $5 million USD structure.
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Why exactly James decided to become the architect of Las Pozas is still a mystery, but he worked hard for many years with passion and dedication to accomplish it. After his death in 1984, James' most precious work, Las Pozas, was looked after by his friend Gastelum’s family. Of course, over the years, the vegetation grew and ended up deteriorating the structure, but for this reason, in 2007, the Fondo Xilitla foundation took control over the garden and has ever since restored it and looked after it. In 2012, the Mexican government declared it a national artistic monument. This landmark has served for photo shoots as well as a tourist attraction for surrealism fans. Everyone is welcome to appreciate James' work, and honestly, it's just a wonderland to visit.
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