This is the story of the most ambitious project that Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo’s husband, created to safeguard his pre-Hispanic treasures.
One of the most fascinating things about Mexico City is that its streets hold architectural gems that hide a lot of history. Some of them are located in the Historic Center and others to the south, such as Silvia Pinal’s house, Emilio ‘El Indio’ Fernandez’s fort, and Frida Kahlo’s house, both in the bohemian neighborhood of Coyoacan, or the Anahuacalli Museum, a temple that the artist Diego Rivera conceived to store his greatest treasure of pre-Hispanic art consisting of representative pieces of different cultures in Mesoamerica.
Designed as a City of the Arts to integrate architecture, painting, dance, music, theater, and crafts, the Anahuacalli was built with volcanic stone in inspiration to the teocalli, a pre-Hispanic house of energy.
[Photo: Laura Vela]
History of the Anahuacalli Museum
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera bought the land on the outskirts of Mexico City in the 40s and started construction with the idea of making it a farm. Surrounding the famous Xitle volcano, the Anahuacalli, Rivera’s most ambitious cultural project, was finally inaugurated on September 18, 1964. Today it’s part of the city.
For its creation, Rivera invited the architect Juan O’Gorman, who at the same time knew the American Frank Lloyd Wright, who had very organic ideas of architecture.
According to the official website, the space has almost two thousand Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, and Zapotec figures, among others, which blend perfectly with the volcanic stone of the multi-story building, as well as with the 16 sketches by Diego Rivera. It’s believed that Diego Rivera had the biggest collection of pre-Hispanic art, and even some of his pieces were lent to the Anthropology Museum in Chapultepec. Moreover, it’s said that there are many hidden pieces that only those close to him have ever seen.
It is said that from 1942 to 1957 (until his death), the painter dedicated his time and money to the construction of the Anahuacalli, which cost him a lot of work because, at the time, he did not have enough resources to build it. It is even said that Frida Kahlo herself sent a letter to the government to obtain money and was told that they could help as long as the space was opened as a museum. That is why until 1955 the deeds were signed and the project was stopped when she died in 1957, but thanks to her friend, painter Dolores Olmedo, the temple continued its construction.
With the collaboration of Ruth Rivera (the painter’s youngest daughter), Juan O’Gorman, and the poet Carlos Pellicer, who designed the museography of the second floor, the Anahuacalli finally opened its doors to the public in 1964.
[Photo: Laura Vela]
Location, hours, and costs
The Anahuacalli is located at 150 Museo Street, Col. San Pablo Tepetlapa in Coyoacán, Mexico City.
To get there by public transportation you can take the metro line to Taxqueña station. From there, take the Light Train (charges 3 pesos) to the Xotepilco station and from there walk approximately 10 minutes to the museum.
Hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the entrance fee is $100 pesos for general admission and $80 pesos for national admission. Although, you can always get the package that includes a visit to Anahuacalli and Frida Kahlo’s house in Coyoacan.
Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva