The Anahuacalli Museum
This museum shows more than 2,000 pre-Hispanic pieces from Diego Rivera’s personal collection, mostly of the western Mexico, Mayans and Mexica Peoples.
The house of this collection is a large, imposing volume, built of gray and black volcanic rock, from the soil on which the museum building is now; volcanic lava of the Xitle volcano eruption, more than 2,000 years ago.
Take a guided tour of the ecological space on the premises of the Anahuacalli Museum; more than 46,000 square meters of nature just as it was 2,000 years ago, yet still part of Mexico City.
The word Anahuacalli means House of the Anahuac; Anahuac is the ancient, Aztec name for the Valley of Mexico. Anahuacalli also means house surrounded by water.
Diego, Pre-Hispanic Art Collector
Diego Rivera starts buying pre-Hispanic pieces upon his return from Europe in the 1920s; becoming the greatest pre-Hispanic art collector of post-revolutionary Mexico, eventually acquiring more than 50,000 pieces throughout his life.
The house of his pre-Hispanic collection
Therefore the Anahuacalli Museum arises from Diego’s initial idea to build a space to house part of his pre-Hispanic collection; then Rivera also wanted to have a studio to work on his paintings and sketches, for what would be his murals intended for large public as well as private spaces.
The Legacy of Diego Rivera to the People of Mexico
Until the 1940s, large area of the southern part of Mexico City was under a layer of volcanic rock; the lava that emerged from the last eruption of the Xitle volcano, which has practically disappeared with the growth of Mexico City.
Hence it is interesting for the visitor to experience, in this same area, of this property in the southern area of Mexico City; which Diego bought in the 1930’s, preserved to date in its wild state.
Diego and Frida Kahlo
Fortunately, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo agreed to leave to the people of Mexico their possessions and collections. Diego would keep his in the Anahuacalli Museum and; Frida would kept hers in her home at Coyoacán, known as “La Casa Azul” (The Blue House).
The Dolores Olmedo Collection
In the same way, years later, Dolores “Lola” Olmedo, close friend of Frida and Diego, and a very important collector of their works, also left her collection to the people of Mexico; along with her old property of Xochimilco, which today is the Dolores Olmedo Museum.
Thus, given Diego’s close relationship with Frida and their mutual friendship with Lola; the Anahuacalli, the Frida Kahlo Museum and the Dolores Olmedo Museum, all three located south of Mexico City, are traditionally regarded as sister (amigos) museums.
Anahuacalli, Architecture and Cultural Heritage
The Anahuacalli Museum building is a solid construction of symmetrical and pyramidal volumes truncated along its edges.
Architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Juan O’Gorman
After Diego Rivera saw some sketches by the Mexican architect Juan O’Gorman and consulted with the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright; he designed this building himself.
Integrating pre-Hispanic Architecture
Since Rivera based his design on his own vision, on how to integrate his project with the roots of pre-Hispanic architecture and with the museum’s land natural environment.
Finally the project materialized in this building; covered, piece by piece, on both its façade and interior walls, with volcanic stone, torn from the same soil of the museum building.
Murals in all the ceilings
Resemblance with Mayan architecture
Seems like some scholars also see in this construction a sort of replica of the Mayan architecture of the archaeological site of Uxmal; nevertheless this is not clear at first sight.
Diego’s Studio House
Juan O’Gorman, also a painter artist, already had designed and built for Diego, at the beginning of the 1930’s; the first house in Mexico to typify Functionalist Architecture; what it is now known as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Studio House, at what was the small town (pueblo) of San Angel, on the outskirts of Mexico City. Therefore, it is likely that he played an important role on the planning and on the construction works of this museum.
Ruth Rivera Marín and Dolores Olmedo completed the work
It is noteworthy to say that Ruth Rivera Marín, daughter of Diego, had a industrious role on this construction from the death of her father, in 1957, until completion of this Museum in 1963 and to its inauguration in 1964; aided by the collaboration and generous sponsorship of Dolores Olmedo.
The Anahuacalli Museum Collections
The method of classification and display of this museum’s collection, at a later stage, was overseen by poet Carlos Pellicer. Its collection is displayed in three underworlds.
The underworlds in the Anahuacalli
The lowest is the underworld of the dead, descending beneath the entrance to the museum; the Tlaloc-Water stone sculpture and Aztec ceramics.
Next-highest level, the museum access level, is the underworld of earthly life; where is the dual altar and pieces of the pre-Hispanic cultures of western Mexico.
And, on the highest level is the overworld of the gods; there are pieces of the Mexica and Mixtec cultures.
The lighting of the underworlds
As you pass from one underworld to another, the illumination changes from semi-darkness in the underworld to the sunlight that enters the windows of various geometric shapes.
Hence to get such lighting effects, the museum windows are topped with materials ranging from alabaster, in the underworld of the dead; through translucent material, in the earthly world; to transparent materials, in the overworld of the gods.
Popular Art at Anahuacalli
The Day of the Dead
Every year in the month of November Mexico celebrates the festivities of the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). By initiative and the contributions of Dolores Olmedo the Anahuacalli Museum has also celebrated these festivities for more than 50 years; setting inside the museum, an altar of the dead dedicated to Diego Rivera, with huge cardboard stylized bodies.
Huge cardboard stylized bodies
Here you can see huge , multicolored, stylized bodies made of cardboard resembling the skeletons of happy dead people, as well as stylized cardboard puppets from the altars of the dead.
The Altar of the dead
Diego Rivera’s studio
The Mural “Man at the Crossroads”
Here you can see the sketch for the mural “Man at the Crossroads”(El Hombre en la Encrucijada de Caminos), painted at the Rockefeller Center in New York in 1939. It depicts, on the one hand, the misery of the working class as victims of capitalism and, on the other, the happiness and solidarity of workers under socialism.
The Mural destroyed
The original mural includes portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx, pillars of Soviet communism. But the Rockefeller family, a symbol of American capitalism, who hired Rivera to create this mural, asks him to remove these portraits; but Rivera doesn’t agree. Finally, he receives the corresponding payment for his finished work, and, then the mural is to be destroyed in one night.
Subsequently, the Government of Mexico asked Diego Rivera to paint the same mural again; which is now exhibited, with some changes, at the Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de Bellas Artes) in Mexico City.
The Anahuacalli entrance
At the museum’s entrance there is a perfectly leveled area of polished volcanic rock, submerged about 40 centimeters in the ground; where all kinds of events such as exhibitions, concerts and celebrations take place.
An Aztec ball game field
You can see also a polished floor of volcanic rock, a replica of a space which would used for the traditional Aztec ball game field.
Anahuacalli Museum – General Information:
Museo 150, San Pablo Tepetlapa
04620, Coyoacán, Ciudad de México
(+52 55) 5617 3797, 5617 4310,
5617 6825, 5617 6874
Visits: Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am-5 pm
– General public entrance fees: $60 pesos
– Foreigners entrance fees: $80 pesos
– Elementary and high school students, college students and teachers (private institutions): $ 30 pesos
– Elderly, preschool children and public elementary schools: $15 pesos
– Free entrance for children under 6 years old and people with disabilities.
– Free entrance for residents of San Pablo Tepetlapa, El Reloj, La Candelaria, Ruíz Cortines, Santa Úrsula, Díaz Ordaz and El Rosario, with presentation of current credentials.
– Free entrance when presenting ICOM credential
– With your ticket you have a courtesy visit to the Frida Kahlo Museum, valid for one year.
– General cost of photo permission: $30 pesos
– Photo Permission for Elementary school students: $10 pesos
* Shooting videos with cellphones or cameras is not allowed.