After visiting close to 90 countries in the world, I have found some very bizarre arts centres. However, it took me years of traveling in my own country to discover what is possible the weirdest of all (if you consider a museum to be an art centre).
It all happened when we drove to Parras (Coahuila) to enjoy the great wines produced there. Know more about Mexican wines. Despite being surrounded by desert (the kind of desert with sand dunes), Parras is located in a small fertile valley. It is also considered a Magical Town and deserves a visit if you like landscapes, wine and the peace of mind sense that only small towns can offer.
After a nice tour in Casa Madero, the largest winery in the region and one of the most famous in Mexico, we walked around the town centre. It was then when I saw in Google Maps what seemed like a very intriguing museum: Museo de los Monos (literally Dolls Museum).
Museo de los Monos
Its name in Spanish (Museo de los Monos) is misleading. You could be forgiven for expecting an interesting collection of local and far-flung dolls. Far from true though. None of them was available. Monos are actually life-size dolls dressed with human daily-life cloths with horrendous faces, masks and weird hairdos. And then it struck me. They were scarecrows; a collection of
ugly scarecrows. Hence the best translation for this place is Museum of Scarecrows.
The site itself is a courtyard. Do not expect marble floors or a museographic script. You will see a layman effort to share his passion. In one of the avocado-green walls, there is a very naïve text explaining the origins and purpose of this museum. Its owner, José Cruz Hernández Reyes, has been making these “dolls” since 1987. His father used them as scarecrows in their family ranch El Romeral. He is now a celebrity on his own having appeared in different media outlets in of Mexico and the US.
Some of this scarecrows are dressed after local people: the policeman, the newspaper boy, the mechanic, the cable guy, etc. Some others are a homage to celebrities or historical characters: from Gene Simmons (Kiss) to Francisco I. Madero (Mexican President in the early 20th century born in Parras) or Barack Obama. All of them have a “technical card” explaining what are they supposed to be, their fabrication date and the name of their donor (if any).
Against all odds, these scarecrows are not for sale -in case you were wondering how to acquire one of these beauties. Entry to the museum is free of charge (donations are accepted and encouraged).
What else to do and see in Parras?
Besides visiting Casa Madero vineyard and Museo de los Monos, try climbing all steps to Santo Madero chapel. It will offer you a great view of the city. Spend some time and swim at Estanque de la Luz. It is a beautiful and oversized swimming pool in the outskirts of town. If you like golf try Rincón de los Monteros 9-holes golf course. However, the best thing to do in this sleepy town is chill out, enjoy life, reduce your worries to nil-level and feel in a good old-Mexico town.
Where is Museo de los Monos and Parras?
Parras is located in Coahuila, about 220km from Monterrey and 160 from Torreon (the closest international airports). It is a nice stop if you are doing a road trip from Monterrey to Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.
The museum is about 4 blocks away from the main square in town. Besides the Rincon de los Monteros country hotel, there is also a small and stylish hotel around the main square: Hostal El Farol. El Mesón de don Evaristo is a very good restaurant to try Mexican food.