In the 1940s, the Danish-born archaeologist Frans Blom and Swiss-born photographer and anthropologist Gertrude “Trudi” Blum met in the jungle of Chiapas, Mexico, thanks to their mutual interest in the Lacandón Maya peoples of the region.
After their marriage, the Bloms settled in the state’s cultural capital of San Cristóbal de las Casas, in an 1891 suburban colonial Spanish-style mansion with a massive dining room, chapel, and lots of fireplaces. There, in 1950, they set up a community-focused NGO called Na Bolom. The name is a play on words referencing the couple’s last name and the Chiapas Mayan word for jaguar, “bolom.”
Following Frans’s death in 1963, Trudi continued to manage the NGO and live in the house, where she hosted many of the city’s artistic, cultural, and scientific luminaries in fundraisers intended to support the Lacandón traditional culture and way of life. As part of its more local efforts, Na Bolom also turned the house’s grounds into a community garden growing traditional medicinal herbs as well as fruits and vegetables.
Trudi died in 1993, leaving the house to the organization, which turned it into the Casa Na Bolom Museum. Somewhat similar to the Museo Robert Brady in Cuernavaca, the house museum still displays many of the artifacts and bric-a-brac that the Bloms gathered in their lifetimes. Much of the original furniture and decoration still remains in the mansion’s many rooms. The community garden is also still functional and includes a traditionally built Maya hut that gives an idea of the typical living quarters of the most isolated communities of Chiapas.