Monumental House of Emilio "El Indio" Fernandez – Mexico City, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Monumental House of Emilio "El Indio" Fernandez

Resembling a 15th century medieval fortress, this home once belonged to a legend of Mexican cinema.  

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Emilio Fernández, also known as “El Indio” (The Indian) continues to be known as one of the most important figures hailing from the “Golden Age” of Mexican Cinema. An era defined by black and white movies made between the 1930s and 1960s. Fernández acted in nearly 90 movies and directed or wrote around 40 throughout his illustrious career, most dating to this era. 

At the height of his fame, Fernández commissioned architect Manuel Parra to design this house in the Mexico City borough of Coyoacán. He settled on a massive building that consisted of features resembling a medieval European castle, complete with turrets and parapets. However, there were also distinct Pre-Columbian techniques utilized on the walls with the implementation of volcanic rocks like pumice and tezontle.

The “monumental house” represents Mexican architectural syncretism as much as its owner did cultural syncretism. While the term “indio” has fallen out of favor in modern Mexico to refer to people of indigenous ancestry, in Fernández’s time it was commonplace and he took pride in it as a remembrance of his own Kickapoo background.

Construction on the house began in 1945 and incorporated furnishings rescued from historical, abandoned haciendas. Fernández’s desire to recreate the architecture seen throughout the haciendas of his youth in the northern state of Coahuila, down in urban Mexico City, was the driving force behind this architectural wonder. 

Fernández would spend most of his life living in the house, which was constantly modified and expanded until his death in 1986. Architect Parra was interred in the garden, forever tied to his work, after his death in 1997. Following both of their passings, the building was adapted into a museum celebrating El Indio’s life, as well as Mexican cinema. Appropriately, the house has been used as a location for both Mexican and international productions.

Know Before You Go

The house can only be visited by booking a guided tour (+52 55 1924 7477). Dates open sporadically throughout the year, but the Día de Muertos holiday is a good time to visit.