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Casa Chavela

This was the last residence where Chavela Vargas lived from 2007 until her death in August 2012. Previously known as “Quinta Monina” (Emma Teresa Ortiz) - that's what Chavela's landlady and friend was called - it was owned by the family. Escobedo Ortiz since 1972, which they built and transformed as the family grew.


Over time they came to rent some guesthouses of the property, including “la Tucita” (María Eugenia Llamas), a Mexican actress who acted alongside Pedro Infante, came to live in the space and was Chavela's neighbor.


In 2020, “Quinta Monina” passed into the hands of the Romero family and its restoration began in order to rescue the original elements of the space, taking advantage of local materials from the area and above all, not losing the essence that captured Chavela, this the beautiful landscape that surrounds us remained intact, the vegetation that was more than 80 years old was the priority to preserve.

Glass Room at Casa Chavela before restoration

Who is Chavela Vargas?

Chavela, María Isabel Anita Carmen de Jesús Vargas Lizano, was born on April 17, 1919 in San Joaquín de Flores, province of Heredia in Costa Rica. Yes, Chavela Vargas was not Mexican, but she always said: “Mexicans are born wherever we want” and few people know this to date, but it was in Mexico where she was able to dedicate herself, over the years, to that which she loved and dreamed of most, music. She came to Mexico at the age of 17 to be able to “sing like Mexicans sing.”

Her parents were Herminia Lizano and Francisco Vargas. She had three brothers Rodrigo, Álvaro, Ofelia and a fourth who died as a child. But her family was anything but that, and once her parents divorced everything fragmented even more and although at first Chavela and her sister went with her mother to San José, she soon ended up on his uncles' coffee farm. , where her character began to be forged. There she picked coffee, oranges, herded cattle and had everything but peace or happiness. They called her “The Girl with the Snakes” and it was here where she learned to use the gun to kill them, and since then she always carried one, something that was very characteristic of her and some of her anecdotes. Her childhood was not easy, she always knew she was different and people treated her badly because of that sexual difference which they described as rarity. She was not a conventional girl who liked to play with dolls or even with girls, she preferred to play with other things like guns or with stones. “No one hugs me, no one even touches me. As if they were terrified. Nobody looks at me, not even a frank look. That's my childhood. The Void” Being a lesbian was not easy and even less so during her childhood, she was “expelled” from the church for being one and her father was ashamed of her as a daughter. Much later, her own niece came to call her a “shitty lesbian”… Today Chavela Vargas is a reference and an icon of sexual dissidence, precisely because of the conviction with which she always defended her way of being


.She was born that way, that's how she felt, that's how she love

Chavela Vargas as a youngster


Chavela arrived in Mexico at the age of 17. She had sold a chicken and a calf to raise money for the flight, wanting to sing and that desire alone was enough for her, although it was not easy for her to pursue this dream. They even told her (Tata Nacho, Ignacio Fernández Esperón - composer of Mexican popular music): “you sing so ugly, that you shouldn't even think about singing anywhere” and even so, she never gave up. She arrived with her cousin Clara to Mexico, shortly after the "Palacio de Bellas Artes" was inaugurated (September 29, 1934) and it is interesting to mention it because a long time later she sang there for a very different audience than the one she had in the cantinas and "pachangas” during the beginning. Chavela became a reference in Mexican music and sang in one of the most important cultural venues in the city. Chavela made a living in a thousand ways upon arriving, among them with a cheap cooking business, a small children's clothing store, she was a driver for a rich family, but until then, she did nothing in relation to music.

Chavela Vargas and her guitar

The declive

“I alone have gone down to hell and I alone must find the ladder to get out of it” So much partying and tequila ended up breaking Chavela down, it was in Spain, on José María Iñigo's program, that in her overwhelmed state she sang La Llorona. She couldn't handle her shame and decided to leave the stage. About fifteen years later, Chavela disappeared in such a way that she was even considered dead. At a concert that Mercedes Sosa gave in Mexico, she said she wanted to bring flowers to the cemetery. “I disappeared from the stages and from everywhere. But before this, I disappeared from myself, that was the greatest pain. I couldn't find myself, I wasn't anywhere..."


“The magic of the place is so much and so subtle that it expels people who are not liked by the gods” What brought Chavela to Tepoztlán? It was the end of 1970 and Chavela was in a barely sustainable economy, alcohol had stripped her of past successes and the material things she had gained throughout those years, although in reality it was not something that mattered to her even at her best moments, she never clung to the material. During this period she immersed herself in the depths of Ahuatepec, located near Tepoztlán, where she forged great friendships with the residents and where she spent many years “disappeared”, sometimes very drunk. Tepoztlán was her “hell and her heaven” because the mysticism from that place captured her, for her it was a magical place with nights full of stars where the power and magic of the Tepozteco were fundamental for her “healing.” She told this anecdote from Tepozteco: “They say that some hippies went there and made beads and necklaces. The neighbors didn't like these people, but there were those who said. - No leave them; the gods will reject them- That's how it was: after a few weeks they had vomit and diarrhea, and little by little everyone left the place. “The Tepozteco does that”

Chavela Vargas in front of the Tepoztlán cathedral - Casa Chavela

Despite all that this time of bitterness, absolute disaster and total loss meant, she took in the energy of the Tepozteco. At this time she played the guitar in the cantina called “El Alacrán”, she even sang together with Lola Beltrán in the convent of Tepoztlán during mass, but when she began to drink she did not sing “neither here nor there”. In Tepoztlán she felt very loved by the support given by the characters she met throughout these years, generating great friendships that inspired her new songs such “MaríaTepozteca.


Anecdote: She was friends with a certain Diana (Diana Ortega), she even came to live with her some time later and on one of Chavela's birthdays they got on a cart with red roses and went to bed, they took a very fun ride around the park, singing, laughing and drinking. They ended up at Diana's house and Chavela couldn't sleep because "she was very drunk" and it was very hot, she went out and Diana was naked bathing under the moon, as Chavela tells it, "that moment should have been a song." Diana was one of her platonic loves. In Tepoztlán she also met Paco Ignacio Taibo - the writer - he had gone to live with his wife and children, they were neighbors and became good friends. He knew her very well during this difficult time. He told Chavela that his only business was to “passionately search for love, adventure, loves…” This friendship inspired Paco, so that “Chavelian” characters would appear in his novels, as he told Chavela herself.

The shaman resurfaces

The years in Tepoztlán were learning, a very difficult time for her, however, one day overnight she decided to stop drinking and smoking. Marta, who took care of her for so long, did not believe it, but it was true, Chavela stopped drinking to be reborn and return to the stage in her seventies. Her return even happened in the cinema, with director Werner Herzog in the film The Stone Scream. But even more important, for her, was when Jesusa Rodríguez and Liliana Felipe invited her to sing at their cabaret El Habito every Friday. After so many years Chavela Vargas returned, without a drink on her, with her audience. Now more than ever, concerts meant a ceremony for her, the rite that would force the spectators to tear out their chests and delve into their deepest being. Returning to the stage brought many things, among them the visit of Manuel Arroyo, a Spanish fan of her music. But not only that, he offered her to go to Spain, where he promised her that she would be a success again. And so it was, it was in Spain where, despite having decided to disappear from the stage due to her performance on José María Iñigo's program, she returned with an audience that seemed to have forgotten that, and on the contrary, seemed to be waiting anxiously for her. It was in Sala Caracol where Chavela reappeared to fill the place, not one more person could fit. Among the audience was another fan, it was Pedro Almodóvar, whom Chavela could not identify, but the admiration that Pedro had for her music was such that he asked her to be his presenter. Since then, they became great friends, soul lovers in some way, Chavela had discovered her “only love on earth.” Pedro presented Chavela in Paris at the Olimpya, in Argentina, at Bellas Artes.

Quinta Monina

She spent her last years here, Chavela arrived at the beginning of 2007, living a little more than 5 years in this space, before this she lived in the house of the actress Blanca Sánchez, in Ahuatepec. Beatriz, a friend of Chavela, was the one who introduced her to Monina, who in addition to becoming her landlady was a great friend, so much so that she allowed her to transform the space according to her wishes and thus this glass house emerged, where the hill of the treasure embraced her, her beloved Chalchitépetl and where remains of the singer remain.

El Chalchi

“El Chalchi, the hill of the jewel, I speak with it, it is my dialogue with the earth” For Chavela, Mexico and its ancient history was always important, she greatly valued the ancient beliefs, because in them she saw the truth, of which she always spoke and said to search, but above all the knowledge that one could have about nature from these beliefs. Therefore, places like Tepoztlán and Zempoala were of great value. “In Tepoztlán, in Zempoala or in Teotihuacán I can feel that the gods are down there, I perceive that powerful force in my hands. “

Chavela Vargas with the Cerro del Tesoro in the background - Casa Chavela

Chavela Vargas and Pedro Almodóvar at Casa Chavela


The house was acquired by the Escobedo family in 1972, the land had some foundations for part of the house and the pool but not much else, its construction began in 1978 by the master “Chicho”, within the property there were 3 more houses, the main house was divided into two, Monina lived on one side and Chavela lived on the other.

Casa Chavela the origin

The house was remodeled respecting the essence it had, all the materials are local and 2 rooms were added to the main house following the design of the existing ones. The construction materials are of the same type as the originals, some skylights were added especially to illuminate all the spaces naturally, in addition to enlarging the doors and windows. This, because since Chavela arrived at the villa it occurred to her that she wanted a glass house, and she ordered the Terrace to be closed with ironwork and glass windows. Monina and Mario Ávila helped her in her wish.

Chavela Vargas in her garden with Cerro del Tesoro in the background

Part of the decoration that you can see is woven by artisans, the material is ocoxal, the final product of a project we have with artisans from Santo Domingo Ocotitlán, a town in Tepoztlán. In 2019, a group of women was trained to work the ocote leaf, with the aim of creating sources of employment in the region and promoting the protection of the forest. On the left side we have the original rooms, remodeled, but maintaining the essence of the place, the bridal room was Chavela's room and the bathroom has a beautiful bathtub in the style of that time, in the background we have another room, this was Chavela's kitchen and many of their interviews were here, the chair is a replica of the one Chavela used as well as the jorongo they saw at the entrance.

Restored Chavela House
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