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Preserved Socialist Leaders Pt. 1:
Leon Trotsky

Mexico City, Leon Trotsky's house

I spent five months in Mexico on Zorro, with one day off a week. Studio shooting was at Cherbusco, so at least part of the shoot was spent in Mexico City. This is his study window, the hastily built pill box above.


Three blocks from where Frieda Kahlo lived with Diego Rivera is the Leon Trotsky house. They knew each other very well and we can only speculate as to the range of subjects that they all might have discussed over the dinner table. It is said that the grave of Trotsky, conveniently placed in his own garden where he tried to gain some peace at the end of his eventful life is the only shrine to Trotsky in the world. Certainly there is nothing in the ex-USSR as he didn't officially exist in any history books even up to 1988.

Ousted from power in the Politburo three years after Lenin's death and fearfully opposed to Stalin's "hijacking" of the socialist ideal and autocratic ambition in the new Soviet, Trotsky was eventually exiled in 1929, eventually ending up in Mexico City in 1937 where he continued his anti-Stalinist writings with the assistance of his wife Natalie and a couple of secretaries. The small summer house and walled courtyard was originally sited in clear countryside on the banks of the Churubusco river, but the suburbs have encroached over the years and it is now next to a busy 4-lane highway in a middle to good class neighbourhood in the South of the City.


Mexico City, Leon Trotsky's house'

The bricked up main gate. I was using a Canon 'Dial' half frame to take the pictures, which explains the poor quality.


The first thing one notices is the hastily and slightly clumsily bricked up doors and windows, the 10 foot walls to the garden raised eight feet all around and the inclusion of pill boxes with rifle slits overlooking the courtyard and immediate surroundings.

The Mexican Government of the day lent him four soldiers and an officer to guard over their exulted visitor. He had a bunker, an "inner sanctum" built for him within the walls of the house, complete with bathroom, bedroom, study and 3" thick steel doors so he could sleep peacefully. His son was shot in Mexico in 1937 by Stalinist supporters and an attempt on his own life was attempted the next year, where Mr and Mrs Trotsky utilised the ever popular "hiding under the bed" technique. You can still see the bullet holes.


Mexico City, Leon Trotsky's house'

His grave, right in the middle of the courtyard. A quick look on the web showed a much better kept grave today.


Trotsky was eventually assassinated in 1940 by a man who inveigled his way into the house, got the old man's trust and then struck him with the blunt edge of an ice pick as he asked him to look over an article he had wrote. You can see the room where it was done - even the broken glasses he was wearing.

The museum is remarkable because it is completely original. His other son kept it as it was and his grandson after that. Clothes are still in wardrobes, contemporary newspapers laid out on the desk. In the garden is his tomb with a simple hammer and sickle symbol on the plain stone, topped with a red flags and set about with Maguey and other indigenous Mexican plants. No guidebook in English, but well worth the visit.

Contemporaneous report, Monday 28th April 1997


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