Updated: Aug 12
If you have been diving or snorkelling in Isla Mujeres since 2010, there is a good chance you have seen a massive group of statues submerged at 9 mt/ 30 ft. But do you know the story? It is an amazing one.
The name "Silent Evolution" comes from the effect that marine life causes by quietly colonizing these sculptures and, over time, modifying their aspect of them.
The entire Silent Evolution occupies an area of over 420 square meters of a previously barren seabed in what is now known as MUSA.
It consists of 45 modules, with ten characters on each module.
Ninety real-life models were used from the fishing village where deCaires Taylor lived; from these 90 people, 477 statues were made.
Five modules are separate from the others because they were submerged on a previous date.
Each module is anchored to the marine floor with very resistant spikes and is built of pH-neutral marine cement that provides a stable and permanent platform to encourage coral growth.
Each model was first cast in Alginate to create each statue like the dentist used to make teeth impressions. This medium makes incredibly clear details of the models, down to fine facial lines. Then this is cast in Jeno immediately afterwards. It is after this stage that the artist dresses the models. The final layer is making a mould of silicon that can be used to make the final statue.
Watch the above video and see if you can spot the statues mentioned further below.
The installation was placed on a shoal of sand and stones that was previously barren of marine life and not of any interest to underwater visitors.
The statues were positioned in the shape of an eye. The direction of the eye is essential as it faces the pathway of hurricanes, and it substantially reduces the hurricane's energy. The sculptures were also placed downstream from the Manchones natural Reef so that after coral spawning, they could intercept the larvae flow. Not only does the Manchones reef provide a source of coral larvae, but it also shelters the sculptures from tropical storms (and hurricanes).
The timing of the placement of the statues was also crucial as it was planned to coincide with the coral spawning and thus give the optimum substrate for new coral placement on the new statues.
The first marine life to appear on the statues is a fuzzy layer of turf algae or stinging hydroids. Grazing fish and sea urchins then nibble this down, followed by patches of orange and pink coralline algae. Eventually, the features are lost beneath layers of encrusting coral and sprouting tufts of fleshy algae. Now the reef is home to more than 2000 juvenile corals.
Today the museum forms a complex reef structure for marine life to colonize, inhabit and increase biomass on a grand scale.
Each statue was made to resemble members of a local fishing community where Jason deCaires Taylor lived. Each statue has its personality and features. DeCaires Taylor made sure every detail, from the hair to the clothes of the statues, had to be perfect. The statues are aimed at conserving the reef. Some statues include a little girl with a faint smile looking up to the surface. All the "Silent Evolution" statues show how some humans see their surroundings and embrace them while others hide their faces.
There are many interesting statues to see. There is a statue of a singer from Merida named Juanita that is interactive with the divers. They can place their regulators in a space on the statue's back, and bubbles flow out her mouth.
On the cleaner, you can still faintly see the "space invader" placed there by a French urban street artist of the same name, who collaborated with Jason deCaire Taylor.
The statue of the little girl was a young child named Valeria Ramirez. She kept utterly still for the 50-minute process while clutching her small bag and maintaining a slight smile.
There is a statue of a man with his hands over his head. This was modelled by Paz, who needed to keep his hands in that position for an hour.
My favourite story was told to me by Roberto Diaz during a visit to his MUSA headquarters in Cancun. It involved the statue of the nun and the statue of the pregnant lady.
The nun was actually the Spanish Teacher of Jason deCaire Taylor. As with all his statues, she was dressed after her initial casting, and he clothed her as a nun. In real life, she was not in a religious order.
The woman who was pregnant was called Lily. Lily gave birth to her child, whom she also named Lily, in the same month Rosario passed away. These statues are placed together. It is beautiful respect for the two people and an acknowledgment of the cycle of life.
Another statue with an interesting story is the statue of Amandeep Banghu, who, as a reporter with the BBC news, visited Cancun in 2009 to cover the story of swine flu. For those of us around here at the time, it was a shock to the whole area when tourism disappeared entirely for over two weeks. Little did we know what it would be like in 2020 with COVID. Swine flu emptied hotels, and Isla Mujeres became a ghost town. It devasted the economy and almost completely closed down the hotel zone in Cancun.
Amandeep came to Mexico expecting to find a plague and wanted to know, "Where are they hiding all the dead people". There was just nothing to see. So Roberto Diaz suggested that she change the story and cover the - still in progress- making of the sculpture park, as it was known by then.
She eagerly agreed to cover the story but desired to be cast as one of the statues. Jason agreed but explained that the casting was done naked, and she would need to be without clothes during the process. Being the professional reporter she was, she had Jason wired with a microphone during the casting, which he forgot to remove afterwards. Luckily nothing too inappropriate was said by him (that I know of).
Jason also used Victoria's Secret models. Unfortunately, the first round of models for casting had too much of their own silicone already implanted. This top-heavy arrangement proved too challenging to keep still during the casting, and he could not continue. New models were found with a more natural solution, and these can be found in the MUSA.
Thank you to Roberto Diaz and his team for taking the time to tell me the amazing stories of MUSA, the history, and the struggles that gave birth to this incredible concept. The headquarters of MUSA is in Cancun, and it is well worth a visit to see the copies of the statues of MUSA and the new statues ready to be placed under the ocean.
9 meters / 30 feet
Entry Level, Beginners, and all levels of certified divers
Average Visibility Underwater
20-30 mt / 66-99 feet
Average Water Temp
28 C°/ 82F°
45 minutes (Parque National Rules)
M.U.S.A. Museo Subacuático de Arte. (2022, April 25). Underwater Sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor. https://www.underwatersculpture.com/projects/musa-mexico/
Taylor, J., McCormick, C., & Scales, H. (2014). The Underwater Museum: The Submerged Sculptures of Jason deCaires Taylor (Illustrated ed.). Chronicle Books.
MUSA, Museo Subacuático de Arte “El Arte de la Conservación.” (2016). Grupo Regio.