Saturday, October 6, 2012

El Charco del Ingenio

 

One of the great things about living in San Miguel de Allende is the close proximity to the botanical gardens, El Charco del Ingenio. In combination with El Parque Landeta, Landeta park which abuts the gardens there are 180 acres available for public exploration.

 

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Dry Scrubland

 

The building of El Charco del Ingenio began in 1989 and opening celebrations were held on July 11 1991, during the total eclipse of the sun. Over the years scientists have encouraged a functioning ecosystem to evolve here in three separate areas. The canyon, the dry scrubland and the wetlands, all of which continue to grow and flourish. There is also a beautiful greenhouse for the more delicate denizens of the garden. In 2004 El Charco del Ingenio was named a “Peace Zone” by the Dalai Lama during his visit to the country, and in 2005 the lands around the garden were declared an Ecological Preservation Zone by the San Miguel City Council, in order to preserve and protect the growing ecosystems.

 

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Cruz de Animas

 

During the July 11 1991 inauguration of the gardens there was a “moving ceremony in which representatives of local indigenous communities witnessed the opening of the gardens and raised a traditional cross, Cruz de Animas, sanctifying the area and committing the communities of San Miguel to the stewardship of it’s natural resources. Every year since then the festival of La Santa Cruz del Charco del Ingenio has been celebrated on the site, affirming the important collaboration of people from both the rural and urban areas of the municipality”.

 

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In The Greenhouse

The gardens are also equipped to educate the public and many school curriculums include regular trips to El Charco del Ingenio. Other activities such as lectures, courses and celebrations, as well as ceremonies for the solstices, equinoxes and full moon, also take place here and are open to the public. Today the gardens boast 156 species of resident and migratory birds, 32 species of mammals, 18 species of reptiles and amphibians and 11 species of dragonflies as well as 535 species belonging to 85 plant families.

Among the many varieties of plants that grow naturally in this area there are also some, including the barrel cactus, which have been retrieved from other areas around Guanajuato and rescued from near extinction by their move to the gardens. Several animal species that came from less hospitable areas have also emigrated here and there are migratory birds that are so happy with this new environment that they have been returning each season for several years.

 

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Barrel Cactus, Alive And Well

 

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There is much to be learned from an historical standpoint here as well. Remnants of pre-Columbian stone tools and ceramic pottery have been found in caves in the canyon as well as more recent Spanish-era structures. One of San Miguel’s oldest maps, dated 1580, shows the original dam, which may pre-date the colonies, and the first watermill built after the Conquest, the ruins of which can still be seen from the top of the canyon. It is said that in the late 17th century a Spanish Viceroy authorized the building of an “herida de agua para ingenio de la misma”, to divert the water for industrial use, and it is likely that the origin of the name of the main pool, or charco, is derived  from this phrase. Although I’m not sure if this is actually documented.

Later maps of the eighteenth century show complex hydraulic equipment, a mill and an aqueduct. These ruins, which can be seen peeking from the verdant vegetation in the canyon, are present day reminders of the skill of the colonials in building and water management. There are also remains of the Sauto family property, hacienda Las Colonias, an iron aqueduct and a, still functioning, dam from the 1902.

Another aspect of the botanical gardens is the mysticism associated with the canyon,  and the waters of the pool, Ingenio del Charco, which are said to be bottomless. Legend tells of “ El Chan ”, a mysterious underworld being who lives in the waters and is said to appear occasionally to taunt wanderers who dare to approach the pool.

 

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Photo of El Charco from the Botanical Gardens website

 

If you come to the full moon celebration you may see the headless horseman, none other than the ghost of Don Baltazar Sauto, the cruel mill owner, who comes down from the pool to ride the paths of the gardens until dawn during the full moon. We also hear the story of the bandit Chuchuy, who disappeared into the canyon caves, while being  chased by soldiers. To this day the rumour persists of a long tunnel that ends in an unknown house in the center of the city

But whether for mystical or historical curiosity, to celebrate the solstice, or simply for a hike in the country it is well worth the trip to El Charco del Ingenio.

12 comments:

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  2. Goodness, what an interesting place. I will definitely visit there the next time I am in the area. Thanks for sharing this, Shannon.

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    1. You're welcome Marc. It really is a beautiful place. You could spend days walking around in there.

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  3. I love being to look out my windows at any time and see the canyon, the waterfalls during the rainy season and of course the birds that spend lots of time swooping in the air thermals. A very peaceful place.

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    1. It's one of my favorite places Barbara. I really look forward to the day when I can hike around it again.

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  4. Very interesting post and place.

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    1. Thanks Brenda, it really is a special place.

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  5. It is one place I always visit in San Miguel de Allende. I could spend days there walking the trails.

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  6. I could as well and I hope I will be able to do so again soon! You could go there every day of the week and see something different each time.

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  7. Wonderful post! Tanks for sharing. Someday we will be there to experience for ourselves the wonders of that area.

    And, happy thanks giving to all Canadians in Mexico!

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    1. Thanks Peter,I hope you do visit. I'm sure you will enjoy it. It's really quite magical here.

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    2. Oh, and happy thanks giving to you as well!

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