In the heart of the central highlands of Mexico, El Charco del Ingenio Botanical Garden includes over 170 acres of nature preserve in the historical town of San Miguel de Allende. An extraordinary natural monument, its name comes from a legendary spring-fed pool nestled in an impressive canyon spotted byhistoric vestiges. An old reservoir extends on wetlands frequented by birds and surrounded by vast slopes of native scrubland. This is the scene of the Botanical Garden, devoted to the preservation of this area and its biodiversity, as well as a remarkable botanical collection of cacti and other succulent Mexican plants. The Garden holds environmental education programs aimed to the youngest, and a wide range of activities along the year reflecting the multicultural character of San Miguel. A unique place for strolling, jogging, hiking, meditating or simply enjoying a peaceful time in Nature, El Charco also has a giftshop and a cafeteria.
It was a local initiative born in 1990 which resolved to rescue and protect a unique area of great environmental, scenic and historical value, open to all as a community resource. An independent Mexican nonprofit, El Charco del Ingenio AC, owns and manages this land and its facilities, committed to preserve an outstanding natural and cultural heritage of San Miguel de Allende.
The non-profit has received several awards and recognitions through the years. It is a member of the Mexican Association of Botanical Gardens and Botanic Garden Conservation International. It has joined the GlobaI Strategy for Botanical Gardens in Conservation, sponsored by the U.N. El Charco is registered at the Federal Environmental Agency (SEMARNAT) as a Conservation Management Unit (UMA).
THE BIRTH OF A GARDEN
The task of establishing a botanical garden and nature conservation area in San Miguel de Allende was started in 1989 by Cante A.C., a Mexican nonprofit organization with diverse ecological and cultural interests, founded by Federico Gama and César Arias. The impressive canyon of El Charco del Ingenio, both close yet isolated from the town, appeared as the ideal place for the proposed project – an area of great natural beauty, of ecological, scenic and historical value, in danger of being swallowed up by the irrepressible urban sprawl of the city.
Thanks to timely economic assistance, Cante was able to acquire various parcels of land amounting to about 30 hectares above the cliffs and escarpments of the canyon. Despite its rural nature, much of the land had been seriously affected by human activity – tree felling, removal of soil, hunting, overgrazing, fire, and accumulation of litter … and all this resulted in serious disturbance to local flora and fauna, especially in the upper parts of the canyon, exposed to erosion and the effects of an increasingly arid and extreme climate.
The original project took shape through a master plan of landscape design, carried out by the architects Alejandro Cabeza and Enrique Pliego. The plan visualized an extensive botanical garden surrounded by a conservation zone – a place dedicated to the study, appreciation and enjoyment of nature, open to the local population. The area’s undoubted tourism potential was likewise proposed as a sustainable option.
The initiative to create a botanical garden in San Miguel de Allende was supported from the outset by the Mexican Environment Agency which authorized the necessary registration and permits to collect plants in the arid and semiarid regions of Mexico. This was done in conjunction with the Botanical Garden of the National University of Mexico (UNAM). With these first few specimens, the garden began to build its collection of plants.