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San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato,- Be sure to visit the oldest tree in this part of Mexico and on the trip enjoy seeing a unique version of Guadalupe, where our baskets come from, the first volcano in the Americas and learning where your soul will go upon death!

About eight miles south of town, beyond the dam and along the banks of the Rio Laja, is the village of La Huerta (Orchard).  Reached via an abandoned railroad track with a quarter-mile long, 15-foot wide tunnel dug in 1903.  The ceiling towers above you to allow the steam from the then steam engines to escape.

The dirt road to La Huerta passes mules hauling the abundant bamboo for construction projects or reeds for baskets that grow alongside the river.  You’ll find the baskets for sale here in town and in nearby Comonfort though they are trucked farther afield also.  Once picked the reeds are placed in a local cave to make the fiber flexible and Gumby-esque to be used in chairs and baskets.  Left to dry in the sun the plant becomes rigid and snaps easily.

Pull over when passing the huge rock cliff on your left and you’ll find the clearly labeled water stain in the shape of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  She’ll be above your head and properly decorated and candle lit befitting her status of the mother of Mexico.

At the only point you can, cross the river via a bridge and follow the signs to the tree, eventually parking in front of an old chapel.

Alongside this old chapel is path lined with livestock, dogs and fowl of all types leading to the oldest tree in the area, at around 500 years old.  The tree is called Sabino, indigenous for “old man of the water” that grew nicely in this spot by a spring as a Bald Cypress tends to.  If you don’t trip over the complex root system it takes about 20 people to circle the national tree of Mexico’s base.

At the base you’ll find the covered up spring that keeps the tree alive and still spews forth water you can wash your hands in, or collect to take home.  Be careful as the spring water is quite cold year-round.  The spring got covered up as folks had a tendency to go down to explore and not always make it back above ground alive.

Oliver the pig

Legend states Otomi brought the tree here as a sapling from a large, holy Bald Cypress in Oaxaca around 1530.  It was planted to give peace with conquering conquistadors.

Surrounding the tree is volcanic rock from the nearby volcano named Palo Huérfano (orphan).  Palo Huérfano was the first volcano in the Americas to explode once the continents broke away from being one large island called Pangea.  Volcanic rock looks like pumice but is much heavier.

After your visit you can go right on the main dirt road, cross the railroad tracks and you’ll see the back stone wall to the large winery/housing complex that leads you back to the highway and San Miguel de Allende via the town of Los Remedios (Mary of Good Help).  Mary of Good Help was a Barbie-sized image of Mary that appeared in an early battle the Spanish won.  She became the mascot for the Spanish side of the Revolution for Independence, as the Mexicans had Guadalupe.  Note that despite the town being called Los Remedios, she is placed on the back side of the sign welcoming folks to town while Guadalupe has the more prestigious, forward facing image just off the highway.

Volcanic rock

To your right you can catch a glimpse of the long dormant volcano Palo Huérfano that supplied the rocks around the tree.  It is the farthest north volcano in Mesoamerica and for not having erupted in over twelve thousand years the once great titan is considered now to be extinct.

As you come back into San Miguel de Allende you’ll cross the mountain that marks the geographic center of the Americas and the edge of two eco-systems, with the Comonfort side getting more rain and, thus, supplying more agriculture.  The indigenous considered the mountaintop you cross over to be where our souls go to enter the afterlife.

Remember that if you find yourself drifting off towards some other direction than Heaven!


by Joseph Toone

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