I am a dam guy. No, not the expletive but, rather, huge walls built to retain water on one side versus the other. We here in San Miguel de Allende are blessed to have the state’s oldest functioning dam in the nearby village of Banda I tour regularly. This weekend though I was introduced to what is likely an equally old dam, but way more architecturally and aesthetically impressive than the nearby Allende dam built in 1967.
With the recent rains, all our San Miguel de Allende dams feature lovely waterfalls.
Located alongside the village of San Marcos de Begona is the damn called either Munga or Perfil varying according to the source material. Residents of the village prefer Perfil.
The dam’s curtain features nearly a dozen arches made of black stone, each about 25 feet high and 10 feet wide. On my visit only one waterfall was present but a quick internet search turns up images with many more.
Several upright stones are featured near the top giving the appearance of a nativity set. Pals viewing crèche figures want to rename the dam Nativity Falls which has a nice ring to it despite being a great name for a holiday-based horror movie.
The dam is not easy to find. Though the lake formed by the dam is easy to spot on google maps it is literally near nothing. Residents of San Marcos de Begona insisted it was best to access by the village on the other side, Pantoja, where our town’s construction bricks are made from lake clay, straw and dung then baked. Pantoja natives insisted San Marcos de Begona was the more natural access point.
Another option is hiking from the Friar’s Bridge that runs alongside the highway before you cross the mountains into Comonfort. The Friar’s Bridge is named for the two friars killed there by the indigenous Chichimecas back when San Miguel was the first city in the Americas recognized by the King of Spain. In today’s history, the friars being killed there are where the nearby neighborhood of Los Frailes got its name.
We lucked out and finally found how to reach the dam with relative ease assuming you’ve an all-terrain vehicle and a strong tummy for both bumps and heights.
With only one waterfall it was easy to cross the dam to enjoy bucolic views of the mountains, the village of The Goats (featuring great cave art), fields abloom with wildflowers and the nearby, larger lake. As the dam overflows into the ravine it leads the water to the nearby lake all San Miguel de Allende residents and visitors are familiar with.
I’m not sure where the dam’s black stone originated as the nearby quarries feature the pink limestone we are so familiar with on the Parroquia’s façade. Still, I’m wildly impressed on what a feat of engineering the dam was and is.
Civil Protection promises the runoff from the dam presents no risk to San Miguel de Allende residents as the water naturally flows right into the adjacent larger lake formed by the more recent dam. The waterfalls are a natural occurrence every year.
As with other ancient dams in the area any documentation or oral history on their creation are long gone. Judging by the architecture I’d make the educated guess it was an immense project to irrigate a hacienda likely used for livestock back in the mid-18th century. Today the surrounding countryside is still used to feed goats, horses and what my dog assumed were other dogs with really curly hair that barked funny (aka sheep).
by Joseph Toone
- TripAdvisor’s top tour guide with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
- Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets books.
- Author of the Maria Dolls coloring book helping indigenous doll makers.
- Creator of San Miguel de Allende Secrets YouTube channel with over 100 videos and 1,500 views monthly.