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 work of clearing and fencing the land was started immediately. With the goal of gradually inducing wild flora and fauna, various tasks of environmental restoration were begun. Among these tasks were the construction of dikes and filtration dams to retain water, humidity and soil, and pruning and improving the condition of the sparse existing vegetation, complemented by limited planting of native species.

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.
 
                                   
  With the infrastructure and minimal equipment in place, such as paths, plazas, lookout points and areas for exhibition and services, the new Botanical Garden of San Miguel de Allende was ready to open its doors to the public. The inauguration took place during the total eclipse of the sun on July 11, 1991. It was a moving ceremony in which representatives of local indigenous communities witnessed the founding of the garden, and raised a traditional cross, cruz de animas, sanctifying the area and committing the communities of San Miguel to the stewardship of its 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 rural and urban areas of the municipality.  
                                   
                                   
  Acquisition of more tracts of land around the original property was made possible by additional economic supports, increasing the area to at total of 67 hectares, which comprise the botanical garden today. Another important expansion of territory took place in 1994, when Cante received 35 hectares adjacent to the Charco del Ingenio in trust from the local government, for the purpose of establishing a popular nature and recreational park, Parque Landeta. Thus the Charco del Ingenio came to cover a total area of 100 hectares including various bodies of water within San Miguel’s zone of urban expansion, free of real-estate development and dedicated to a novel and sustainable program of environmental conservation. Video - Founding of el CHARCO del INGENIO July 1991