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El Charco Del Ingenio Botanical Garden Newsletter

January, 2008 - Volume 3, No. 1

OUR MISSION: To protect and preserve our natural heritage while developing a Botanical Garden dedicated to Mexican flora and providing an oasis of peace and tranquility. Please tell your friends and prospective members/supporters how to access the newsletter and help broaden the base of support for the Botanical Garden.

Full time job opportunity at the Charco, click here

Another year passes

... now in its 16th year, the conservation project, El Charco del Ingenio, strengthens past projects and advances in new directions.  The work of rescuing territory, initiated in 1991 with the acquisition of the first parcels of land next to the canyon and the reservoir (Presa de las Colonias), is still not finished.  While the security of the 67 hectares of the botanical garden are well assured, we cannot say the same for Parque Landeta – municipal land under our custody – nor the rest of the 380 hectares that form the ecological preservation zone declared by the municipality.  The interests and influence of the developers continues to grow and, up until now, it’s been unclear that the municipal authorities are willing to comply with the declaration that protects the ecological zone.  Our organization requires the support of the entire society to make the preservation of this zone a reality. 

aerial view
photo by Ricardo Vidargas

At the same time, El Charco continues to be an important tourist destination and a recreational space for the San Miguel community and has arrived at a point where the income is enough to cover operating and maintenance expenses.  But that’s not the most important challenge of the project.  We are now at a significant and far-reaching stage which gives meaning to all the work done so far: the projection of El Charco del Ingenio as a Center for Environmental Education, dedicated to building a culture that cares about nature as it relates to society. This work may take years but this is where we will direct our energy and resources starting this year – with the support of friends.

The daily workers

The achievements of this past year, which have been significant, are the fruit of the constant, behind the scenes work of our terrific team:  Lorena, Martita, Martin, Carmen, Hermes, Rogelio, Regina, Beto, Félix, Serafín, Toño, Pedro y el Camarón, all under the supervision of Mario Mendoza, enthusiastic Director of the Botanical Garden.  To all of them we owe a very big THANK YOU!

staff charco

Changes to Visitor's Center and the Store

We have started remodeling this important space which will reopen to the public the end of January.  We will have a more functional and better stocked store which will be an important source of income for our conservation project – as is the new juice bar situated next to the Visitor's Center.  It is just a matter of a few weeks before all should be back in order – we thank you for your understanding and patience.


Conservatory of Plants

In view of the fact that we have a growing number of visitors to the permanent display of Mexican plants in the garden, starting this month the Conservatory will be open one hour more. Now you can visit the Conservatory from 9a.m. to 5p.m. every day of the year. 

While you’re there, don’t overlook the beautiful bronze sculptures in the small pools of water.

El Charco donates seeds for cactus propagation project with Irapuato Research Institute and University of Havana, Cuba

After several meetings with representatives of ITESI and the UNAH (Universidad Agraria de La Habana), this joint project has started, based on techniques developed in Cuba to propagate endangered species of cacti, threatened by illegal harvesting. The project – which also includes training - will produce legally propagated plants, available to collectors, aiming to reduce pressure on the plants in the wild. The actual work of propagation will be carried out in Irapuato, and the young plants brought to El Charco for acclimatization. We have already delivered seeds of three endangered cacti (Geohintonia mexicana, Aztekium hintonii and A. ritteri) for initial tests on viability. These three species are some of the most difficult for us to propagate at the Garden, due to their very slow growth and lack of abundant seed. The Cuban techniques will maximize the number of propagated plants from available seed, while speeding up its growing process.  We are applying for partial funding from the British Cactus and Succulent Society to cover the 100,000 pesos cost. Anyone interested in contributing to the financing of this interesting and innovative project, should contact the Botanical Garden.



Geohintonia mexicana and Aztekium hintonii

Martin Smith, curator of plants at the Charco del Ingenio; Dra. Miriam Isidrón, professor at the Universidad Agraria de La Habana; and Mario Mendoza, director, Charco del Ingenio

Visit to El Charco by a top cactologist from the National University (UNAM)

In December the Garden hosted Dr. Salvador Arias, one of Mexico's most recognized cactologists, from the UNAM. This was the first time in over ten years that he had visited the Garden and he was impressed by the work done since then and the range of plants still to be found in the collection. After touring the Garden with our director, Mario Mendoza and curator of plants, Martin Smith, the ways of collaboration between UNAM’s Institute of Biology and El Charco were discussed. Two concrete outcomes were an agreement to provide plant material from the collection for research studies at the UNAM, and collaboration with them to collect examples of Opuntia (Prickly Pears) for El Charco Botanical Garden. After lunch, we headed out to a hill between Guanajuato and Dolores, where one of Dr. Arias' research students collected plants of Echinocereus for his studies. 


foto by Doug Hunt

We are currently formalizing the above mentioned agreements, and look forward to working with Dr. Arias in the New Year.


Learn how to save water and have a beautiful garden at the same time. At the Botanical Gardens, we promote the idea of low and no water use gardens, using native, drought resistant trees, shrubs, cacti and succulents. Not only do these plantings look good all year round, but they are great for the local wildlife too and once established, need little or no further irrigation. With a garden like that, who needs a green lawn?

As part of this promotion, El Charco del Ingenio is holding a talk and demonstration, “Landscaping with cacti and succulents”, to be given by Martin Smith, curator of plants, at 9.30am on Wednesday, 16th of January.  The talk will cover the benefits of this type of gardening, suitable plants to use, design aspects, soils and ground preparation, planting tips and aftercare. The session is programmed to last about one hour, but those who wish to stay longer to chat and learn more, are welcome to do so.

The session will cost 70 pesos for members of the garden and 100 for non-members. Meet at the main entrance to the gardens by 9:20 please. Reserve a space at

foto by K. Livingston


Also starting this month, we have a new "TALK/WALK" series called Nature Up Close consisting of 9 presentations.  This series will combine a slide presentation/talk with a "hands on" component - seeing a peregrine falcon on a ledge in the canyon, for example, before seeing it on the screen in the lecture hall.

The first in the series is on January 24th, The Geology of El Charco. Wayne Colony, a retired geologist living in town, who has been studying the grounds of El Charco for the last several years, has also participated in the latest scientific research about wildlife in the area and will share his beautiful photos and knowledge about the geology of the area. This is a popular presentation and was completely sold out last June so reserve early at

Entrance fee is 70 pesos for El Charco members, 100 pesos for non-members.


photo by Doug Hunt

Ice Skating Rink in El Charco

No, although it looks like it. These are photos of Rosario Otero from a day this past November when an incredible amount of hail descended upon us.



Tuesday, January 22nd at sunset

luna llena


We invite everyone to this open celebration that has been taking place for many years during the full moon cycle at the Four Winds Plaza in the Botanical Garden. It’s worth arriving a little early to admire the setting of the sun and the appearance of the moon over the mountains. We recommend bringing a coat and a musical instrument if you wish. Admission is 30 pesos, free for members.

Saturday, January 19th and
Sunday, January 20th at 10a.m

This relaxing steam bath is a ritual of healing and purification and is available every month for both men and women. Bring bathing suits and towels. It takes place in the ruins of an old hacienda, under the moonlight, across the dam from El Charco’s reception area. The mixture of heat, humidity and scented plants and herbs is a purifying experience for mind and spirit. Its benefits are many: it activates blood circulation, increases natural body defenses, eliminates odors, relaxes muscles, helps keep the nervous system in good shape, stimulates breathing and is excellent for weight loss. 250 pesos, space is limited so please call for reservations or information 154 88 38, 154 4715, cell 01 443 10 3 3019 or in El Charco’s main office.


temazcal exterior

temazcal interior

JOB OPENING at the Charco:

You are excited about the prospect of fund raising for El Charco del Ingenio, the Botanical Garden of San Miguel (
You are 1) bilingual and bicultural, 2) feel comfortable dealing witht nationals and foreigners 3) recognize the challenge of raising money in San Miguel, 4) have the emotional and skill level to successfuly manage short- and long-term fund raising programs 5) consider the environmental contributions of the Charco to be important to the community, 6) enjoy asking others for money to support a great cause, 7) are computer-literate and familiar with contact management or fund raising software 8) want to dedicate your next two years to creating an efficient and effective fund raising system for the Botanical Gardens 9) live full time in San Miguel. There are no gender, age, or nationality requirements.

Your position as Director of Financial Support is full time. Salary and benefits are in line with your qualifications. You report to the Technical Director. Please email your resume and a brief letter addressing each of the 9 requirements to Mario Mendoza García, Technical Director (

You can make a difference

And you can make a difference with your donations. We appreciate your support!! Please contact Naomi at

E-mail any comments or questions to the Editor at




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