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El Charco Del Ingenio Botanical Garden Newsletter

December 2010 - Volume V, No. 12

OUR MISSION: To protect and preserve our natural heritage and help build an environmental culture while developing a Botanical Garden dedicated to Mexican flora and providing an oasis of peace and tranquility for all.

Please tell your friends and prospective members/supporters how to access the newsletter and help broaden the base of support for the Botanical Garden.

LECTURE OF THE MONTH  |  Veganism – why, when, how - Friday, December 17


WORKSHOP: Organic management of nopal, prickly pear fruit and xoconostle - January 16, 17, 18

TREES FOR THE PLANET: Annual Auction Fundraiser - Sunday, February 27

Traditional Temazcal - Saturday and Sunday, December 18 and 19

Full Moon Ceremony - Tuesday, December 21

Guided Tours - Tuesdays and Thursdays

Bird Watching tours - first and third Wednesday of the month



Since its founding 20 years ago, El Charco has developed in an original manner as a botanical garden, taking on three main tasks: conservation, environmental education and scientific research. Most of El Charco’s work has concentrated on the conservation of Mexican plant species, as well as the diffusion of environmental education, directed especially at the youngest members of our society. Although scientific investigation has always been a part of El Charco’s program, it has been limited. Studies in taxonomy and botany up to now, although yielding excellent results, have been scant and done by expert volunteers as well as through agreements with academic and scientific institutions.

We propose going forward with increased programs of investigation, mostly dedicated to our collection and the large plant diversity inside El Charco.  For this reason we are planning new buildings in the nursery area (replacing our old camper which has served as office and/or dormitory over the years). These structures will be simple, built with local materials, harmonious with the landscape but adequate for our purposes.  There will be a small office and lab, a sleeping area for visiting researches and one for the night watchman and the existing kitchen and bathrooms will be renovated.  There is no doubt that this new Research Center will mark a new stage for the Botanical Garden, optimizing the care of botanical collection, the propagation of species and several studies (taxonomy, biology, ecology and ethnobotany) as well as that of the biodiversity of El Charco and our region.

unidad de investigacion



BICENTENNIAL PARK: a green area for San Miguel that may not be “green”

Projected and mostly financed by the State’s Ecology Institute, with minor support from San Miguel’s Fondo Verde, this new park was approved during the last municipal administration in the framework of the Bicentennial celebrations. The park in process consists of 30 hectares of municipal land along with an important Federal body of water, the Bordo San Carlos, located at the start of the road to Los Rodriguez. The budget for this work is 12 million pesos.

This news couldn’t be better for El Charco since the new park is part of the same watershed that we have been protecting and restoring for 20 years, especially since part of the park is inside the Zone of Ecological Preservation of El Charco del Ingenio which was declared by city council in 2005.

parque bicentenario

Nevertheless, analyzing the project as well as the development of the park, we find that the new Bicentennial Park has some inconsistencies which, in our judgment, put the park at risk as a green area and recreational area for our city in the long term.

The first of these is the massive planting of exotic trees which are inappropriate for our zone which make up the majority of the 10,000 trees planted so far. Besides the predictable high mortality of introduced trees – which can already be observed to the first frosts of the season – this measure contravenes the rules of the protected zone which establish as a first priority the conservation and restoration of native flora of the original ecosystems.

The second and more important inconsistency is the inadequacy of the irrigation system which is entirely based on transporting treated water through pipes to supply the treed zones.  This requires a minimum of 200,000 liters weekly during nine months of the year, which means that sooner or later the trees will decline and die. For this reason, the Botanical Garden has recommended to the Ecology Institute an irrigation system based on rainwater catchments augmented by the water of the Bordo San Carlos. This will require constructing several cisterns with capacity for a million liters of water. Although it would require an initial investment, we hope the Institute will accept our recommendation since it is sustainable, autonomous, permanent and environmentally friendly and more cost effective in the medium term.




Located under the panoramic lookout at the Interactive Garden, this new vertical rocky space displays various specimens from this unusual succulent family, native to our continent and prolific in species, with odd and showy shapes, colors and flowers. Though mostly tropical, the Bromeliaceae family includes species adapted to highlands, such as those from the genus Hechtia, similar to agaves, or Tillandsia, an aerial plant, invasive and most common to El Charco (paxtle). Like many other succulents, they have water storing tissues to resist drought, and some have even developed a conical central receptacle for capturing water and nutrients. Bromeliads have a growing ornamental use and only one edible species:  the sweet and juicy pineapple (Ananas comosus).




vThe natural beauty of El Charco is filled with art.  We invite you to walk the various paths and enjoy the beautiful structures and installations made of natural materials.  After much hard work by the artists, the exhibit was inaugurated on Saturday, November 27th.  The nine different pieces will be available for viewing during the month of December.  Many thanks to each one of the participants who made this possible. The map at the entrance indicates their locations.  Come and let your spirit be transformed.

Land Art


1. Oscar Aguirre - "Regreso al origen - ofrenda"
A woven image of the moon - which is related to water - placed in the reservoir to create an offering for the future.

2. Akiko Yasuda - "Mi vecino es"
Guardian spirit that lives and takes the form of a path in the Botanical Garden ... inhabiting a space that is transformed and recreated depending on the interaction of the visitors..

3. Joseph Bennett - "Conexión"
A project that deals with unifying - through organic elements - of that which at one time was integral. Representing the relationship we have with others.

4.  Colectivo conformado por Ricardo Caballero, Francisco Mota y Pamela López  - "Desvanecer"
A concept that arises from the observation of thorns as a common element of the plants in the Reserve. With the objective of raising the spectator's consciousnes about the endangerment of native plants, by locating the piece on the edge of the cliff; in addition, it speaks to the fragility of the environment, using perishable materials.

5. Hermes Arroyo - "Esferas"
Simulation of the depth of emptiness, from shadow generated, light can be generated.

6. Patricia Robles - "Adentro"
A cocoon made of organic materials, with the intention of inviting the viewer to sit and feel the sensation of the fibers.

7. Ernesto Herrera - "Si toca el rojo al amarillo, es coralillo"
A gigantic coral snake made of natural fibers, which slithers through the lower part of the presa seeking dreams.

8. Casilda Barajas y Gabriel Fontanillo - "Agua seca. Batán del Charco del Ingenio"
The intention of this piece was to recreate the flow of water that at one time passed through the mill, now a ruin, that once existed in the Charco del Ingenio.

9. Rocío Ríos - "Mapa-oración -México"
Construction of a map of Mexico made of stones wrapped in paper on which is written the word "peace," thus simulating prayers for peace throughout the country.

Land Artists
Participantes de Land Art: Joseph Bennet, Akiko Yasuda, Ernesto Herrera, Patricia Robles, Hermes Arroyo, Ricardo Caballero y Francisco Mota



We invite you to enjoy watching our baby grow. Currently the amphitheater is being built where young and old will be able to enjoy meetings and conferences in the open air.



Artists for El Charco

If you are looking for a special gift at this time of year as well as a way to support the Charco del Ingenio, the 2011 calendar is now available.

It can be purchased in our gift shop, at Border Crossings (Reloj and Mesones), Tierra Madre (Correo and Sollano), the Tecolote bookstore (calle Jesus), A La Deriva bookstore (Correo and also Aurora), Genesis (Mesones) Tinta y Papel (Salida Celaya). 

2011 is a special year for the Botanical Garden since it’s our 20th anniversary, in honor of which we have illustrated the calendar with different and beautiful artworks provided by talented artists of international stature, who have become our supporters in the publicizing and appreciation of this beautiful place, the Charco del Ingenio, over the past twenty years.




A book is always an ideal gift for the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, any occasion. There are now two books available about El Charco which would appeal not only to those of us who frequent visitors to the reserve but also to anyone who lives in and loves San Miguel de Allende. 

Historias de un Jardin Botanico, El Charco del Ingenio has beautiful photographs and drawings and easy to read text. It costs 400pesos. 

Historias de un Jardin Botánico

In English there is the wonderful book about biodiversity called Wild & Wonderful: Nature Up Close, El Charco del Ingenio Botanical Garden with text by Walter Meagher and photos by Wayne Colony.  It is 250pesos.

wild and wonderful

These books are available at our gift shop, Tecolote (Jesus), A la Deriva (Correo and Aurora), Border Crossing (Reloj and Mesones)




WORKSHOP:  Organic management of nopal, prickly pear fruit and xoconostle
with Fidel Mejia

January 16, 17, 18 | $500pesos

Fidel Mejia, an expert on organic nopal, will give a 3 day course for producers, technicians, agronomists, biologists, geologists and the public in general.  Themes to be covered include: history and morphology of nopal and cacti, organic agriculture in arid zones, plant nutrition in organic nopal and prickly pear fruit, theory of the “trofobiosis” applied to these plants, geological evolution and mineral eco-evolution, relationship between land-plant-insect-climate, symbiotic relationships, ecological management of land, agro-ecological management of organic production, organic fertilizer, compost, reproduction of microorganisms, mineral soup and plant extracts, use and application of nopal, insects and illnesses and how to prevent and cure, natural biological control, organic certification.

For more information or to register:; 154.4715




LECTURE OF THE MONTH  |  Veganism – why, when, how
with Isabel Arizmendi

Friday, December 17 |  11 am |  $60 pesos | In English & Spanish

The vegan option as a way of life that does not depend on nor affect animals and respects them as equals to humans.  The talk will include information on the vegan option versus vegetarian, and its benefits.  Isabel is the owner of a vegan restaurant in Queretaro called “El Conejo en La Luna”.




Sunday, December 19  |  11 am to 4 pm |  $20 pesos

During this celebration you will have a chance to learn about the knowledge and traditional practices of our region. The activities are:

  • Meditation and Toltec ritual of veneration for the fertility of Pachamama (Mother Earth), La Tonantzin
  • A talk entitled “The concept of Sun and Man in ancient Mexico with Alberto Aveleyra
  • A talk about “Pre-hispanic Symbols” by Guillermo Rojo;
  • A traditional lunch
  • Massage and therapeutic rubs
  • Ritual of gift giving to Mother Earth
  • Workshops for children
  • Sweat lodges at special prices
  • Market of natural products and folk art
  • Ceremony of the Winter Solstice.




Mark your calendars and a Call to Artists
Sunday, February 27, 2011   12 – 3 pm

This coming year, the Botanical Garden's 20th anniversary, our annual fundraising event will have a special meaning since we will dedicate it to these wonderful life forms that have inhabited Planet Earth for thousands of years: TREES.  The United Nations has designated 2011 as the International Year of Forests to give attention at a global level to their importance in our lives and to their endangered status.

We invite artists, designers and architects in San Miguel to participate in this event by creating something with the theme of trees which will be part of a silent or live auction.  A surprise category this year is wearable art inspired by our local natural environment. There will be live music, food and drink.

Let your imagination take flight and sign up to design either a piece of wearable art or artwork based on trees and forests.  Please let us know as soon as possible if you will be joining us in this creative, exciting and annual adventure. Email to sign up or if you have questions.

arboles para la planeta
drawing by Dante Escalante, Historias de un Jardín Botánico, Ed. Santillana.




In our ongoing collaboration with SEMANART, a second release of  birds took place in El Charco on Saturday, November 27th (the first one was the beginning of 2009).  These birds are retrieved by this federal agency after they have been illegally removed from their native wild habitat and are brought to El Charco to reintegrate them into nature. This effort was personally coordinated by Roberto Avina Carlin of the wildlife section of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, SEMANART, who released 2 Querreque o Quebrantahuesos (Caracara cheriway) and a lovely Bubo virginianus (Buho viginiano).  Also present were Helio Bastien of the municipal Department of Ecology, personnel from the Federal Department of the Protection of the Environment (PROFEPA) and El Charco staff along with about 40 visitors were able to witness the release of these birds and watch and watch a show by two Harris Eagles which is part of SEMANART’s work.





Jose Sacramento Hernandez, better known as El Camaron (the shrimp) is a loyal and happy friend. You can always find him in the canyon and the north side making sure our visitors and the site are safe.  El Camaron has lived his entire life in the Cuesta de San Jose neighborhood, and given that since his childhood, the site was his backyard playground, he knows it better than the palm of his hand. You can also see him each month at the sweat lodges (temazcales) acting as the renowned “man of fire”.  It’s always a pleasure to work with people who have so much love for El Charco.




Tuesday, December 21 | 6 pm | Plaza of 4 Winds |
Members free, $30 pesos general public

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. This night will be special as we celebrate too the Winter Solstice.

We celebrate the Full Moon Ceremony to come back into balance with nature on earth. Come and enthusiastically participate and dedicate your intention and energies at the Plaza of the Four Winds.  Bonfire, incense, chanting, drumming included.  Bring flutes, cymbals, a drum or any other instrument if you want. 

It’s worth arriving a little early to admire the setting of the sun and the appearance of the moon over the mountains. You may want to bring a coat for cool evenings. Children welcome. Any questions, call Alicia Mayo at 152 .0376.

Ceremonia de Luna Llena



This month to celebrate the winter solstice, we will have three sweat lodges
instead of two at a special price of
$150 pesos each!
Saturday, December 18 |  10 am
Sunday, December 19 | 10 am and 2 pm
Cost  $150 pesos | Limited space

This sweat-lodge steam bath, of ritual and healing character, takes place under the direction of an experienced temazcal leader in the ruins of the hacienda located in the Botanical Garden on the far side of the reservoir. The combination of heat, humidity and fragrant herbs provides a purifying experience for the body and spirit. Its benefits are multiple: it activates circulation, increases the body’s defenses, eliminates pains, decreases uric acid, relaxes the muscles, regulates the nervous system, stimulates respiration and is excellent for losing weight.

RESERVATION NECESSARY : | Tel:154.8838, 154.4715, or in the Botanical Garden visitor’s center.



Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 am
| in English
Duration: two hours | Cost: $80 pesos, members $50

During December you will be able to see the Land Art installations as you walk through the reserve. The landscape is a golden color and the days are sunny.  Following the paths along the canyon you can enjoy the inspiring sound of the flowing spring water over the rocks.

  charco del ingenio



Every first and third Wednesday of the month, 9 am – 11:30 am

Cost:  $100 pesos general public | $60 pesos Audubon or El Charco members

Guide: Luke Rich


The walks are for birders of all levels. They begin at 9:00 am and last about 2 1/2 hours. No reservations needed, and feel free to leave the walk at any time.  Please bring binoculars, wear comfortable walking shoes and a hat, and bring water. Your guide will meet you after you pass through the Reception area of the Botanical Garden.

Interesting winter visitors continue to arrive. In November, we had an immature Common Moorhen, which had not yet grown its beautiful red facial shield. In Landeta Marsh, the Long-billed Dowitchers stand “drilling” the water looking for food, while the slender Lesser Yellowlegs move more actively through the water on their long, elegant legs. The little sandpipers collectively known as “peeps,” represented here by Western and Least Sandpipers, skitter over the mudflats in small flocks. Out on the presa, we can see circles of Northern Shovlers feeding, each turning in its own circle within the greater one, sliding its large bill just under the water to stir up food for itself and its mates.



Did you know that we make our own bread in the Café? We invite you to try our delicious sandwich choices such as the mushroom one.  Try our famous apple pie with some hot chocolate now that we have entered our chilly season.




agave  garambullo  pajaros  nopales  bisnaga

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