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In addition to its ecological and scenic value, the Charco del Ingenio also has a notable historical value, which has only recently been recognized. There are many vestiges of the past in the canyon, spanning a wide compass of time, from remains of pre-Hispanic stone tools and ceramics (classic Mesoamerican period) to the post-Colonial hydraulic works, which still can be seen among the vegetation and indicate an authentic "industrial zone" that was developed in the Villa de San Miguel el Grande (the name of the town before Independence).

sitio historico

The presence of a permanent flow of water in the canyon, coming from abundant springs upstream (no longer in existence because of the indiscriminate extraction of ground water) was skillfully utilized by the Spanish settlers and their descendents, who built canals, aqueducts, mills, dikes, bridges and workshops. At the end of the 17th century, an authorization was given by the Viceroy to a Spanish citizen to make a “herido de agua para ingenio de la misma” (divert water for industrial use), which phrase probably provides the origin of the name of the main pool or charco that is nestled in the canyon, and which designates the area to this day.

This first mill or waterwheel is shown in one of the oldest maps of San Miguel, dated 1580. It seems to correspond to a building in ruins that can be observed in the upper part of the canyon. Its function was probably to grind grain.


1580 map - probably painted by an Indian artist, on agave paper. It shows San Miguel and its surroundings during the Conquest wars. A watermill appears on the Charco del Ingenio canyon (see box). From Geographic Reports of New Spain. Archives of the Royal Academy of History of Madrid.

reconstrucción Dante Escalante, Historias de un Jardín copyright Ed. Santillana - el batán hoy

In post-18th century maps, during the economic heyday of the colonial town, various complex waterworks appear on the same arroyo, notably a dike (precursor of the current Las Colonias Reservoir dam), a windmill, an aqueduct and two water mills, the abandoned structures of which can be seen today.

There are also more recent works near the canyon, such as the remains of the 18th century bridge of the Old Road to Xichu, on the eastern part of the reservoir, and the ruins of the 19th century Las Colonias hacienda, property of the Sautto family. The solid dam of the Las Colonias reservoir, dating from 1902, remains intact, and from it extend the remains of a long aqueduct or iron tube attached to the walls of the canyon, dating from the beginning of the 20th century. This aqueduct was used to bring water to the La Aurora textile factory - an industry inherited from the colonial workshops - in order to generate electricity.


charco del ingenio  

All this prolonged human presence in the site, lost in the origins of local history, are linked to a series of legends and myths surrounding the canyon and the solitary charco del ingenio - which, we are told, "has no bottom." The ancient tales say that El Chan, a mysterious underworld being that dwells in its deep waters, sometimes shows its terrible powers to those human beings who dare to approach it.

Or the appearance on full-moon nights of a headless horseman, who is none other than that ghost of Don Baltazar Sautto, the cruel boss of the factories who comes down from El Charco to gallop through the empty streets of San Miguel until daybreak.

There are also stories and legends that persist to this day about the caves in the canyon, such as that of the bandit Chuchuy who was being chased by soldiers and disappeared into the cliffs through a long, long cave which, they say, comes out in a house in the center of the city ...


This oral tradition is yet to be fully recovered but the traces of the past that endure to our day are accessible to the visitor, forming a part of the historical and monumental heritage of San Miguel de Allende. Its study and restoration is still a pending task.



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