Last summer while attending meetings for our streetscape project in San Miguel de Allende, Gregg and I visited El Charco del Ingenio jardin botanica to familiarize ourselves with the native plant material of the Gaunajuato region of Mexico. The botanic gardens is located about 10 minutes from downtown San Miguel and consists of 220 acres on a monumental canyon known as El Charco del Ingenio.
The botanica has an extensive collection of cacti and agave. The Jardin de Agaves was very impressive. The Agavaceae and Nolinaceae are two of the most important succulent families in Central and North America. Like cacti, they store water, but are from two totally unrelated families. Since ancient times, Agaves have been used for the production of drinks (most importantly Tequila and Mescal), as well as food, medicine, religious offerings, fencing and roofing material.
Another fascinating feature at the botanica is the Las Colonias Dam and reservoir. Built in the early 20th century by La Aurora Fabric Factory, water was piped from the reservoir to the factory in San Miguel to run the hydroelectric turbines. The remnants of the aqueduct system can be seen in the photo below. To date, the original structure of La Aurora Fabric Factory remains intact except for the minor renovations undertaken to accommodate the present studios, galleries, shops, and restaurants.
Now the reservoir provides important habitat for the wildlife and a beautiful backdrop to the botanica. El Charco del Ingenio also serves as a recreational and ceremonial space representing the history and heritage of San Miguel de Allende.