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El Charco Del Ingenio Botanical Garden Newsletter

December, 2008 - Volume III, 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.


Membership Drive - Saturday and Sunday, December 6 - 7
Full Moon Ceremony - Friday, December 12
Temazcal - Saturday, December 13 and Sunday December 14
Tasting of Organic Products in El Charco - Tuesday, December 16
Guided Tours - every Tuesday

parque landeta


It’s been 15 years since the municipal authorities granted custodianship to the Botanical Garden, through a lease agreement, to create a natural and recreational area for the benefit of the people of San Miguel in the 35 hectares that today is known as Parque Landeta. At that time the land was damaged by overgrazing, fires and wood, stone and soil extraction, as well as filled with mountains of garbage. Using the creative forces of the bordering Botanical Garden, and with the help of citizens and organizations such as Audubon, by 1994 the fledgling park had a basic operational infrastructure: fenced enclosure, entryways, roads, plazas and the first picnic facilities. That was the first year that the annual traditional celebration of La Fiesta de la Santa Cruz extended from El Charco to Parque Landeta, affirming the popular and community nature of the park. 

We also started restoration programs of the park’s existing wetland and scrubland ecosystems and created an Arboretum with native species appropriate to the zone.  In 2005 the park was officially declared a part of the Ecological Preservation Zone nucleus of El Charco. Today Parque Landeta is enjoyed daily by a variety of users who run, walk, observe birds, bike, walk with their dogs, or just enjoy the natural beauty. 

For the Botanical Garden the custodianship and development of the park has been a long and arduous task.  Most of our efforts have been directed towards the protection of the area, restoration of the natural resources, maintenance of the facilities and the surveillance necessary for visitors' security. The possibility of developing a public park, with the proper infrastructure and landscaping required, totally exceeds the resources of the Botanical Garden. To make this happen, an entirely new scenario and other participants are needed, willing and able to develop the area as a public park worthy of San Miguel.  One interesting possibility is the establishment of a university campus (such as the UNAM), amicably integrated into the park, which would not only give continuity and new life to the project but also open new perspectives with educational and employment opportunities. Currently this option is under discussion and we are waiting the results. 

At the moment, and as always, the park is open daily and is free (20 pesos for parking a car).  Parque Landeta is a park open to all.



in the middle: John Trager, in charge of the Huntington Park greenhouse

In November, two members of our Board were invited to visit this Botanical Garden located near Los Angeles, one of the oldest and most important in the United States, by its Director, Jim Folsom.  El Charco’s Cesar Arias and Bob Haas discussed with the Huntington personnel the possibility of interchange and collaboration between the two gardens particularly in the areas of botanical collections, publications, environmental education and financing.  Huntington Garden’s has an extraordinary collection of desert plants, among which are many species of cacti and succulents from Mexico, some examples having been introduced over 100 years ago.  As well, the institution has an extensive library on botanicals and natural resources from which they have offered to donate a portion to El Charco’s library.  The visit concluded with the promise on the part of the directors of the Huntington to visit our garden in the near future.



Julia McGuire, graduate of the University of Maine and specialist in ecology and environmental education, joined our team as a volunteer in November thanks to the intervention of Mexico Limpio Red A.C.  During the next few months, Julia will help us with the planning and coordination of the environmental education activities at the Botanical Garden, which mostly consist of workshops for school children which we have been doing for several years with PEASMA, driven by FAI (Save the Children). 

We believe that the participation of Julia in El Charco will lay the foundation for a new stage for the Botanical Garden as a community center for the distribution of a culture of caring and respect for nature in San Miguel. 

Welcome Julia!!

  Julie McGuire



The Boveda has started to operate as a space for activities external to the Garden. During two days at the end of November the first training workshop on Protected Natural Areas and Ecological Zonification took place organized by the State Institute of Ecology with the participation of 25 civil servants from various departments of the State Government.  In addition to the Boveda space, El Charco provided breakfast and lunch, overhead projector, and a guided visit of the Garden. This sort of activity represents a way of collecting funds for our environmental conservation work. For information about renting the Boveda, contact our person in charge of Public Relations, Olivia Ledon at



Tuesday 16 December at Noon. Cafeteria at the entrance.

El Charco del Ingenio invites all visitors to the Botanical Garden to taste honey, nopal and other organic products from our region on Tuesday, December 16 starting at noon at the new cafeteria. These products will be offered for sale by El Charco tienda and CEDESA (Centro de Desarrollo Agropecuario), one of the first campesino organizations in Mexico to promote organic farming and eating locally.

About half of the human diet is derived directly or indirectly from crops pollinated by bees. Eating local honey can help prevent or mitigate seasonal allergies, following the naturopathic principle of "inoculating" the body with a small dosage of the "disease", since bees use the pollen from plants that may cause the allergic reaction. Honey is also an effective remedy for sore throat and cough, and can also be used to help heal skin wounds. Most importantly, honey contains all the vitamins, minerals and enzymes found in its natural state, unlike refined white sugar.

The fruits and pads of the nopal cactus have been used as food since pre-Hispanic times. Today, campesinos cultivate this native plant in "tunnels" in order to maximize their tenderness by protecting them from extreme heat or cold. The consumption of nopal reduces cholesterol and helps regulate blood-sugar levels and thus helps control diabetes. It also reduces plaque formation in the veins and arteries, improving circulation. The naturally occurring calcium in nopal helps prevent osteoporosis, and its high content of fiber improves digestion.


Under the name of Tierra Generosa, campesino families of northern Guanajuato make and market a wide variety of nopal products, including pickles, jams, and liquors, as well as other seasonal preserves - xoconostle, guayaba, membrillo (quince) and ciruela (plum). These preparations, along with medicinal bee products, pollen and propolis, will be available. In addition, traditional Mexican treats such as frosted nuts (honey-frosted sesame seeds, ajonjolí garapiñada), sweet-and-sour noparindo and spicy-sour chamoy paste can be savored with homemade organic bread, accompanied by a variety of fragrant teas now offered by El Charco cafeteria. Visitors are also invited to browse El Charco tienda for other interesting eco-friendly gift ideas, just in time for Christmas.



Sabrina Gaydos, a North American artist who spends some time each year in San Miguel, is making a series of watercolors inspired by the landscape and themes of our Botanical Garden with the idea of having a show in 2009.  An admirer of El Charco, Sabrina has offered us her work to use. Here are some examples of her magnificent watercolors.

sabrina gaydos
L.S. Gaydos


Jardin, Dec 6 & 7 from 11a.m.-2p.m.

A table with volunteers of both El Charco and Audubon will there, under the shade of the laureles… Membership is an easy way of showing support and receiving several benefits.  We would like to see each one of our members have a friend of theirs join during this drive. 

The first 50 people to join El Charco will get a free copy of the book, Wild and Wonderful: Nature Up Close at El Charco.  Another idea – buy a membership for a friend as a holiday gift or to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary.





Tuesdays at 10:00a.m. sharp; duration 2 hours. A hat, water and good walking shoes are recommended. 50 pesos for members and 80 pesos for non-members. Private tours are also available for 150 pesos per person (minimum 5 persons). Reservations are not necessary.



Thursday, December 12th 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, December 13th
Sunday, 14th at 10:00 a.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



YOGA in El Charco, starting January 2009.
Monday & Wednesday 10 – 11:15 am.
Botanical Garden Boveda.
Instructor:  Ximena Velasco (Bilingual).

Cost: 85 pesos /class, or monthly package of 8 classes for 560 pesos (70 pesos /class).
YOGA – “FROM THE HEART” Over the past 10 years, Ximena has studied in various countries such as France, Australia, Mexico, Italy, India, and the United States. This has been part of her constant search for physical and spiritual knowledge and these experiences have allowed her to create a combination of styles such as Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Pramayana meditation.  Currently she is studying during two yearly sessions for certification in Italy with Dona Holleman.
Classes will start on January 7th 2009 (minimum of 5 students).
It is essential to reserve a space.
Students should bring their own yoga mat and blanket.

For more information or to reserve a space, please contact Olivia Ledon: Tel 154-4715



casita de aves  


Save the Date: Sunday, February 15th from 12-3p.m.

A joint fundraiser, called Casitas de Aves, will take place with the participation of two of San Miguel’s ecological organizations, Audubon and El Charco, on this date at the botanical garden.  Over 50 artists, architects and generally creative people have built bird houses or feeders, true works of art,  to be auctioned.  The silent auction will be open from noon to 2:30p.m. and the live auction starts at 1p.m.  Tickets to this event are $250pesos for members of either organization and $300pesos for non-members.  We will have canapes, wine, mezcal and live music.  In our next newsletter, we will have photos of the bird houses.  For those not in town that day or who weren’t lucky enough to get a ticket, we will offer remote bidding as well.  For information on this or to purchase a ticket while they last, contact


hummingbird feeder


March 2009

This is an early announcement to El Charco members ...


  From March 23 to the 27th, Charlotte Staub-Thomas will teach from 9a.m.-1p.m. at the Botanical Garden using pen and ink, colored pencil and watercolor.  Charlotte Staub Thomas teaches workshops at Art Center Manatee, and the Corcoran School of Art and Design (in conjunction with the United States Botanic Garden) in Washington, D.C.  After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the Rhode Island School of Design, she studied botanical art at the New York Botanical Garden. Ms Thomas painted twenty-five watercolors for the book, Common to This Country: Botanical Discoveries of Lewis and Clark (Artesan 2003). Those paintings were exhibited at the South Florida Museum, New York Botanical Garden, Smith College, and the Missouri Botanical Garden.  Class is limited to 15. 

On the weekend, we will have a local artist giving 2 classes of 4 hours each in Spanish.  Alifie Rojas Candanedo is a scientific illustrator who has had individual shows throughout Mexico, has illustrated several books and worked as a scientific illustrator for laboratories and universities in Mexico. Classes limited to 5 people.  For more information on both sessions, contact
Click here for registration form.



Have you visited the new gift shop at El Charco? We recommend that you stop by to see a series of new products at the Botanical Garden. And don't miss the juice bar and cafeteria next to the Visitors Center of the Botanical Garden.

A gift that lasts!

  plant gifts


Wild & Wonderful: Nature Up Close in the Botanical Garden
‘El Charco del Ingenio’

Text is by Walter L. Meagher and photography by Wayne Colony, Foreward by E.O. Wilson. W&W Publishings, SMA, 2008.  300 pesos.  It is now available at the store at the Garden and in several other bookstores in town.

“Nature does not belong to nations.- The barn swallow seen coursing low over the presa in El Charco is the same species, russet-chested and fork-tailed, one sees skimming over the closely mown grass of a cricket pitch in England. On the other hand, each nation can be proud, and is proud, of life forms that distinguish it from all other places: the bison on the prairie and the komodo dragon on the beach. Wild and Wonderful, the book I wrote, is not a descriptive anthology of wildlife in a small patch of Mexico, but a combination of two elements: a book of ideas making use of local examples.  Wayne Colony's photos bring nature alive, attracting the reader to the ideas in the essays, and leave a lasting impression of richness. Knowing is the first step towards loving El Charco. The love we feel for it, because of its beauties, its impressive views, and its variety of plants, birds and butterflies, is the precursor to the protection we deserve to give it.” (Walter L. Meagher).

wild and wonderful


You can make a difference

And you can make a difference with your contribution - volunteer or donate. We appreciate your support!! Please contact Naomi at

E-mail any comments or questions to the Editor at


“Botanical Gardens are not just places for conserving and displaying plants.  At the dawn of the new millennium, they are main actors in the defense and protection of the planet’s biodiversity, with a growing focus on the regional – thinking globally and acting locally.  And they are also builders of a new environmental culture for the societies that inhabit the Earth.” 




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