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El Charco Del Ingenio Botanical Garden Newsletter

January, 2009 - Volume IV, No. 1

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.


GUIDED TOURS, Tuesdays and Thursdays

YOGA EN EL CHARCO, Mondays and Wednesdays starting January 7

TEMASCAL, January 10th and 11th




GARDEN LECTURE SERIES, "Flavors of the Sun," January 30th



Another Year Passes ...

During 2008 the Botanical Garden completed several infrastructure projects. Several of these were to improve services for our visitors and members such as improving the Reception area, enclosing the Boveda, putting bathrooms near the Conservatory and fixing the paths.  Other work concentrated on the Presa where we added islands, built up the banks, both of which improve bird watching opportunities and help the wildlife. Then there is the work that is less visible but essential to the protection and preservation of El Charco such as maintaining the perimeter fences and fire wall and the daily labor of vigilance.  All of this work has been financed by our own income, donations from local residents and friends of El Charco and by organizations such as Audubon, Save the Laja and the San Miguel Community Foundation – and we give a sincere thank you to all of them!

THE DRY SCRUBLAND. Dante Escalante, Ed. Santillana

Challenges of 2009
The uncertain economic climate in San Miguel – a reflection of what is happening globally – obliges us to revise our financial strategy for El Charco. We will need to generate more of our own income in 2009 through our various programs, activities, entrance fee, gift store, juice bar, membership, etc. Local donations continue to be essential and support from both Mexican and foreign businesses and organizations will also be pursued. Most likely we will have fewer projects than in past years, but we will not be canceling any of our ongoing programs (such as environmental education) nor laying off any staff.  Lastly and importantly, we will continue to defend and protect the entire ecological zone surrounding El Charco.


Parque Landeta and UNAM

After months of discussions and negotiations, in which El Charco actively participated, City Council unanimously voted on December 20th to cede Parque Landeta to the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The agreement consists of a 3 hectare donation to UNAM for a Research Center as well as giving them custody of the other 30 hectares of the park for its preservation and development as an educational, ecological and recreational space which benefits everyone in San Miguel.  The implications of this decision are enormous.  The presence of UNAM, whose academic and research excellence is acknowledged both nationally and outside of Mexico as well, will no doubt open new social and educational development projects in our town which are especially welcome in these adverse economical times.

parque landeta

For the Botanical Garden, joining with UNAM is more than encouraging.  The Center for Multidisciplinary Research – which will be dedicated to global warming among other topics – will give a new scientific and environmental dimension to the reserve at El Charco.  Also, UNAM plans on continuing the Parque Landeta project, started in 1993, as a green space, conserving its natural resources and developing it as a wonderful public and natural park which the city needs.

The agreement will be signed between the City, represented by our mayor, the Governor of Guanajuato, and the University’s rector, José Narro, on January 21st, at which time construction of the research center in Parque Landeta will begin.  We congratulate the municipal government on this historical decision and enthusiasticaly welcome UNAM.


Many thanks to our volunteers this year:
The daily work of the staff of El Charco has been done with and supported by residents who have given their time, expertise, and enthusiasm during 2008.  We would especially like to thank Atzimba Prescott for her help as biologist, with the cactus collection and the greenhouse; David Melville, for his help with the Tuesday guided tours as well as David Tarrant; Kathy Palmer for organizing the photo archives; Amanda Vidargas for her days in the cactus nursery; Julia McGuire for her work on the environmental education program; and Roger and Kate Brudno for creating a catalogue, organizing and labeling the books in our library.  To all, and everyone else who helped out over the year, a thousand thanks!!


Membership Drive
Thanks to all who made this a success.  For those of you who missed the special promotion, you can still take out a membership for yourself or as a gift for a friend either at the reception area of the Garden or at Border Crossings (Mesones/Reloj)


Releasing the EAGLES ...

Halfway through December, eight adult Mexican eagles (Caracara cheriway), native to this region, were brought to El Charco for their release and reintegration into nature.

botanical garden eagles

This operation was personally coordinated by the biologist, Roberto Aviña, Director of Wildlife of SEMARNAT, who considered the conditions at El Charco appropriate for the rehabilitation of these animals which were confiscated by the federal authorities from wildlife traffickers.

botanical garden eagles

It was spectacular to see the eight eagles take flight over the reserve.  Well, not all- one of them affected by the human imprinting, decided to glide around the Reception area, hanging around with people.

botanical garden eagles


casita de aves  

And continuing with the bird theme:  CASITAS DE AVES FUNDRAISER, Feb. 15th

This event is organized jointly by Audubon and El Charco 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 250 pesos for members of either organization and 300 pesos for non-members.

We will have canapes, wine, mezcal and live music.  Many of the bird houses are available for viewing at For those not in town that day or who weren’t lucky enough to get a ticket, we will offer remote bidding as well. Tell me which bird house you want and what is your maximum bid and I will represent you at the event.  For information on this or to purchase a ticket while they last, contact



MORE ON BIRDS , our winter visitors are back

Recently it has been possible to observe a number of species of migratory ducks from up north in the wetlands of El Charco.  The artificial islands offer the ideal habitat for the annual visit of these birds.  An early morning or late afternoon walk along the shores of the Presa (preferably with binoculars) is highly recommended for seeing them. 
Besides the resident and abundant Mexican Duck, Anas platyrhynchos diazi (right), it is posible to observe the following migratory species:
  mexican duck

green teal

ruddy duck

  Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca (photo to the left)

Northern Pintail - Anas acuta

Blue-winged Teal - Anas discors

Cinnamon Teal - Anas cyanoptera 

Northern Shoveler - Anas clypeata (photo below)

Gadwall - Anas strepera

American Wigeon - Anas americana

Canvasback - Aythya valisineria

Readhead - Aythya americana

Ring-necked Duck - Aythya collaris

Lesser Scaup - Aythya affinis

Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis (photo to the left)

Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus 

American Coot - Fulica americana

Northern Shovelers in a circle.
Photos by Wayne Colony.

For more information about ducks at the dam and biodiversity in El Charco, we refer you to the book Wild & Wonderful: Nature Up Close in the Botanical Garden ‘El Charco del Ingenio.’ Text is by Walter L. Meagher and photography by Wayne Colony, Foreword by E.O. Wilson and costs 300 pesos.  It is now available at the store at the Garden and in several other bookstores in town.


YOGA EN 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).



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 47 15


with certified teacher, Alejandro Negrete starting January 17th(Bilingual).

The 52 hour workshop is $3,000 pesos or 400 pesos for each 4 hours session. These workshops will take place at the Boveda at El Charco.

breathwork   January 17/18, 10am-2pm and 4-8pm:  Pneumatica and Transpersonal Consciousness and Experience, Breathing to God, Multidimensional Universe, Out of Body Experiences, Chakras, Extrasensory Abilities and Pneuma Breathwork on Sunday, 4-8pm
January 31st, 10am-2pm and 4-8pm:  Dream Yoga, Mystical and Eroticism and Pneuma Breathwork from 4-8pm.
February 14th and 15th, 10am-2pm and 4-8pm:  Mantras, Music Therapy, Process of Dying, Karma and Dharma, Reincarnation and Rebirth, Evolution, Involution and Revolution and Pneuma Breathwork Sunday from 4-8p.m.
February 28th and March 1st, 12-2pm and 4-8pm:  Universal Archetypes, Mystical Experience in Sacred Books and Pneuma Breathwork Saturday and Sunday, 4-8pm.

For more information: (415) 120-2179
To register, please contact Olivia Ledon: Tel 154 47 15,



Friday, January 23th, 10 am. In the Boveda at the Garden.

cesar arias  

By Cesar Arias, President of El Charco (English). 

As mentioned in this newsletter and in Atencion, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) will be building a research center in Parque Landeta and Cesar will explain the history and implications for our town of this new project. In addition, he will speak about the current role of El Charco in the community and the new challenges of its conservation project.

This is a chance to meet the President and participate in the discussion period after the presentation. 70 pesos for members, 100 pesos for non-members. Please reserve a space at


GARDEN LECTURE SERIES, Friday, January 30th, 10 am. Boveda.
Victoria Challancin, owner of "Flavors of the Sun" International Cooking School of San Miguel

flavors of the sun

Victoria's talk will be about how to identify and use popular Mexican chiles.  As she explains the difference in the both the flavors and heat of different chiles, Victoria will weave their history into an entertaining talk about their role in art, medicine, and culture.   Victoria’s lifetime affair with history, culture, travel, and food have provided her with a broad base of knowledge which naturally spills over into both her classes and her talks.  In addition to providing solid practical information and recipes, Victoria sprinkles her lively lectures with food anthropology, ethnobotany, a bit of phytochemistry, and Mexican herbal lore.  Her love of plants includes not only their use in the kitchen, but also their vital role in healing.  Her cooking classes have been featured on TV and in magazines and newspapers. Be sure to check out her food blog as well at

Reservations for this presentation may be made at  Cost is 70 pesos for members of El Charco and 100 pesos for non-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. 

illustration   Charlotte 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. She 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.


Guided Tours in English – Now Two Days/Week

During the months of January, February and March, we will have two tours a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 10:00a.m. with a duration of 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.


Saturday, January 10th and
Sunday, January 11th 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


Sunday, January 11th 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.



The Cafeteria at El Charco

Have you been to the cafeteria recently?
Much more than a café or juice bar now, our young chef, Rodrigo, is preparing healthy and delicious dishes daily and has converted our little space into a high quality eating experience.  It's right behind the gift shop which has new and interesting products for sale – have a look and then enjoy something sumptuous.


cafeteria y tienda


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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