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Trees for Life: Part 1

By Marcela Andre López

San Miguel has enjoyed prosperous centuries—thanks to silver, gold, commodities, food independence with productive fruit and nut groves, vegetable gardens, and livestock adjoining small and great homes. In San Miguel el Grande: New houses and apartments are now where trees once grew, supplying food and wood for ships, carts, saddles, and fuel. Scaffolding has been erected to build tall churches, to help smelt mined silver, and for doors to secure stone buildings needing fireplaces for warmth. Tree loss has stripped Mexico and the

Planet’s surface, damaging the living mantle of fertile earth. The CDMX 1985 earthquake drove some people to settle in San Miguel, often building rental apartments over decimated orchards, but one tree remained.

Colonial-era San Juan de Dios church in San Miguel was surrounded by many blocks of cultivated areas using the overflow spring water distributed freely by gravity, an attractive aspect of property ownership into the 1960s.This writer´s father, champion rider Tommy Andre, moved with his horses, trading California´s movie industry for a historic orchard by San Juan de Dios. And other enormous areas flourished with delicious fruits growing in abundance behind every wall for centuries.

Founded before the 18th century by the Spanish Crown with physician monks of San Juan de Dios, the Hospital Real de San Rafael suffered through plague and civil wars of the early 20th century. Displaced physician monastics were deported, executed, or absconded (Guerra de Los Cristeros). The San Rafael hospital was revived by this writer’s great uncle Dr. Anastasio López Escobedo, who brought health inspections and medical education and services to a once-moribund San Miguel in the early 20th century. The San Juan de Dios neighborhood is a UNESCO-recognized area unique within San Miguel Allende as the port-of-entry from Guanajuato, route of transport for the staggering loot from the world´s most productive silver mines. The nearby river was indispensable for livestock of the Royal Road pack trains. San Miguel el Grande was very rich indeed.

Year 2017: Patron of healing, Archangel Raphael, beautiful with a silver water gourd and a big red fish, seems to float near the altars with glorious Archangel Gabriel and his long-stem lily. Saint John of God holds a pomegranate in the gilded restored altar while a cacophony of exits and arrivals of 6,000 children echoes in the nave: The adjoining Hospital Real de San Rafael converted into schools, the orchards replaced by concrete slabs; yet, the San Juan de Dios church complex now is a beating heart of vibrant life and a slice of real Mexico holding forth with thriving markets in new buildings where the apple and plum trees once grew.

Years Ahead: It is imperative residents make a tradition of replacing and planting trees for the future coolness of San Miguel de Allende. The Cachinches River creek, fouled by population pressures of the last 50 years, including clandestine construction and disposal, has been addressed since 1997 by this writer with solutions for sustainably restoring the stream: San Miguel’s wastewater management can be accomplished putting plants, people, and trees to work. Let’s start with one tree.

Trees for Life 1-4. Series of four articles on historical San Juan de Dios neighborhood and San Miguel Allende’s sustainability through planting of trees.

Marcela Andre López is an independent multicultural artist scholar trained by Bill Mollison and by Swami Satchidananda Saraswati, Don Felix Luna Romero and shamanic chief Don Monico Ramírez, family elders and by countless independent apprenticeships with studies at Polytechnic New York University, Tagari Institute and the University of Virginia. An avid researcher descended from George D. Perkins, 19th century founder of The Sioux City Journal, a newspaper which sponsored the first Andre family visit to San Miguel Allende in 1947.


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