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Charco del Ingenio to Upgrade Key Building

By Karla Ortiz

For 28 years, Charco del Ingenio has been slowly built up to what it is today with the contributions of average citizens. Over time, these contributions have built a small auditorium, a vault, greenhouses, a conservatory, offices, the gift shop, and a small café. And throughout its history, the Charco has repaid the favor by organizing environmental education and entertainment activities such as concerts, bird-watching tours, guided tours of the premises, moon ceremonies, and temazcal events (traditional indigenous steambaths), just to name a few.

The botanical garden has now become a protected area of the city. Very few projects have been built within its territory in order to preserve the ecosystem of the animals, insects, and plants there. However, this policy has also damaged certain areas of the garden, such as the shop and the reception area, a building that has been patched over many times and no longer withstands rainfall.

An innovative solution to the building’s problems has been put on the table, one that would not only reconstruct but reinvent this building into an environmental interpretation center. Here people could learn about the ecosystem of the upper basin, about the mountain flows, about why floods occur, and other basic geographic, ecological, and historical information about the area, in order to expand environmental knowledge in both the young and old.

School and university groups interested in the ecosystem could visit the Charco, as could experts to provide the Charco staff with training. This is all part of an overall goal to bring a higher level of environmental education and awareness to San Miguel de Allende’s populace. The hope is that it will create more understanding of and concern about the harmful impact of large construction projects in San Miguel on the water cycle.

Charco del Ingenio is also looking to change the type of tourism that visits the botanical garden. It would like to attract tourists interested in getting to know the flora and fauna that reside in the San Miguel area. In order to generate more interest in the Charco among the local population, the garden has already made Wednesdays and Sundays free-admission days for San Miguel residents who present their INE card.

As throughout the Charco’s history, the money to pay for this new proposed renovation is coming from the public—mainly from the expat community, which has heartily responded to this proposal. As a result, the Charco’s fundraising for this is already beyond the halfway mark. In addition, The San Miguel Community Foundation contributed 400,000 pesos, as did locals from the neighborhoods around the Charco, often via attending fundraising events. At the moment they are ahead of expectations in terms of fundraising and permits, and they are optimistic that they will face no barriers to the project.

Cesar Arias, president of the association, promises that the style of these two new buildings will be very “Charquero” (i.e., in the style of the Charco) and will incorporate the surrounding natural beauty. It will feature two barrel vaults. One will contain an environmental education module with world-class museography, while the other vault will hold the shop and the small cafeteria. There will also be a giant 3-D model of the whole basin, from La Margara to San Miguel, from Los Picachos to Marroquín. The module will show how the entire regional ecosystem works.

The construction will not affect access to the area. Parking will remain the same, and during the year and a half of estimated work, the Charco entrance will be through the auditorium in front of the Plaza de los Cuatro Vientos. That area will also contain the store, reception, cafeteria, and bathrooms. Construction is projected to begin at the end of the rainy season, around the beginning of September.

If you also want to support the Charco del Ingenio in this new project, you can go to its offices to see how you can donate or email either: or Tax-deductible donations are possible through the San Miguel Community Foundation. The names of outstanding donors will be visibly displayed in the new interpretation center, in recognition for their contributions.


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