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Annual Spring Concert at Charco a Creative Response to Tragedy



Mario Hernández y Cesar Arias del Charco del Ingenio.

By Jesús Aguado

Where some saw destruction, others saw opportunities. In this way, the annual spring equinox concert in the canyon of the El Charco del Ingenio nature preserve became a 20-year-old San Miguel de Allende institution.

This year, the annual concert in the canyon will take place on Sunday, March 24 at 5:30pm with the polyphonic Ensemble Armonico Borbang Nadyr performing.

A creative response to natural disaster

On October 3, 1998, one of the worst floods in the city’s history took place. Emergency vehicles patrolled the streets close to the Obraje and Cachinches stream, asking people to abandon their homes because the dam at Bordo del Santo Domingo, also known as “Támbula,” had broken.

Thousands of cubic meters of water rushed toward the urban area. The water’s natural path was the reservoir, and the Charco del Ingenio, whose natural canyon had been there for centuries. Some areas of the canyon were covered by native plants, but the force of the current traveling into the preserve’s canyon left this part of the Charco denuded.

Mario Hernández, the Charco conservation area’s director, said when experts studied the area to bring the land back to its original state, “the earth raised its voice.”

What they had noticed was that along the trail, the reverberation of voices was constant. That realization led to the idea that this part of the Charco could be a place to hold concerts. And so, in addition to the environmental education and outdoor recreation activities there, since 1999, a slew of different bands have performed in the canyon area—bands with pianos, ukuleles, and everything in between.

The concert

Each year, on the day of the concert, attendees arrive early and go down toward the stage in the canyon. They find their space—a rock, occasionally still comfortably warm from the sun, a spot on the ground—anyplace adequate for listening and enjoying.

This year, the Mexican polyphonic-singing ensemble Borbang Nadyr, the first Mexican ensemble who practices this rarefied form of singing—also known as harmonic singing or throat singing—will take the stage. Polyphonic singing is a traditional singing style found in various unrelated indigenous cultures spanning the globe, in which singers use throat reverberation to produce more than one note at a time.

Borbang Nadyr, who creates its own original compositions, also uses other extensive voice techniques. All the members are also multi-instrumental and are schooled in different musical genres from around the world.

The tickets for this family event cost 250 pesos for the general public and 200 for Charco members and students with ID. Children under the age of 10 are free. Tickets are available at Camino Silvestre (Correo 43 and Zacateros 46), at the Charco del Ingenio, and at Exposada Corazón on calle Aldama. There is no assigned seating for this outdoor event.

El Charco’s future

According to Hernández, the Congreso de la Union (National Congress) recently invited Charco officials to participate in various talks marking the tenth anniversary of the creation of Areas Voluntariamente Declaradas Protegidas  (Areas Voluntarily Destined for Conservation) by the Comisión Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas (National Council for Protected Natural Areas), known as CONAP.

“There was an accounting of successful experiences,” Hernández said. “The Congress invited el Charco to at the discussion, and later we had meetings with those who made decisions regarding the perspective, challenges, and achievements in the area of natural protected zones so that it could be integrated into the vision for those areas designated voluntarily for conservation.”

Currently one of the main challenges for el Charco is to maintain its pristine space. Some years ago, the protected area was “very far removed from the city,” Hernández says. “Today the city has reached us. We are getting close to becoming surrounded by residential developments.”

We asked him why el Charco did not work at expanding its reach to protect the land around it before developments around it went up.

“The conservation area was not expanded, although it would have been the most convenient option,” he said. “But the owners of the adjacent properties did not want to sell or donate their land. And now, far from wanting to sell their land [to the government] for preservation, there has been land speculation. As growth continues, their land’s value will be higher for being adjacent to a preserved scenic place with no neighbors other than vegetation; that actually increases the [value per] square meter.”

Cañada de los Pajaritos (The Bird Canyon)

“El Charco del Ingenio would like to have access to other properties for conservation, but those nearby are very expensive,” added Hernández.

However, El Charco has acquired 97 hectares in the Picachos Mountains, which is now a model of biodiversity, since pumas and deer have been discovered in that area.

“It’s possible that the area may be expanded for conservation,” Hernández said.

And so el Charco is looking for alliances with landowners in the municipality and the region. Thanks to the agreements made between the Charco and the Congress, it may seek alliances that would make it a model for the region, “to encourage other owners to voluntarily designate their areas for conservation, and to know the legislation that applies to those spaces,” said Hernandez.

México is one of the five most diverse countries in the world, with 500,000 hectares of land designated as protected. However, Hernandez said that CONAP has been unable to cover a country as big as México, which demands a major investment in conservation and devastation prevention.


El Charco del Ingenio: A place where the sun shines

For three decades, people have been instructed to stay inside during a solar eclipse since looking at it directly could cause blindness. But on July 11, 1991, during a major eclipse, while many stayed indoors watching the eclipse on TV for safety, those in the know were outside watching a different momentous occasion—the opening of the Charco del Ingenio nature preserve to the public. At the exact date and hour of the eclipse, 1:24pm, in one of the highest spots in the city, an indigenous ceremony marked the beginning of a new era in San Miguel de Allende.

The preserve invited traditional dance troupe captains from different rural communities around San Miguel to perform a ceremony invoking indigenous ancestors at the four cardinal direction points, and inaugurated a “cross of the conquest,” which still stands in the park. La Santa Cruz (the Holy Cross), which the Charco commemorates every July 11 onsite, was placed in the preserve’s Plaza de Cuatro Vientos. Here, in accordance with Mesoamerican customs, (and because there was no notary present), the time of the solar eclipse was engraved on a stone.

“This was meant as an act of  conquest for the indigenous people who had been dislodged from this place during Spanish colonization, to construct an industrial zone on their land,” said Charco del Ingenio’s president, César Arias, who added that, in this way, the land was being returned to them.


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