San Miguel offers lots of ways to look around and learn: a trolley tour of the town (which we took), walking tours of the historical center, tours to attractions and nearby cities.
The tour that caught our attention early in the visit was a guided walk through El Charco del Ingenio, San Miguel's botanical garden. A marvelous project begun in 1988, El Charco has reclaimed nearly 250 acres and transformed them into a natural wonderland.
With early support from the Mexican Environment Agency and the National University of Mexico, Cante A.C.--a Mexican non-profit organization--began its work. The garden was inaugurated during the total eclipse of the sun on July 11, 1991.
Our tour was a tour of flowers. Over the last twenty years, the Charco team has encouraged the re-proliferation of the indigenous wildflowers and blooming plants. Our guide this soft warm morning was a knowledgeable and passionate participant in the work being done there.
Our group of fifteen or so was made up of Americans and Mexicans, adults and children. We were fortunate to be joined on the tour, by chance, by the author of a book about the wildflowers of San Miguel (which I bought, along with another, in the excellent gift shop).
I suppose I could go get that book and tell you what all these flowers are. I'll tell you what: instead, I'll tell you the ones I know without peeking. If you'd like to know others, send a comment and I'll gladly look 'em up. Or you can just tell me the ones you already know.
For right now, I think I'll mostly just let the photos tell the story.
Cosmos! A wildflower of the Mexican high plateau...who knew?
As we walked through the garden, our guide collected any seeds that were ready to be sown and handed them out for each walker to toss wherever they would like to see them grow.
Here, around the pond, grow the plants that like having their feet wet, including a pale lavender water hyacinth.
The children were as fascinated as the adults by the variety of nature.
This one is lantana, which I saw growing wild in the hills and villages around the city.
This one fascinates me: it's amaranth. It grows wild but has been cultivated as a grain for over 8,000 years. It made up a huge proportion of the Aztec diet, as a matter of fact.
I am so building one of those.
A flock of young students, on a guided trip through the gardens, had some time on the slide as their reward for their patience.
At the end of the tour, we returned to the reception area with its snack bar and gift shop, neither of which is the slightest bit tacky. They had a small assortment of plants for sale, grown right there at El Charco.
You know, of course, that I could write about this wondrous place for hours. Instead, I'm going to give you a link to my favorite page on their excellent website, which tells of the history and development of the garden and park. I encourage you to explore the other pages.
It's my favorite kind of story, the tale of a vision come to life.