Many years ago I happened to see a photograph of a garden in Mexico in Architectural Digest magazine. The memorable image showed some amazing concrete structures placed in a jungle-like setting. I knew that one day I would travel to the small town of Xilitla, in San Luis de Potosi, to see this garden in person.
The story goes that wealthy heir and English aristocrat Edward James, an eccentric writer and art collector appeared in Cuernavaca, Mexico in the 40s and met Plutarco Gastelum, the handsome manager of the Western Union office in that locality at the time. He had come to the region to buy land for his orchid project.
Edward James convinced Plutarco to become his guide and accompany him on a road trip into the tropical jungle of the Sierra Madre in search of land to purchase and to grow a large orchid plantation. They drove in James’s Packard thru jungles and across rivers and ravines until they arrived in Xilitla, a remote tiny village in the Sierra Madre.
Here James purchased over 40 acres of land and the orchid plantation began. Soon after, an unseasonal freeze killed all the orchid plants and the creation of a surrealistic concrete garden was born.
The garden was built by hand, by local untrained workers. A primitive carpentry shop was established to build the wooden molds for these spectacular concrete creations. All the work, from building the intricate wooden molds created by a local carpenter and his helpers with few tools, to mixing the concrete by hand and carrying it thru the jungle up and down the steep and rugged terrain was done on foot and the mix hand carried and poured in place. The garden was named Las Pozas, due to its proximity to large waterfalls and deep, pools of abundant cool, crystal waters where it stands today entwined in luxuriant jungle growth, itself a monumental and exotic surrealist work of art.
All images and text © Carlotta Boettcher
By Carlotta Boettcher
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