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El Charco del Ingenio is a botanical garden on the outskirts of San Miguel, out along the reservoir. This being the desert, it’s a desert garden. Mexico, one of its plaques informs us, has more cactus species than any other country (cactus are found almost exclusively in the Americas), and this garden tries to represent them as richly as possible. It also includes a conservatory with a tiny stream running through it to showcase some of the riparian life, plant and animal, that also exists on this harsh but exuberant terrain.

One section of the garden is devoted to agaves, a plant I have fallen in love with here, and who knew there were that many agaves in the world (many more, actually–it’s only a sampling)? What I love about them is the marks that each layer leaves on the layer within. Long after the layers have separated, the shadow of each blade’s teeth is left behind, precise as a photogram. I don’t seem to have taken a photo of any agave yet, and I’m too tired to photograph the drawing I did of one and upload the photo and all that, so thanks be to Wikimedia:

photo by Stan Shebs

One small disappointment of our time in San Miguel has been the lack of lizards. I even told the munchkin there would be lots of lizards, and I’m glad she hasn’t put her hands to her hips and demanded to know what I was talking about. I don’t know, I just thought, desert climate, Mexico, there’ll be lizards everywhere. No doubt I was influenced by our trip to Joshua Tree last year (lizards galore!) and by my only previous visit to Mexico, which was to the Yucatan (very different terrain and climate), where we saw plenty of lizards and even, at Tulum, huge iguanas. Well, I’ve seen hardly hide nor tail of a lizard in these six months, but on my last trip to El Charco I saw two. I leave satisfied.

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photos by AZM

(#14 of 20 things I’ll miss about San Miguel)

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#13 of 20 things I’m going to miss about San Miguel is this house.

I love the roof; someday a real gardener will fill it with plants and it’ll be gorgeous–for us, the most gorgeous part was the view, though I did put up papel picado (cut paper, actually cut plastic for outdoors).

Iglesia San Antonio, San Miguel de Allende

More, with more photos, under the cut

When Barbara Kingsolver spoke here in February, she said that Mexico was her favorite country in the world except her own (one’s native country, she said–and I agree–is like one’s family: love ’em, hate ’em, they’re yours), and one reason she gave was the fabulous colors “on the outsides of buildings.” She also credited cilantro and lime, so I’m with her on all counts, but I won’t particularly miss the cilantro and lime because I can get those at home–though the super-juicy Mexican limones are hard to find, now that I think of it . . . anyway, what I’ll really miss are the colors of the walls.

San Miguel’s buildings have colors unusual to an estadounidense, but still don’t have a lot of variation, in general, being mostly yellows, rusty oranges, and reds. When we went to Guanajuato, the capital city of this state, with my mom in March, one thing that jumped to the eye was how wild the color choices in Guanajuato were in contrast. Check out those deep blues and purples, and lime greens.

Even so, just the San Miguel palette is lovely to see, and with the common practice of painting the lower few feet of a building in a contrasting shade, you get some beautiful combinations where two properties meet.

And San Miguel does have its sprinkling of wild colors. This Colonia San Antonio house is a favorite of the munchkin’s and an unfavorite of Joy’s:

We all love this one, also in our colonia.

(#12 of 20 things I’ll miss about San Miguel)

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