El Charco, Alison, and Sam

The beautiful weather on Wednesday inspired us to visit El Charco, the cactus gardens located in the hills above San Miguel. The visit requires a taxi ride through incredibly steep and narrow streets. You may recall us visiting El Charco in previous years on the equinox when they have a band performing in the canyon at sunset and you find a place to sit on the rim to listen. It is a truly wonderful experience. Wednesday, we just walked the trails of the garden.

A deep canyon runs through the gardens and most of the plants occur naturally.This is the Plaza of the Four Winds where the indigenous population performs ceremonies, particularly at the equinox. It also features The Holy Cross of El Charco del Ingenio.There are a few sculptures in the gardens.There are viewpoints overlooking San Miguel where you can see landmarks such as the Parroquia. I am pretty sure that the large white building by the reservoir on the far right is the new hotel, Live Aqua, I featured in an earlier blog. It didn’t show well in the pictures, but the reservoir wall was at the rear of the property.There was a “rescue” area where endangered cactus were relocated from construction sites to save them.The canyon through the property is very steep and narrow. You can see the dam in the center background of the picture.In a few spots you could see water supplied by a perennial spring at the bottom of the canyon. You can also see an old, rusty water line near the rim on the right side. Fabrica Aurora built the dam and the waterline to power their textile mill. The mill is now home to a large number of art galleries.

This is a part of the lake created by the dam.There is also a section where the garden has been planted.These were two of our favorite cacti in the planted garden.

Wednesday night we went to hear two speakers sponsored by the San Miguel Literary Sala which sponsors a distinguished speaker series. The first speaker was Alison Wright, a photojournalist for National Geographic and other magazines who specializes in exploring the human condition and endangered cultures through pictures. After graduating from college, she wanted to begin exploring third world countries. Her parents convinced her to go to Europe instead. After a few weeks there, she followed her heart and went to North Africa. What was to be three weeks in Europe turned into three years exploring the world.

She became interested in the plight of the Tibet people and visited fifty some Tibet refugee camps in Thailand and other countries. Her work attracted the attention of the Dali Llama and they soon became good friends and worked together.

One day she was riding a public bus in a remote jungle area of Laos. An out of control logging truck hit the bus and pinned her to her seat. Two men pulled her from the burning bus and laid her beside the road. No one stopped to help because of the war going on at that time. The local people stayed with her to comfort her. It was fourteen hours before she was finally taken to a local hospital where she received limited care. When she was finally air lifted back to the States, she was told she would probably never walk again. She responded, “Tell me what I can do, not what I can’t do”. Two years later she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

She illustrated her talk with numerous slides. She has published six books of her pictures and another book of her remarkable life story. She has created a charity to provide aid to some of the people she photographs. To see some of her work, you can visit her web site by clicking here.

Most of you probably recognize the second speaker, Sam Donaldson, reporter and anchor for ABC from 1967 to 2013. He shared many interesting experiences in covering and interacting with presidents for 46 years. While he was the primary reason we were there, I felt the story Alison had to tell was more moving and more compelling. Plus, she had some beautiful pictures to share.

3 thoughts on “El Charco, Alison, and Sam”

  1. Will you still be in sma on Tuesday?
    We arrive late Monday night but if we cross over a day or two would love to meet you!
    Marianne and Dieter

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