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Mexico’s Garden of Eden

February 9th, 2012

In the heart of the Sierra Madre Oriental’s lush tropical landscape stands a jungle of concrete lilies – Las Pozas.

Deep within the rainforest on a former coffee plantation, near a series of cascading waterfalls, Las Pozas (“The Pools”) is an extraordinary “Garden of Eden” of surrealist sculptures, some reaching as high as 30 meters. The sculptures were commissioned by English millionaire and poet Edward James, and exist as his legacy to the Surrealist art movement.

James moved to Mexico to escape the aristocratic circles of Edwardian England. He later abandoned the intellectual, social, and artistic circles of London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles for the jungles of Mexico. James relocated to Xilitla (pronounced Hill-eet-la), San Luis Potosí where he met and lived with a young telegraph office manager – Plutarco Gastelum, a Yaqui Indian. Together, they discovered Las Pozas toward the end of 1945.

The “Garden of Eden” started as just that, a botanical endeavour, with James importing thousands of exotic plants (he had an estimated 29,000 orchids at one point) and pens for exotic animals from all over the world. In 1962, however, the poet was crushed when he returned from travelling to find that a unprecedented snow fall had killed his prized blooms. It was then he decided to build a garden that would never be destroyed by the forces of nature, and the garden of concrete orchids and lilies began to take shape.

The compound was some 35 years in the making, and cost James dearly – an avid supporter of the Surrealist movement (he sponsored Salvador Dali’s work throughout 1938) was forced to sell his personal collection pf surrealist art (which, at one time, was accepted as the finest collection of work in private hands) to cover the $5 million cost.

In 2007, Fundación Pedro y Elena Hernández, the company Cemex, and the goverment of San Luis Potosí paid about $2.2 million for Las Pozas, and created Fondo Xilitla, a foundation tasked with overseeing the preservation and restoration of the artistic monument.

For more information on Las Pozas and Fondo Xilitla, visit xilitla.org.

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