Joined: Sep 2011
Location: Somewhere in Latin America
27. Loco Pozas de Edward James, Xilitla
Several people have told me about a place called Xilitla and how there is an amazing garden that exists there. Xilitla is about 6 hours north of DF in the state of San Luis Potosi. It’s rural up there and largely comprised of small farm communities, this means good roads, unmolested scenery and culture. I set out early in the morning to beat the commuter traffic that floods into the city every morning. There is an immense gravitational pull that Mexico city emits towards its surrounding areas. As if it were a black hole, everyone and everything is sucked into its center as I fight my way out. Once I get free of its grasp it began to rain, and from this moment until the moment that I arrived in Xilitla, 10hrs later, it pissed rain continuously.
About 1/3 of the way to Xilitla I came through a small pueblo called Atotonilco. Here I stopped for some food and to take a minute to try and warm up to a decent temperature to safely operate a motorcycle at.
The food was bomb. Maize tortillas pumped out right in front of me with some freshly done up, well…. some sort of roasted cow. They called it something different though and people seemed to be all worked up about them having it today.
This little pup was having an extra tough day due to the rain so I chucked him some cow.
He seemed to like it and sat very attentively next to me for the rest of the meal. Gave him a hefty helping at the end for his patience.
It was raining so much that I didn’t take very many photos, and the ones that I did take my camera was so wet from being in my tank bag that everything came out foggy. Along the way I took a shortcut through a curvier and more interesting road. There were some sticks across the turn for the shortcut. This is the standard latin american placarding for “don’t come this way”, but this signage doesn’t always apply to offroad oriented motorcycles though. This time they did apply, and so I waited for the dozers to clear the rock slide.
I took no more photos until I arrived in Xilitla as I was simply too wet and too cold to care to do so. It rained so much that I managed to suck water into my carb somehow, not sure where, maybe the air filter…but a quick drain of float bowl and she started right up. Nice having a simple machine to work on. It took longer to get my hands warm enough to be able to access my tools than it did to solve the issue. Other than this I had no troubles, and by dinnertime I rolled into where I was going to spend the night for a couple days in Xilitla. When I arrived I shakingly introduced myself to the other guests and chatted for a bit, then explained that I would be MIA until the morning, and rid myself of everything wet to retreat into my sleeping bag to warm up until the sun rose.
In the morning I awoke feeling fresh as rain…”rain”…well that’s weird, but yes I awoke feeling like a champion. With the sun out and clear I got a good look at the place. It’s called Casa Caracol. Rudolpho and his wife run it and its super laid back. With a fun design and cool places to hang out in, it’s easy to kick back and relax here.
There are private bungalows available but most people stay in the tipis which fit 4-5 people.
The grounds are full of fun sculptures and places to hang out.
I was sharing a tipi with two guys from Australia and we set out to find a cave that we were told had a pretty spectacular entrance.
They were correct, it was spectacular.
The opening of the cave is the main attraction in and of itself, but we hiked down into the bottom where there was a smaller mini-cave. The depth of view is hard to gauge here but if you look down and to the right you’ll see a large australian for scale.
Inside the cave there wasn’t a ton going on besides a fair amount of bird shit and a bit of graffiti. A long exposure though lights it up enough to see what’s up.
Looking up and out of the smaller cave.
We left and found some oranges.
Assessed their level of deliciousness.
And packed a few for later.
Back at Casa Caracol I met up with Fey, a girl from Queretaro Mexico who was visiting her sister here in Xilitla for the weekend. We set out to explore what for me was the main reason for coming to Xilitla, Las Pozas de Edward James.
Edward James was an Englishman born in 1907 into a fair bit of money. He was a lot of things (poet, artist, etc) but he is most prominently known for his early support of the Surrealist movement in the arts. For example, sponsoring Salvador Dali in his early years so he could continue to paint and also supporting him through the collection of his art. Eventually, Edward James would be known for having the finest private collection of surrealist works of any collector. The time would come though when he grew tired of simply collecting and supporting, and he wanted to create a masterpiece of his own. He set out to find the perfect location to blend the beauty of the natural world with his taste and flare for surrealism, and he set out to do it on a grand scale. He considered places all over the world, but when scouting for a location in Mexico he was blown away by the natural beauty of the high mountain subtropical forest just outside of Xilitla. He chose this location in 1945 and began construction of his personal sculpture “garden of eden) in 1949. He named the garden Las Pozas, “The pools”. Although he was a wealthy man, the project was on such a grand scale and required such expertise and craftsmanship that he had to sell the majority of his private art collection to afford the construction. The wood molds used to form the concrete structures as scene as works of art all by themselves. Here, high in the mountains, he took 80 acres of natural rain forest, waterfalls, and rivers, and built enormous concrete surrealist structures amongst them. He also brought in many exotic plants (at one point the grounds boasted 29,000 orchids) as well as exotic birds and animals. It took decades to build and although many structures are left unfinished (or have been lost within the jungle), even now, after his passing and the properties opening to the public, it doesn’t fail to fascinate and intrigue those that venture into its landscape.
As you wander through, it’s eerie to think that this was not created for the public, nor was it made to be inhabited or lived in. None of the structures were built with any functional intention other than as an enormous surrealist work of art for Edward James’ and his private guests to be amazed by. It is a real life work of art that you can physically walk through and explore, and at less than $5 to get in, it is a pretty cheap trip to an entirely different world.
Many structures have stairways that lead to nowhere. Edward James named this place “The House on Three Floors Which Will in Fact Have Five or Four or Six”. (Fey is near the center several stories down for scale)
And bridges that simply end before they’ve reached their destination.
Other times there will be stairs that appear out of nowhere that lead to an amazing structure, yet they are found on the other side of a small river with no walkway.
There are no signs that tell you where to go, and everything is dense jungle so you never know what’s around the corner until you walk into it.
You simply have to wander, explore, and keep your eyes out for clues to venture further into an area. If you are willing to explore though, and get a little wet, you can stumble upon to some pretty amazing locations hidden within the gardens 80 acres.
By the end of the day Fey and I had been walking for 5 hours or so and the night was taking over the garden. With no guardrails or ropes keeping you from exploring, high structures with no logical architecture, and the entire place being a dizzying maze of pathways and hidden trails Las Pozas is not a place you want to be lost in at night without a light. We found a trail out just as the last bit of light was dipping over the mountains. That night we stayed up late hanging out with Fey’s sister Eunice, and Eunice’s boyfriend Sobo. Great people to hang out with and I’m glad I got the chance to meet them. Shit, is my Spanish getting somewhat conversational?!
Here’s a video from the trip. Mr. Edward James, you were one ‘pinche loco’ mother fucker, but I sure had a blast exploring your fascinating mind today.