The river at the center of this botanical garden powered the 16th-century mill that gave it its name. Spanish colonists used the mill, which shows up in one of the first maps of the Villa de San Miguel el Grande (now San Miguel de Allende), to mill grains.
The establishment of this mill eventually lead to something of an industrial zone surrounding the river. Dams, an aqueduct, and hacienda buildings popped up in the area up to the early 20th century, when the water powered the town’s La Aurora textile factory.
In 1989, an initiative by César Arias and Federico Gama sought to buy the terrain occupied by this area and turn it into a natural reserve. This was achieved three years later, and the Charco del Ingenio was inaugurated during the solar eclipse on July 11, 1991. Since then, the Charco has expanded its grounds and amassed recognition. Among the most unique is the one granted by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, who declared this a “Peace Zone” during a 2004 visit, along with the Courtyard of the Franz Mayer Museum in Mexico City.
In addition to its industrial ruins and natural attractions, the Charco is also a cultural and artistic space. Its Plaza de los Cuatro Vientos (Plaza of the Four Winds) symbolizes its spiritual center, with structures representative of indigenous beliefs and cosmogony, such as a Cruz de Ánimas (Cross of Souls). Sculptural works like “The House of Starlight” by German artist Wilhelm Holderied complete the Charco’s holistic approach to environmentalism.