miércoles, 29 de julio de 2009

Sir Edward James and the surrealist art in Xilitla

I'm writing to you from the lowest point in Mexico, low in the sense of meters below sea level. I'm now at la Huasteca which is in the central area, towards the north of the Country in the State of San Luis Potosi. It is not too many kilometers from my home town (Salamanca) but it is in another part of the Sierra Madre Oriental.

Here you will find a very diferent way of life, weather and vegetation in comparision to other parts of Mexico. It is humid, but not as humid as the Caribbean shore. It is hot, but not as hot as it is in the Baja California Sur, everywhere is green with an abundance of vegetation. Here you will find it easy to drive from Mexico City to the north east, on the way you will pass by a marvel that is hiden by the green jungle; Las Pozas - please stop off to explore!

Here at Xilitla, as all over Mexico, history belongs to the ancient Mexican Huasteco people who lived in this area. They pay tribute to the Aztecs. The Aztecs as it was they who influenced their language. Money was in the form of feathers from exuberant big birds the area is plentiful with fruit and vegetables so these probably a means of payment too. After the Conquest, Franciscans Friars arrived, followed by the Dominicans, then the Augustians who were the third congregation to arrive in the New Spain to evangelize. A few years after their arrival in Mexico City the Augustians came here to Xilitla and built a Convent that resembled a fort, no doubt they were afraid of attacks by local indians.

There was no gold nor silver, so Spaniards went in different directions none seemed to care much about Xilitla, the town was abandoned. During the Independence war not much happened here, or in the century right after, so the town became smaller with very few people living or taking advantage of the fertile soil or the fruits of the land.

Mexican history gained British names during the XIX Century, when Britain, along with France where the powerful countries in the world at this time. Porfirio Diaz was the president of Mexico for 30 long years, he opened the borders to British investors and the industrial revolution came from the UK to Mexico. Rail roads were built, textile manufacturing and mining began. For more than 50 years, the second half of the 19th century, the British presence was strong. You can see their remains in remote parts such as San Quintin at Baja California Pacific Shore, or in Real del Monte in the State of Hidalgo. Here a British colony came to explote the silver mines and left their influence..., you can see their influence behind, you can see this in the blue eyes and red hair that you find occasionaly in the area.

But now that I'm at Xilitla, I'm learning one of the most fascinating stories which sounds more like a tale but is in fact very real. I'm referring to Edward James, born in Graywall, Scotland in 1907. He was the bastard grandson of Edward VII, son of Elisabeth Evelyn Forbes... he confirmed the rumor himself stating "I'm not the bastard son but the bastard nephew". His mother married one of the richest men in England, who has his empire in the USA, William James, the one who builds all rail tracks in the USA.

Born in the high end society, he recived a strict education, carried out with the precision of the British clock and was the Victorian way in the 20th century. He encountered several problems in introducing his new concepts of life into an old-fashioned society. In between the two wars, surrealist art began to florish, he had the first contact with Salvador Dali who introduced him to Luis Buñuel, then to René Magritte. Theese people were not stuck in aristocratic Victorian England, so with new ideas in his mind and with a substancial fortune, he moved before the Second War to New York, having big plans for surrealistic art, then he moved to California, but, big growing cities was not what he was looking for. He meets Leonora Carrington, another British surrealist artist who left England for the same reason and was established in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Edward James, an eccentric millionaire, decided to explore the country; he loves orchids and was looking for strange, rare species which only grows in la Huasteca, so he decided to go there.

It was 1944 when he met Plutarco Gastelum, a telegraphist who became his personal guide in Mexico. A few months after he became his guide they arrived in la Huasteca, right where those orchids gow here in Xilitla. The air, the weather, the ambiance combined to conquer Edward James. Akind of miracle or "signal" as he refers to it, took palce when he was swimming in a river which passed through an area where an enormous number of yellow butterfiles appeeared, he was shocked at the site and decided to buy the property and create his Garden of Eden.

The first thing he built was the pools; the river makes small cascades and James and Plutarco constructed the first and second pool around this. The garden with its perfect weather was ideal to grow thousand of orchids which were the most beautiful and fragant orchids you could find. James was coming and going, with houses all around the world, he had a sensitive eye for the new arts and left Plutarco to take care of the orchids. But in 1962, something happened that never had happens in la Huasteca.... snow. All of the orchids died.

Edward James was furious, all his years of his effort was destroyed in just two days. He decided to construct something undestructable, a Surrealist Garden with surreal cement plants and trees. So construction began; he built a castle with corridors to take you nowhere, and stairs that went to non-existing floors. He build fabulous baths and terraces overlooking the magnificent jungle. All from cement with an artistic concept to make the cement appears as if it were nature itself, an achievement seen rarely around the world. With a local worker he found the perfect match, in his mind he created the designs and passed the draqings to José Mendoza who turned them into the most beautiful, incredible and strange Garden of the Eden right here in Xilitla, Mexico.

This is Sir Edward James (1907-1984). The park is open every day from 9 to 5, guides are available upon request. The entrance fee is just 30 pesos, you can swim at the Pozas (pools), you will find a restaurant on the premises, some vendors at the entrance. I do not feel mosquitos or bugs at all. Xilitla is 350 kilometers from Mexico City... it is a must for your next trip to Mexico.

More about Sir Edward James at Wikipedia here:

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1 comentario:

  1. estas mal no esta abajo del nivel del mar de hecho xilitla esta muy pero muy arriba del nivel del mar en lugar de decir down es above.