On the ninth day Antonio and I drove to Xilitla, although the town is in the municipality of San Luis Potosí it was a long (5 hours) but beautiful drive to get up into the mountains.
We arrived in the late afternoon and met Emma Viggiano at Las Pozas, a surrealist landscape garden built by the British poet Edward James in the 1950s.
Las Pozas, is a truly remarkable place and has been completely embraced by local residents, for example the lagoons are used for swimming.
Edward James (1907-84), the millionaire poet, painter and patron to the Surrealists, moved to Mexico in the late 1930s to escape conservative British high society. James spent 40 years building Las Pozas (The Pools), a name that refers to the focal point of the garden – nine pools filled by a natural waterfall.
James designed and built a sprawling Surrealist-inspired garden full of large, colourful sculptures, although most of the colour has faded from them now. Las Pozas, is a beautiful ruin situated in dense, encroaching foliage.
Concrete paths wind through the forest, with roots forcing themselves up and between the structures and dangling off them. Moss and plants grow around the structures. In some ways I cannot imagine or even picture the structures as new, their decaying state seems to fit within the landscape. Nature is winning. I completely lose my way, which is enjoyable although I am slightly terrified I will come across one of James’ boa constrictors!
J. G. Ballard’s novel The Drowned World comes to mind as I clamber up onto one of the platforms. The Drowned World, is set in a post-apocalyptic future where global warming has caused the majority of the earth to become uninhabitable: tropical temperatures, flooding and accelerated evolution. There are parallels between Ballard’s landscape and Las Pozas, the concrete is being engulfed by the vegetation, worn and broken down. You end up looping round and round the garden, being very aware that you might fall down a precipice or off a structure (I did enjoy the lack of signposting and warning signs). I had imagined the experience of visiting Las Pozas to be serene and dreamlike, but it is not, you are on hyper alert at all times in the jungle – there is absolutely nothing wrong with this though as it adds to the experience of finding new modes of perception when inhabiting a landscape which is alien from anything I have ever encountered before. I can imagine Edward James transformed, like the humans who chose to stay at the lagoon in The Drowned World, he must have experienced an environmental time warp into the past of the human psyche and succumbed to the calling of our evolutionary past.