Postcard from... San Luis Potosi


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The Independent Online

Nestled in the eastern slopes of Mexico’s glorious Sierra Gorda mountain range is a wonderfully weird sculpture garden created by the British artist and poet Edward James, a place where you can lose yourself in a magical labyrinth of walkways surrounded by 80 acres of subtropical rainforest.

James, born in 1907 to a wealthy American merchant and a Scottish socialite, was a renowned patron of the Surrealist movement whose beneficiaries included Dali and Picasso. Las Pozas (The Pools) was James’s attempt to create his own Garden of Eden in Xilitla, a fertile indigenous region in the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosí.

In the real world, bamboo, elms, wild banana palms, orchids and begonias do not thrive side by side. But in Las Pozas they do, and as you weave through the diverse gardens across peculiar bridges and winding stairwells, you stumble upon scores of surreal concrete sculptures and buildings, including abandoned enclosures where ocelots, jaguars and snakes were once homed. The fantastical Gothic, Egyptian and Mesopotamian designs boast equally eccentric names such as “The House on Three Floors Which Will in Fact Have Five or Four or Six”.

Work stopped when James died in 1984, but the unfinished and faded structures add a Gaudí-esque, fairy-tale feel to the place. The natural beauty is equally striking, with soaring waterfalls delivering crystal clear turquoise water into deep pools where children play, while adults try to take in the glorious eccentricity which surrounds them.