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The Surrealist Gardens of Las Pozas

Xilitla, Mexico

By Stephen "Stefanosis" MoorePublished 3 years ago 4 min read
Top Story - January 2021

In the early 60s, an eccentric British poet and architect began the most extensive, surrealist art project ever imagined - a fantasy art labyrinth in the jungles of Mexico. I first discovered this magical kingdom by browsing YouTube travel videos. It was the winter of 2017, and I announced to my wife that I had discovered the perfect travel destination. In addition to the Edward James garden, we would also have the chance to see the amazing, natural paradise of La Huasteca, Mexico.

From Los Angeles, we would have to fly to Mexico City - an entry point for most of the country. From Mexico City, a short 45 minute flight took us to the small town of San Luis Potosi, where we spent the night. First, I had to rent a car at the airport, because this place wasn't our final stop. San Luis Potosi is a traditional, charming little town with Spaniard style cathedrals, cobblestone streets and very friendly locals. We felt perfectly safe, and even did some shopping from local vendors in the alleys.

To get to Xilitla and the Garden, we had to take a long, dusty two-lane highway. At that time, I used printed directions, but I highly recommend GPS. There's not too much traffic on the highways, but the drive out of town isn't for the faint of heart ! Semi trucks drive very fast in the opposite direction, and they don't hesitate to enter your lane to pass a slower vehicle in front. Driving this first highway called 'San Luis Potosi Matehuala' is so dry and unspectacular, you might think you're going in the wrong direction, but heading into the mountains - Rio Verde and Ciudad Valles - the landscape begins to change.

By the time you enter Xilitla, you're in the Huasteca region. It's lush, green and tropical, with rivers and waterfalls. Highway 120 curves through these jungle mountains, and the turnoff to the small street where the Garden is located is very easy to miss without GPS. There are no billboards, and not even modest signs to let you know that you've arrived. I learned this the hard way, driving at night time with printed directions. Luckily, boarding for the night is plentiful near the Garden, with places like Posada James Xilitla, Villa Ecotourista La Huerta (where we stayed), and the Casa Caracol - which is closest to the Garden.

The Villa Ecotourista had a very unique tree-house room (yes, an actual treehouse) where we spent the night. After breakfast, a 15 minute walk up a slight incline would lead us to the Jardín Escultórico Edward James - the Sculpture Garden of Edward James. From the outside gate, I could already see a couple structures, and excitement rose from within. Like everything else in Mexico, the admission fee was very reasonable. With 80 acres of concrete structures, jungle and waterfalls, there is plenty to see here, and it's worth every peso.

The Gardens are a photographer's dream, with tropical plants and artistic architecture around every turn. You really don't know what to expect next. There are spiraling stairs that lead to platforms for no reason, and many structures resemble flowers and giant hands. Visually, it takes you to a wonderland that Alice didn't have access to. We arrived early, so I was able to take many, decent pictures, but soon the Garden was swelling with people. If you don't get there early, you'll be waiting a long time to get those perfect shots free from visitors; However, even if you're not a photographer, simply exploring will give you hours of enjoyment.

For children, the Garden is extra special, because it allows for the expanse of uninhibited imagination. As if wandering inside a real life Dr. Seuss book, the child's mind doesn't have to worry about why portals lead to nowhere and towers have no particular purpose, as fantasy replaces reality here. Unfortunately, children under the age of 12 are not allowed in the Garden - likely due to liability factors - and children over 12 must show proof with an I.D. In my opinion, a signed waiver from adult caretakers or parents could remedy this restriction.

As morning seemed to fly by, the crowds became thicker and our stomachs started growling. There is no restaurant at the Garden - at least not that I'm aware of. After our few hours of picture taking and exploring, my wife and I agreed it was time to exit this magical, mystical Garden. Perhaps some things have changed since I last visited - such as the admissions price, and rules and regulations. What will never change in the Garden is the mystery and allure of those strange, concrete structures among jungle backdrops. Stay surreal, my friends !

*** For more information about the Edward James Gardens, including directions from various parts of Mexico, visit the official website: https://www.laspozasxilitla.org.mx/en/index.html

travel photography

About the Creator

Stephen "Stefanosis" Moore

Educator, musician, yoga teacher and singing-bowl enthusiast from the Central Valley area of California.

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