The small Xilitla, located in the Huasteca de Potosí region with its rich forests and water, owes its greatest attraction to an eccentric Englishman.
Xilitla (in Nahuatl: “place of the snails”) is a coffee growing community of about 5000 inhabitants at one of the highest points of the Zona Huasteca in San Luis Potosí.
The most famous attraction of the small village is the surrealistic rock garden Las Pozas of the eccentric Englishman Edward James.
He left Great Britain in 1940 on the run from the war and first went to Los Angeles, where he met other emigrants. It was at this time that James first expressed his dream of “creating a Garden of Eden,” for which, he said, “Mexico seemed more romantic than the overpopulated Southern California.”
A little later, he accepted an invitation from the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm to Cuernavaca in Mexico, where he became friends with the Mexican aristocrat and hobby architect Plutarco Gastélum. He recommended the village of Xilitla to James for his orchid breeding. Soon James started to build up his orchid breeding including a butterfly garden. When a severe frost in 1962 destroyed both, James decided to immortalize his orchids as concrete sculptures in a sculpture garden.
The project evolved over 20 years into a bizarre jungle city of unfinished palaces, temples and pagodas with staircases leading to nowhere, winding paths lined by columns with colorful capitals leading to houses without ceilings and populated by exotic wildlife such as flamingos, parrots or chokebergs and overgrown by plants.
The waterfalls and streams of the valley were channelled as meanders around the park and feed numerous wells.
The only habitable building among the architectural curiosities served at times as an accommodation for the eccentric builder, whom the Mexicans called either “the crazy Englishman” or “Don Eduardo”.
Until James’ death in 1984, indigenous Otomí continued to work on this fantasy city, which extended through the jungle with no discernible plan.
With James’ death – he died on his way back from a visit to Europe – the construction work on the park was stopped and it was left to gradually decay.