The bald cypress (El Sabino) in La Huerta is a well-known tourist spot about 30 minutes from San Miguel visited frequently by Mexicans and foreign tourists including adventurous bikers. We have explored the community of La Huerta for painting possibilities, driven through several times and painted recently in the adjacent community of La Soria. It was time to tackle El Sabino.
The tree is so big that painting it from any distance requires sitting in the sun, an absolute no-no in May in Mexico, and doesn’t do justice to the sheer mass of the trunk. We both opted to sit in the welcoming shade and focus on the sculptural form of the trunk. I coaxed a teenager to pose to give you, the viewer, some sense of proportion.
El Sabino de La Huerta is thought to be the second largest tree in Mexico….certainly it can lay claim to being the largest tree in the state of Guanajuato. Sabino, ahuehuete, ciprés, Montezuma cypress, Mexican cypress are all names for the bald cypress or Taxodium mucronatum. “Ahuehuete” is a Nahuatl phrase that means “old man of the water;” a fit name for a tree that is always associated with swamps, streams or springs. In this case, El Sabino is growing atop an underground spring that is tapped by villagers for drinking water and then shortly flows on into the Rio Laja.
The bald cypress is the national tree of Mexico. This particular specimen is thought to be around 450 years old and has a circumference that twenty men can encircle or so it is claimed. If you are not from areas where the bald cypress grows, close relatives are the California redwood and the giant sequoia…both massive trees as well.
The community of La Huerta, meaning garden or orchard, is nestled along the Rio Laja below the Allende Dam. One reaches it by traveling through a very long (450 meters) and high (7 meters) tunnel that was constructed in 1903; the interior had to be high to accommodate the steam engines of that time. The construction of the dam (1969) necessitated the relocation of the tracks with the original track and tunnel becoming the road to this community.
Following is information about La Huerta from a government document. A reading of the dates gives one an understanding of the long isolation of communities in rural areas.
1643 There is a record of the construction of the main church.
1923 La Huerta was formalized as an ejido.
1955 The Rio Laja flooded part of the community and many others along the Laja. Note: 1955 was the year of a catastrophic flood along the Laja with all communities for which there are records noting flooding in that year.
1963 The primary school was built.
1970 Due to the construction of the Allende dam, the railway was relocated and its track became a dirt road.
1980 Start of work for the electricity service.
1985 Construction of the kindergarten.
1990 Construction of the vehicular bridge. Before 1990, the only access was a footbridge.
1995 Construction of the telesecundaria.
2000 Inauguration of the potable water service.
The main crops are corn, beans, and avocados. The community is known for making and selling basketry, embroidery and stone pots. Different than most other communities, there are both Catholic and Evangelical churches in La Huerta. La Huerta recognizes itself as an indigenous community because of its origins and traditions. Past generations spoke the indigenous language Otomi.
La Huerta: Population, 861; dwellings, 198; elevation, 1812 meters; Longitude (dec): -100.828611; Latitude (dec): 20.821389