Our first whole day in Xilitla we went to Las Pozas (the pools), a magical, tropical, surrealistic place unlike anything I have ever seen. It is just a couple of kilometers outside town, and one of the main tourist attractions. Las Pozas was the property of eccentric Scot Edward James, who started building a magical sculpture garden in the late 1940s. James was born in 1907 and early became involved in the surrealistic movement, supporting among others Salvador Dali. He was actually painted by both Dali and Rene Magritte.
While spending time in California, he decided he wanted to set up a Garden of Eden - and that it should be in Mexico. He found Xilitla in 1945 and had a vision that it was the perfect place. From this moment and until his death in 1984, he worked at transforming the more than 80 acres (320,000 m2) of natural waterfalls and pools into a sculpture garden filled with towering Surrealist sculptures.
Allow me to quote Wikipedia: "Between 1949 and 1984, James built thirty-six concrete follies - palaces, temples and pagodas, including the House on Three Floors Which Will in Fact Have Five or Four or Six, the House with a Roof like a Whale, and the Staircase to Heaven. There were also plantings and beds full of tropical plants, including orchids - there were, apparently, 29,000 at Las Pozas at one time - and a variety of small casas (homes), niches, and pens that held exotic birds and wild animals from the world over. Massive sculptures up to four stories tall punctuate the site."
We took a great tour with a guide named Carlos - you really need the explanations to get the full story. It is also a good way to support the foundation that now runs the place. He did scare me, though, when he said to watch out for the snakes - apparently they come out and sunbathe on all the different surfaces! It is also really fun to swim in the waterfalls there, although the water is chilly. It really is a magical place and a fabulous mixture of nature and art.
Edward James created structures that looked like nature, such as bamboo, and structures that imitated architecture, such as these arches based on Italian churches:
James loved creating art that imitated nature, and that nature could take over and break down. Here are some stone Flor de Lis: