Having said all I’ve said about the sorry state of the barrancas in Cuernavaca, it was a pleasant surprise to discover one shining light in urban conservation and ecological protection.
The Barranca de Chapultepec is a beautiful park – a real oasis in the middle of the city. It’s a 3 kilometre walk out of town following Avenida Cuauhtémoc through a pretty well-to-do area lined with impressive walled houses bristling with security cameras (you can’t really see anything beyond intimidating ivy and fortress-like gates). As you arrive at the Barranca de Chapultepec you’re immediately struck by how clean, green and free-feeling this place is. It is a barranca so it essentially follows a deep cut stream that winds along the ravine floor, with steep wooded sides and (of course) houses clinging to the very tops, but in this instance, most of these homes looked solid and well-maintained, so not the make-shift shanty towns clinging for dear life to the sides of most barrancas. Waterfalls are aplenty here and seem clean and pollution-free, even cascading down from the houses above, though at the end of the park at the spot where a lake forms with pedal-boats for hire, there’s a bloody great elevated freeway that cuts right across the lower tip of the park, juggernauts barrelling over the tops of the trees.
Barranca de Chapultepec occupies an area of 12,844 hectares of flora and fauna including magnificent 250-year-old Ahuehuete trees that are native to the valley of Mexico. A 1.5 kilometre trail follows the Chapultepec spring, whose source is the subterranean aquifers of the Chichinautzin Biological Corridor, a ‘protected natural area’ south of Mexico City in the Sierra de Ajusco-Chichinauhtzin, an east-west chain of volcanic mountains, part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt.
As previously mentioned, the barrancas are fundamental to the climatic stability of Cuernavaca, with the lush dense vegetation watered by the aquifers, regulating the humidity and air temperature – as is the case in Barranca de Chapultepec. It is noticeably cooler here walking down along the side of the bubbling stream. (I’m afraid that can’t be said of Barranca del Salto de San Antón which I previously posted about, with the appalling pollution and ramshackle buildings pressing around it).
It was also promising to see so many families, young couples, joggers and picnickers enjoying this beautiful place, some engaging with the environmental education facilities that promote the care, conservation and historical value that protecting the barrancas delivers not just for their own enjoyment but for future generations. The park also features enclosed Native Wildlife Units which allow people to engage directly with the local fauna including Butterflies, Birds, Reptiles (snakes and iguanas), Fish and Amphibians.
If only the local government, with much needed Federal (even UNESCO) help I would imagine, could coalesce around the clean-up, rejuvenation and ultimately permanent protection of Cuernavaca’s barrancas. But I suspect that the much larger, possibly insurmountable, challenge of tackling the make-shift sprawl of the inner city – the clusters of seemingly unregulated ‘houses’ precariously clinging to the sides of the barrancas – may never be successfully addressed.
I’ve been keen to see as many barrancas as possible whilst here, but many of them are so narrow and deep that only a cursory glimpse can be had, often crossing a short road bridge – peering down into the rubbish-strewn abyss, so sadly these inaccessible barrancas could well be beyond saving.
I learnt of another ‘reclaimed’ park, the Barranca de Amanalco (which served as a defence for the town against Hernán Cortés and his invading conquistadors, slowing them down with their vertiginous walls and thick vegetation). In 1990 the Amanalco barranca was cleaned up, quickly becoming one of Cuernavaca’s most popular attractions. A new walkway and suspended footbridge were officially opened by the Mayor of Cuernavaca as recently as June 2022. Sadly, on the very day of opening, the footbridge suddenly collapsed, sending dozens of people metres below onto the rocks and boulders of the stream bed, including the mayor and his wife. Here’s video footage of the moment the footbridge collapsed. More embarrassing than fatal, but still…
Unfortunately, Barranca Amanalco remains closed to the public, locked off for how long I wonder, possibly a huge set-back for the ‘save the barranca’ cause. Let’s hope that it will be quickly restored and the ongoing clean up and protection of these invaluable natural wonders continues.
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OMG re the collapse footage. It’s a good thing the void below them wasn’t greater 😳