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230 years of the foundation of Guatemala City

Neighborhood Ciudad Vieja, zone 10

Interesting sites: Botanical Garden of the University of San Carlos of Guatemala

Several species of tress

Guatemala City, November 2006/ The origin of the Botanical Garden of the City of Guatemala goes way back to the year 1873, when a group of persons showed interest on its creation.



But it would not be until 1910 when the Dean of the School of Medicine and Pharmacy, M.D. Julio Rosal, takes the initiative of starting the formalities to establish it, with the help from some departmental authorities of that time.

 

Two years later, M.D. Eduardo Saravia, professor of Medical Botany of the School joins these efforts, making the first request of seeds to Casa Vilmorin in Paris, France; and later being in charge of the distribution of the plants. However, due to the lack of water the first crops were not accomplished. Engineer Manuel López Pedrajos joins the team, drawing the blueprints of the Botanical Garden.

 

The lack of water stopped the works in 1914, but this situation inspired Dr. Rosal, who ordered the perforation of a well, requesting himself the bomb and electric motor to New York. This machinery was installed in 1915, and that same year the steel tower, the deposit tank and tubing for the distribution of water arrived, all of which were necessary for the garden. All these jobs were supervised by Dr. Rosal.

 

Commemorative plate of the garden’s inauguration.

In 1917 the first crops were planted systematically, obtaining samples from the city and other departments of the country, importing some others from the United States of America and bringing some seeds from Europe. Also, several people contributed by giving away some species. At the same time, they were projecting the establishment of a Botanical Laboratory, Museum and Classroom. Finally, all these projects were ready and successful thanks to the support of students, teachers, university authorities and government authorities as well.

 

 

However, the Botanical Garden would be definitely established in its present location in 1922, through the donation granted by the President of the Republic, Carlos Herrera to the School of Natural Sciences and Pharmacy, under the condition of building in there a Botanical Garden and the corresponding annexed buildings. It was the first Botanical Garden of Central America and it was inaugurated by the university authorities on December 29, 1922, on the day of the celebration of 100 years of birth of the French scientist Luis Pasteur. On the inauguration, Mr. Miguel Contreras, wrote on the Diario de Centro América the following:

 

The place where Estrada Cabrera ordered the construction of the building for the Practical School for Boys and which the earthquakes of 1917 blew to the ground, slowly is becoming into the most precious garden of its gender which Guatemala will ever possess.

At the border, from south to east, walkers become entranced before the whiteness of the cotton flakes which entwine with its sharp tonality against the green foliage of the branches. Inside, a demanding botanist would find, in a homogeneous group, all species (diligently reunited) known by the European botanical science.

The nice appearance of the blooming plants; the mixed perfume, the likeness of corollas and the perfect symmetry of the bushes with its corresponding sign on the bottom of each one, gives the idea of the beneficial that this garden will become in a closer future. The monument of letters conceded its place to that of scientific gardening; and together with that of sports and the Roadway of La Reforma they are a triple incentive to what is awesome and beautiful.

(…) makes our fantasies wander, breathing the aroma of each flower and on each petal we imaging a seed that tomorrow will stimulate our successors in the research field. Passing in front of the Botanical Garden has enlightened a great illusion in our soul: that Guatemala might display on each of its corners, a scenic monument of science and culture”. (May 15, 1925, p. 1)

 

Its first director was Licenciado Eduardo Saravia, Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Pharmacy; a little bit later Dr. Honoris Causa Ulises Rojas, was appointed, and he occupied this post during 34 years in two periods (1922-1930 y 1934-1959) and it was under his direction that the Herbarium was established in 1923. In the lapse from 1931-34, Dr. Mariano Pacheco Herrarte was its director. From 1960-64 Lic. Rodrigo Estrada was in charge..



In 1965 the post was occupied by Lic. Mario Dary Rivera (also Director at that time of the Biology Department of the School of General Studies). In 1972 the School of Biology was created in the College of Chemical Sciences and Pharmacy and the Unit of the Index Seminum was established. As a result of his election as Rector of USAC, in 1981, his post as director of the garden was assumed by Lic. Gustavo César Ramos. At the beginning of 1982, the Center of Conservational Studies–CECON for its initials in Spanish was appointed to the College of Chemical Sciences and Pharmacy, and the Botanical Garden came to be a part of it, and until this day it maintains its management and instruction.



The Botanical Garden is located approximately at 1500 m above sea level, possessing an annual average temperature of 20.3º C and an annual average of 1162.5 mm of rain in 110 days year of rainfall. The complex has a territorial extension of 17,611.76 m2 and includes collections which exceed the number of 700 species from 110 botanical families, excepting ornamental plants.

 


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Dra. Frieda Liliana Morales Barco
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