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The Secret World of the Old Water

Octavio Aburto is a National Geographic WAITT grantee embarking upon an expedition to document and preserve the last untamed Mexican River: The San Pedro Mezquital.


My friend and colleague Jaime Rojo has been working with giant Sabinos (Taxodium mucronatum) since many years ago. These trees constitute one of the most important ecosystems in the upper watershed in the San Pedro Mequital River. Undoubtedly is one of the most interesting species along the River due to its longevity and noble bearing. Wherever there is a water source, even semi-permanent, or alternatively a very shallow water table, it is very likely to find a sign of this plant community, so important for landscape connectivity.

Photo by: Octavio Aburto
Photo by: Octavio Aburto

Jaime’s work has been use to support several initiatives to protect these forests. He has said that delving into these forests of the San Pedro Mezquital is like to enter to a magical world where willow, poplar, ash and giant Sabinos whisper their secrets to the wind. Sabinos are also the most corpulent and long-lived tree in Mexico, as well as the national tree of the country. Ahuehuete, the other name by which Sabinos are known, comes from Nahuatl, where atl means “water” and huehue, “the old or grandfather” hence its popular name of “old from the water”. Considered the longest standing species of Mexico, the ancient ahuehuetes safeguard the banks of the San Pedro Mezquital, one would think to accompany it in the feeling and encourage it in the prelude to the most prodigious feat of this river: cross the mountains and thus connect the highlands to the coastal plains.

Photo by: Octavio Aburto
Photo by: Octavio Aburto

After our work in the Pine forests ecosystems, now we have finished the documentation of Sabino forests. Has been exciting crossing canyons, waterfalls, and camp in several areas; some of them almost pristine. Now we are moving to the deserts of Durango. In this region, the River flows underwater suppling all the water for large valleys that produce almost the majority of Mexico’s agriculture.

NEXT: The Quite Birthplace of an Untamed River


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  1. althea
    June 2, 2013, 7:58 pm

    Greetings! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I really enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects? Many thanks!