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Yolanda Gutierrez, "Santuario (Sanctuary)", 1994
Yolanda Gutierrez, "Santuario (Sanctuary)", Installation, Xochimilco Lake, Mexico City, Mexico, 1994 (Courtesy : Espace d' Art, Yvonamor Palix Paris-Mexico)

Yolanda Gutiérrez

Santuario (Sanctuary)

Xochimilco Lake, Mexico City

This large scale habitat project was built using reeds and natural materials and designed to be visually stunning yet blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscape.

"The effort was directed towards the water birds of the marshes of the Xochimilco Ecological Zone. Xochimilco is one of the last remnants of what was once a lake basin underlying what is now Mexico City. On September 10, 1987 UNESCO declared Xochimilco a "World Cultural Heritage Site".

The growing impact of urbanization and its increasing need for water deteriorated or destroyed vast regions of the original ecosystem of Xochimilco.

Recently, efforts have been made to preserve some of the marshes which remain. This preservation effort is led by the Xochimilco Ecological Park and the Ecological Sporting Center of Cuemanco.

The project started in December 1994 with a pilot study. Refuges were created to inventory the local bird population. These refuges later became the construction modules of the sculpture. The birds used the refuges after only the third day of the assembly. The first species which used the refuges were the "gallaretas" (Fulica americana and Gallinula chloropus). Later, hérons (Casmerodius albus) and wild ducks of the species Anas discor and Oxyura jamaicensis used the sculpture. This last species is generally found in Western Canada and certain areas of Colombia.

The sculpture was installed in May, 1995 and has the capacity to provide habitat for up to 70 birds. The birds used it as place of rest and food, but they did not nest there. We will continue monitoring during the next nesting season to evaluate and check if the sculpture has a positive impact on the population of the birds."

Note: By August 22, 1995 four niches of the sculpture were reported to have eggs in them. Unfortunately, due to the the difficulty of approaching the sculpture and the sensitivity of bird nesting habitat, the exact bird species was never identified. Ongoing monitoring from a distance will continue to follow-up on this event.

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