Jardín de Orquídeas San Cristóbal, later to become, Orquídeas Moxviquil was established in 1994 to rescue principally orchids, secondarily other epiphytes, which were being dumped and burned as garbage in the process of burning and clearing the forests: or were being removed for illegal commercial sales, or abandoned in the process as selling these plants is a Federal offence.
The fact that there was no visible governmental body rescuing displaced plants, nor any viable interest to address the problem of regional habitat destruction, led orchid novice Craig "Cisco" Dietz to begin rescuing, cataloging and guarding the plants he found abandoned and left to die. The idea was born from the modest and humble desire to protect and share with Mexico and the world some of Chiapas' natural resources.
After Cisco had been rescuing for many years, he was in need of assistance, and wanted to make the collection legal. By late 1999 the number of saved plants had grown to over 1500, including 300 of the 700 species of orchids recorded in Chiapas. In 2000, Cisco began negotiating with PRONATURA SUR, the preeminent guardian of the natural wonders of Chiapas and Mexico, to help establish the budding Orquídeas Moxviquil and to legalize the collection. In 2002 PRONATURA and Cisco reached an accord and received official governmental approval in the form of an UMA to help continue the work began in 1994. From 2002 until 2007 Cisco continued to rescue while maintaining the orchids at his private residence, but space in Cisco's home was running out. He needed a new home for the orchids so that the collection could continue its growth, and more visitors would be allowed to savor the natural wonders of Chiapas. With the help of a grant of seed money from Nature Valley Mexico in October of 2007, a donation from the Gonzales family of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the generous gift of land from PRONATURA SUR, and substantial financial backing, the Jardín de Orquídeas Moxviquil began to take shape at PRONATURA's Moxviquil reserve located on the outskirts of San Cristóbal.
Phase one began soon after the receipt of the grants. The construction started and stopped several times over the next two years due to usual construction surprises. Nevertheless, in April of 2009, Orquídeas Moxviquil saw the completion of the first of four greenhouses dedicated to plants from the tierra caliente — those plants that reside at 100 to 1500 meters above sea level. Also done was the filling of a spring-fed lagoon that supplies water for the vast irrigation system, and a network of pathways and benches that enhance and facilitate the growth and harmony of both the plants and the people that visit them — man and nature working together by bringing the art of each to the forefront.
OM is currently starting phase two of the project, which includes the construction of a small open-air amphitheater, the addition of an alternative energy RAM pump to help with irrigation, and the seeding of the lagoon with the endangered Popoyote (Profundulus hildebrandi), a small micro endemic fish exclusive to the San Cristóbal Valley. OM is also raising funds to build the second greenhouse, which is planned to house intermediate elevation species from Lagos de Montebello, one of the most endangered forest ecosystems of Mexico. This greenhouse will also be dedicated to Miguel Soto, one of the world's foremost orchidologist who passed away in 2009. His passing was a great loss to the world's orchid lovers and academics; his love of the orchids of Chiapas will be remembered and shared in OM's second greenhouse. Phase three and four will see the completion of the two other greenhouses and continued development on the grounds including a children's area, visitor's center and café.
The damage inflicted on the environment by man is manifold: from clearing new milpas — the traditional Mexican field of corn, beans and squash, to destroying many thousands of trees through the construction of hundreds of kilometers of new roads and electrical transmission lines, to clear cutting forests for cow and horse pastures. Add to this the growing demand for charcoal as a fuel for cooking and heating, the ancient practice of slash and burn agriculture, and out-of-control milpa fires, and there are thousands of hectares of virgin and second growth forest, savanna and selva being lost each year. These severely negative and destructive forest management concepts coupled with natural events such as storms, all push the need to guard and encourage sustainable and profitable natural reserves. This is where OM is making a difference, by rescuing plants and helping people appreciate the natural wonders of Chiapas. Beyond this, the jardín attempts to push the conceptual boundaries of the botanical garden, introducing forest management and the profitable rescue and reproduction of selected orchids for commercial sales. Through this sharing of knowledge, visitors of Moxviquil then may become spokespeople for the guardianship of THEIR forests. Adult and children alike learn from OM the benefits of forest protection.
Orquídeas Moxviquil proposes to establish a vital supportive life force in the area of forest management with the ORCHID as the symbol of all that is natural, beautiful, profitable and in need of protection and preservation.
The future for Orquídeas Moxviquil is open, will be ever changing but with the overriding purpose to PROTECT the existing wild areas of Chiapas, to DISPERSE INFORMATION about ORCHIDS and epiphytes, to ENCOURAGE PRESERVATION of existing forest, to implement SUSTAINABLE FOREST PRACTICES and to OPEN ADDITIONAL AVENUES OF FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE for communities using orchid flower sales as an avenue towards education, reforesting and land guardianship. The orchid is our symbol, our beacon to help motivate us to accept a new dawn of preservation and respect for the natural wonders of Chiapas.