Caracol Ecatepec

Caracol Ecatepec was built in 1942 by SOSA Texcoco to desalinate the water of Lake Texcoco. Designed by Nabor Carrillo, the retention basin and a desalination plant were located over the drained site of Lake Texcoco.1 The 3,200m in diameter basin was called “the snail” from its short spiral-shaped concrete levee that circles it.1 The water from the lake entered from a pump house on an island in the middle of the basin and was channeled outward and clockwise.1 The channel increases in width while decreases in depth until it becomes too shallow to flow further.1 The water evaporates in the opposite direction.1 This allowed for a predictable collection of 100 tons of salts per day.1 The desalinated water that was extracted was used by the factories nearby.

A lack of understanding of the actual process caused the process to be more expensive than expected. In 1967, Lake Texcoco was further exploited by discovering and cultivating its blue algae. The algae are collected by screens and processed into dry nutritional supplement powder for commercial sale branded "Spirulina Mexicana". In December 1986, SOSA Texcoco went bankrupt from a series of strikes and the slow hand labor forced by its snail shape. In 1991, the company and facilities were sold at a low rate to a collective of investors called Sociedad Anónima de Capital Variable. Sociedad Anónima de Capital Variable tried to negotiate the collective bargaining contracts for manual laborers that were mandated upon SOSA Texcoco by the Madrid administration. In 1991, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the old contracts must be honored if any profit-seeking business were to resume operations. This forced Sociedad Anónima de Capital Variableto to fold. The government then liquidated the original deed, voided the worker contracts, and seized the inactive facility as a public asset.

In 2000, Caracol was redeveloped with 13,000 new units of low-income housing and a shopping mall. With the additional development and the informal growing settlement of El Salado nearby, the basin cannot expand.The basin is currently owned by the Mexican government and in use as a reservoir for industrial facilities within Mexico City. It is filled from a junction with the Canal de Sal that runs along the south edge of the facility and connects it to the rest of the Mexico City drainage basin.

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El Caracol in mid-20th century.

Sources:  Imen Hamed, “The Evolution and Versatility of Microalgal Biotechnology: A Review,” Wiley Online Library (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, September 26, 2016),

  1. Jose Castillo, “Peripheral Landscapes, El Caracol, Mexico City,” Architectural Design 78, no. 1 (2008): pp. 64-67,
  2. “El Caracol, Ecatepec,” Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation, April 10, 2020),,_Ecatepec.