Tiempo para la casa
Today was a peak into the history of this area. We jumped on a bus at the Biblioteca to visit three haciendas. A hacienda is like the British estate system. Think Downton Abbey with a Spanish/Mexican twist. In the 1500’s when Spain ruled what later would be called Mexico, large tracts of land were given to conquistadors and crown officials who would use them to cultivate crops, such as sugar, wheat, fruits and vegetables as well producing meat, leather, and tallow. Hacienda’s were more than just an estate house. They were a village with stores, a church, and where local native people would be allowed to live on the land to grow crops that were taxed or they could work directly for the landowner. The first hacienda we visited today was originally 1 million acres in size.
Our drive took us north through dry scrubland with occasional small towns. Not much growing at this time of year but cactus. Four hundred and fifty years ago when Hacienda Las Trancas was a fort used to house and guard caravans of silver taken out of local mines. These heavily guarded mule trains were heading toward a port on the Caribbean then Spain. Back in the silver era a group of renegade soldiers stole a large treasure of silver and hide it somewhere in the vicinity of the hacienda, it has never been found.
Father Miguel Hidalgo in the late 1700s, a champion of the common people and one of the early founders of Mexican independence struggle from Spain, hid weapons at the hacienda. Later, during the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900’s most haciendas were destroyed but not Las Trancas because the owner provided support and sanctuary for Pancho Villa. Today the hacienda has been restored by its owners in to a spectacular boutique hotel and the prices aren’t all that steep.
Back on the bus and hour up the road to a partially restored Hacienda La Quemada that has been in the same family for 5 generations. After being abandoned in the early 1900’s the current residents and their two married children and families decided to move in and work on the remaining part of the hacienda. The extended 3-generation family live in the original house and farm, grow grain raise cattle, plus run a school for special needs kids. The home is well on its way to being restored but the granary and stables are in serious disrepair.
Onto our third hacienda, Jaral de Berrio originated in the late 1600’s. The hacienda was so productive that the owners became one of the wealthiest families of the time, owning 98 other estates and were give the title of Marquis. During its heyday in the late 1800’s Jaral de Berrio operation housed 6500 people. Our guide told us to close out eyes as we drove close to the main house along a dirt road through dusty dry fields. When we allowed to open them; there was a group ‘ah!’ as we first viewed the massive ornate structure.
We went in through the huge wooden doors to find an enormous main house plus a series of buildings all in significant disrepair with remnants of hand painted frescos, ornate tile, and imported French wallpaper. If this Hacienda was located in either the USA or Canada, the govt’ would never let people near this place as it was unsafe to wander along floors that were collapsing with large holes everywhere. Things are different in Mexico.
As we came down the grand staircase it was hard not to imagine the residents of days gone by, in their elegant gowns and fancy carriage while numerous servants scurried around creating an extremely opulent life for the owners and their guests. In the 18th century the hacienda began producing mescal, and the tradition continues with licenses being granted to produce the mescal off site. It was very sad to see the once elegant massive estate house in such a poor state with little hope of restoration. We felt very fortunate to have seen it at all.