Today we are going to Muse about haciendas. If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.
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We were reading the Atención, the weekly newspaper in San Miguel de Allende and we came across an announcement of a hacienda tour. “That sounds interesting“, we thought. “Lets go.” And we did.
About twenty of us boarded vans at the Biblioteca at 9 on a Thursday morning and spent the next eight hours with guides learning about haciendas and a bit of Mexican history. I don’t know what comes to your mind when you hear the word “hacienda”, but I was surprised by what we saw.
I had thought of a hacienda as being a large ranch style residence. It is much more than that. It is more like a self-contained community organized around a commercial enterprise like a farm, ranch or mine. They can be quite large and self-governing.
I had also thought we would visit beautiful well-appointed buildings full of art and antiques. Again I was surprised.
The first part of our tour took us to the town of San Felipe in the state of Guanajuato. The guide explained that San Miguel de Allende, where we were staying, and San Felipe were two of the oldest Spanish cities in Mexico. They were both started in the mid 1500’s as fortified settlements on the road the Spanish called el camino real, the Indian trade route which went north from Mexico City as far as Santa Fé (New Mexico). The towns were built to protect the owners of the nearby mines and their people from the Indians who were aggressively trying to drive them away.
Our first stop was at the ancient church in San Felipe.
The church is famous for its bell tower, or lack there of. Apparently it was without a bell tower for over 300 years because the town was poor. It has one now and the people are proud. I thought it was a nice church
The guide gave special attention to this Christ. Apparently there is an exact duplicate of it in one of the churches in San Miguel de Allende. The towns were founded at the same time and equipped the same.
One of the early priests was murdered by the Indians and the church desecrated, but the crucifix was recovered and restored.
The church is also famous for being the church where Miguel Hidalgo y Castilla served from 1793 to 1803. He is considered to be the “father of Mexico” because he led the revolution for independence in 1810. This plaque is in the church and he is listed on the fourth line.
San Felipe has a rich history. Benito Juárez, the Mexican President who drove out the French and executed Maximilian, stayed in San Felipe before going north to Texas to procure weapons for his war. This plaque is on one of the downtown buildings.
So after this we headed off to our first hacienda.
Not exactly what I expected. What you can’t see is the size of the place which extends to the sides and back quite a ways. This hacienda is a working farm/ranch. It is nearly 500 years old and is built without cement or rebar. A young family lives there.
After touring the hacienda our group gathered outside its entrance and had some snacks and mezcal and looked at the cactus.
Then we were off to the next hacienda. This one is abandoned.
Notice the people in the photo below. Our group. It will give you a sense of the size of this place.
It was interesting to poke around this site which sits out on a hill in the middle of nowhere. The fact that it is hundreds of years old and has not crumbled away is remarkable.
There was not much to see at the third hacienda. It was more like a village. This photo was taken from a school yard. The building behind the hedge is large like the second hacienda but parts of it are still serviceable. We were ushered into a large cavernous room, which at one time had been a granary, where we had comida (late lunch/early dinner). The women in the village cooked and served the food. I am certain the tour guide set this up as a way to bring some income to the hacienda.
So there we have it. This was not what I expected but it was interesting just the same.
more to come
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