Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Hacienda Life

When I was doing my research and putting together this itinerary for Steve and I, I kept thinking that I had seen all of the places we were going to visit. Granted, many years ago, but it was not going to be anything new for me. So what did I want to see or do?

Even though the Yucatan peninsula is dotted with many haciendas, I had never really had a great inclination to stop at or visit any of them. Why not change that on this trip? So I added the Hacienda Yaxcopil to our agenda. It was a large, henequen producing "farm" in it's prime. And was right on our route.

I was first and foremost impressed with the signage starting on the outskirts of Merida directing us to this place. Very easy to find, even though we did call Steve's new GPS into assistance at times!

After driving through a tiny, sleepy little village, one comes to these impressive gates, marking the entrance to the hacienda. It was very easy to imagine carriages arriving, fancy dressed people alighting for an afternoon of croquet and tacos. It must have been spectacular in it's prime.

Passing through the gates, one sees the main house, located at the far end of a great, grassy courtyard.

Now covered mostly in moss and algae, it must have created quite the elegant impression when freshly painted.

We arrived just in time to see the English language tour (well, two other tourists) being led off by their guide. We thought we would just ramble around and explore on our own. A kindly, elderly gentlemen who had evidently lived at or worked at the hacienda all of his life, had other plans. The first few minutes of his following us around, babbling away in Spanish, drove me to distraction. Then I really started listening to him and realized that he was, indeed, a guide and valuable resource. By the end of the "tour", we actually wanted to hug him for making this place come alive for us.

Naturally, the walls are covered with family portraits and pictures from various periods of the hacienda's active life span. What a noble figure this gentlemen cuts on this splendid horse. I will show you the tree he is posing by later.

The place is still largely furnished with furniture and household items of the time. Since hennequen was made mostly into rope and used for hammock making, it is quite conceivable that this chair may have been made on the property by one of the many skilled craftsmen employed there. I have no problem imaging the padron of the hacienda relaxing here, smoking his pipe and mentally counting his money.

This particular hacienda's furnishings and updatings are from around 1907. Notice that they had running water inside the house!

I really love these old pictures one finds scattered around Mexico. Such a nice glimpse into style and culture and what may have been popular at the time. Our guide told us that this was not the family who lived here but was not sure who they were. I was left to ponder, with my active imagination, who these people may have been and why they were important enough to the family to deserve a place on their wall.

Behind the main house is the factory. This is where the hennequen was processed before shipping it off. Imagine that field in front of the building full of drying racks, each one loaded down with strands of hennequen drying in the hot Yucatecan sun. Boggles the mind.

Guns and rifles were on prominent display. Attesting to the owner's hunting process. Or his ability and willingness to protect what was his?

I loved these next two luxury items. Only the rich.
The first was one of several brass flower decorations for the main dining room table. Note that each leave can be plucked from it's base and becomes a personal ashtray for that after dinner cigar. Clever.

I suppose that wines or any kind of liquor was expensive and difficult to come by in those days. In order to discourage the curious housemaid or man servant, the owner employed this device.

The top lowers onto the bottle and only the master has the key to open it. We will have no unauthorized drunks at this hacienda!
A view of the main dining room table. I don't know if that paint is original or not. Since nothing seems to be modern, it could be the original. Our guide did not know. I think he found a lot of our questions quizzical, at best. We were constantly interrupting his rehearsed narrative with minute questions having little to do with what he actually wanted to tell us. We were trying to get a feel for the family as well as the house they lived in.

Next to the main dining room was the private kitchen for the family. Meals for staff were prepared and consume elsewhere on the property. This one was very well stocked with all of the latest innovations.

One one seemed to be a repository for equipment used by the craftsmen employed there. Look at all of the different augers they had for drilling holes.

I've mentioned Yucatecan floors before. I find them fascinating. Almost to the point of distraction. The Hacienda offered up a splendid assortment of tiles and kept with the tradition of using a different tile in each room. These tiles actually offered up a 3D like effect.

The photographer in me could not pass up this play of light and shadow on the floor caused by the veranda arches.

The vast main house also had it's own chapel and altar. I'm sure that this aristocratic family was not about to debase themselves by attending Mass with the masses.

Here and there we encountered a few surprises. Like this footstool bench.

Which, in reality, served a dual purpose.

In the main bedroom, the mistresses dressing table. I wonder what she kept in all those drawers?

This next piece of furniture really captured us. I wanted to try it out, but, of course, one was not allowed to actually sit in it. We could play with it though and put it into all of it's various positions.

The house is set up as one long, flowing space, each room dissolving into the next. Each room also had a door opening onto the veranda and allowing the fresh air in. The sheer height of the ceilings kept the rooms cool.

The main bathroom. They even had a tub and hot water! So advanced for that age. Bathtubs are still a rarity in most of Mexico. I bet that this really signified great luxury.

Count them. This family had not one, but two, in ground swimming pools! Completely cement lined and bordered with changing rooms. Nice for them on those steamy hot Yucatectan summer days.

A closer view of the hennequen processing building.

Of course, the grounds are covered with fruit trees, palms of all varieties and flower beds. Most of what the family needed was grown someplace on this huge plantation.

Our guide was quick to point out to us that this is still the original paint from the outside of the house. One still sees this particular color combination around.

A view from the front porch back to the entrance gate. You can see how huge and truly magnificent this old tree is by comparing it to our little car parked underneath. Also, from a different angle, this is the tree where that horseman was posing.

I totally and thoroughly enjoyed our time spent at this hacienda. I have now added other ones to my list of things to see. If you are in the area, do spend some time and visit one. It is well worth the time.


Sue said...

I don't just want to visit one, my dream is to own one. All that land, we'd have massive gardens and our pets would have lots of room to play. Great pics and description, thanks so much for sharing!

Marc Olson said...

I love exploring the haciendas, but this one, surprisingly, is one I have not yet visited. It reminds me a little bit of Uayalceh, which although not as imposing, still has its main house in good shape. You can walk the grounds (I ran into a caretaker who said it was OK), and although the house is not open, though open windows you can see the original furnishings inside the house, very reminiscent of Yaxcopoil. Thanks for posting this.

Ann said...

This is so interesting! Thanks for sharing--Great info on another fascinating place to visit.

Anonymous said...

What, ..... no peacocks..????

O Robert

Calypso said...

Great photos and report! Love the tile shots.

KfromMichigan said...

WOW .. so interesting .. I'm with Sue .. I want to own one! Thanks for the tour.

jackie said...

So modern for the times. Looking forward to more travel reports and photos.

Doris said...

Thank you so much for sharing this.....what a beautiful home this was. If only the walls could talk!

Thanks for the great pictures!


Tom and Debi said...

Did your guide tell you about their guest house? You can stay at Yaxcopoil, and enjoy the quiet countryness of it!

Steve Cotton said...

Sue and KfromMichigan -- If you want to own a hacienda, now is your chance. This place is currently on the market.

Anonymous said...

It just seems to me that there once existed a spectacular society there, downtrodden and exploited by a bunch of overbearing and greedy Europeans, and whose culture could have overwhelmed anything the disease-ridden Brits/Spaniards/French could have created (with or without peacocks).

We're all grateful that reminents remain.

O Robert

Islagringo said...

Sue and KfromMichigan: we could all chip in and buy it and turn it into something grand again. An all inclusive country retreat with 2 pools! They already have horses on the property, but

O Robert: we saw no peacocks.

Marc O: I wouldn't mind if the hacienda were closed as long as I could peep in the windows. I love window peeping!

Ann & Calypso: Thanks. It really impressed me.

Jackie: as my friend, Calypso, always says...stay tuned!

Tom and Debi: I do not recall him telling us anything about a guest house. What a great place to spend the weekend!

Steve: want to chip in with us?

O Robert: What?

Anonymous said...

Muchas gracias... I was there with 3 friends a year ago and there was no convenient, quaint guide for us. I have a lot of the same pictures and you've brought back that hot still day when we wandered everywhere over the place. Thanks for the colour commentary.

Mic said...

Wow! a really interesting report and beautiful subject. Thanks for letting us see it.