An Inside Look at Hacienda Villas in Yucatan
Mexican haciendas have a long and fascinating history. Though their once prosperous past is long gone, many have been restored and function as charming accommodations. They also provide a window into Mexico’s history. Read on for a roundup on their history and the highlights of some of Yucatan’s best haciendas.
Hacienda History 101
Haciendas began with the large estates granted by the Spanish Crown to the officials and settlers who moved to New Spain. These estates were usually developed around a specific industry, such as mining, agriculture or livestock. During Spanish rule, haciendas grew to become bustling operations centers and communities— with multiple living quarters, large stables, shops and churches. They remained an important part of Mexican country life after the nation won its independence from Spain.
During the Mexican Revolution War of the 1910s, many haciendas were attacked. Revolutionary groups targeted the haciendas as a show of power, raiding estates throughout Mexico. After the war, the new regime took over the haciendas’ land and split it among groups of peasants through the ejido system. Some haciendas were rebuilt and continued to function at a much lower level, others became residences and have been renovated in recent years.
Haciendas in Yucatan
Yucatan’s haciendas were mainly known for growing “green gold”: henequén, a strong fiber derived from the agave plant used to make twine and rope. Yucatan owed much of its wealth to the production of this textile— hence the “green gold” nickname. The discovery of other materials and newer manufacturing processes pretty much ended the industry. Nevertheless, some “live haciendas” still grow and produce henequen; you can visit one during a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Although renovated, some structures in Hacienda Sac Chich date back to the 1850s. The former “machine house” or factory— where henequen was processed— has been turned into the aptly named Casa de Maquinas. This vacation rental boasts a traditional, comfortable style. It is graced by limestone buildings, lush surroundings, and elegant decor. You can see what life was like thanks to remaining iron wheels and massive wood beams. All its furniture was manufactured locally. Next to Casa de Maquinas you will find Casa Sisal, a recent addition to the hacienda, built on the former henequen drying fields. Sisal (also another name for henequen) is a private oasis that reflects a minimalistic design, with an extensive field perfect for group activities.
Chablé Resort & Spa is built on the grounds of what used to be a cattle ranch and later on became a henequen-growing hacienda. Guests can still appreciate the original 19th century hacienda’s structures when they have a drink at the bar or stroll the gardens and terraces. Chablé maintains a close connection to its environs, especially through its own private cenote.
The resort boasts two exceptional luxury rentals: the Royal Villa and Chablé Presidential. The Royal Villa masterfully blends in an old-world chic and a sophisticated modern style— a mix seen in its interiors and old arched gateways. Chablé presidential offers guests ample spaces, proximity to the springwater cenote and elegance all-around. All this plus the excellent service from the resort. The cuisine at the resort is truly world-class.
Hacienda Petac is a masterfully restored 17th century estate set on 250 acres outside Merida. The hacienda’s seven rooms, gardens and common areas embody traditional Mexico. Colorful courtyards and touches of Yucatec decor provide Hacienda Petac with an authentic sense of place.
When you book this extensive, private hacienda, you also receive a complimentary cooking class and an evening of live music with Los Tres Yucatecos. Petac’s staff— part of the all-inclusive package— will go out of their way to ensure that everything is provided for the most perfect stay. Families can take advantage of the children’s program, which includes activities like learning to make a piñata or setting off on a junior archaeologist’s dig for treasure.
Sotuta de Peon
This is one of the “live haciendas” mentioned above. Set amongst vast acres of gardens and agave plantations, Hacienda Sotuta de Peon dates back to 1858. Here, visitors can take a tour around the rooms of the hacienda with its Italian tiled floors and imported period furniture that was only lived in on the weekends by the owners. You can also watch the henequen production process and tour the agave fields.
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