Casa Del Maya B&B

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Yucatan Haciendas

                When you visit the Yucatan, there are three things you must see: at least one Mayan site (and I highly recommend several), at least one cenote (and I highly recommend as many as you can fit in), and at least one hacienda.  One hacienda that is now more of a museum than a working hacienda is Yaxcopoil, just an hour outside Mérida. 
Entrance Arch
                Hacienda Yaxcopoil (yaksh-ko-PEL) is located on Highway 261, on the road to Uxmal.  You enter through a driveway to the left of the large entrance arch, which is closed, probably to save it from accidental destruction by vehicles hitting it as they pass through.  It is a stunning piece, and suggests to me architectural design borrowed from the Middle East.  Its curved arches contain lights, making it look like a giant candelabra. 

                The walkway up the middle of the front yard is still mostly intact, as are the steps leading to the wide front porch stretching the entire width of the main building.  Inside the main hallway we paid our entrance fee, and then continued on.  I expected this building to be pretty much the entire hacienda, but I was in for a bit of a surprise as we discovered room after room, structure after structure, and fields that stretched on for, seemingly, miles and miles.

                The main building contained much of the owners’ family’s living quarters.  There were bedrooms with much of their original furniture, and a salon, all with their original pasta tile floors still intact and gorgeous.  I am constantly amazed at how well these old pasta tiles hold up in construction, design and color retention. 

Pool and bathhouse rooms
Maintenance Building
         The next building contained a library, dining room, and at least one kitchen.  Behind that was a pool and bathhouse for those hot Yucatan summers.  As we continued beyond the bathhouse we came across the property’s well house, with a huge, old water pump reaching deep down the well to suck up the water running in the underground rivers below to disperse throughout the house and gardens.  A huge concrete reservoir (I thought it was another swimming pool), sat next to the well.

         The grounds are beautiful, if not 100% maintained.  But it is easy to imagine the huge cost of running a hacienda, with all it encompasses.  There were trees to be used for lumber, all kinds of floral offerings, areas for vegetable gardening, and some agave plantings.  As we strolled the gardens an employee of the hacienda stopped and asked if we wanted to see the maintenance building.  Of course we did.  So he unlocked a gate and guided us through a field (where locals happened to be playing softball) to another huge structure. 

Storage Building
This was the building where all the heavy machinery was located.  There were old saws, lathes, smelting equipment, welding equipment, and a huge smokestack just behind the building.  Just beyond, stunningly, were two more huge, ornate buildings with statues and many carvings.  These, we learned, were for storage.  Then, beyond these buildings, were acres upon acres of the hacienda’s land, some still owned by the hacienda, some having been given to locals to farm many years ago. 


   I had no idea these haciendas were so large and so self-sufficient.  Next to the main house were several other buildings.  One was a small hospital, one was for feeding the hacienda’s employees, and one was a school for the children of the hacienda’s workers.  It was a small town contained on one family’s property.  I suppose you could see it as the Yucatan’s Downton Abbey.
View from the Maintenance Building

                There are several haciendas in the Yucatan, and some are still working haciendas, where you can see workers cultivating and processing henequen into rope, baskets, purses, rugs, and many other products.  A trip to the Yucatan should definitely include a trip to at least one hacienda.  

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