Surprise and Splendor. Visiting the heneken-producing haciendas of Yucatan is an incredible experience. These plantations, once the bread and butter of the economy, are now the guardians of that auspicious life-style. The contrasting scenery and comfortable architecture make visitors feel right at home.
The haciendas of Yucatan emerged in the XVII century on the initiative of the families that, since Colonial times, had possessed great territorial expanses.
Some of these haciendas were established as cattle ranches, while others began to process heneken fiber. This was exploited on a grand scale, turning it into a highly profitable business that lasted until the beginning of the XX century, and the appearance of synthetic fibers.
Heneken created a completely new panorama, changing the surroundings and buildings of the hacienda, and even the workers’ living quarters. It was a vast world of modern, contradictory images. The main house was the residence of the owner and reflected his taste, incorporating its own church and chapel.
The modern machine house was often conceived as a temple or work palace. The masonry and tile of the worker’s houses placed the humble laborer in the new affluent world of the owner, which stretched as far as the eye could see.
Today, it’s interesting to walk around these old haciendas, which have fortunately been saved from becoming piles of rubble, and instead, been converted into hotels, restaurants or luxury tourist stops and museums.
The haciendas of Yucatan that have been refurbished share, one special attribute: a new life for the natural surroundings in which they are found.
Xcanatun – The exuberant low tropical forest which surrounds the hacienda delights visitors with an exquisite variety of regional flowers, trees and bushes, while the small, decorative lake is home to innumerable multicolored fish.
The group of buildings also appeals: the ex- machine house has been converted into a restaurant-bar, and the main house, without being overly ostentatious, has acquired a special charm.
San Antonio Cucul – The history of this hacienda dates from the beginning of the XVII century. The installations of the ancient hacienda are in prime condition and house an admirable patrimony of rustic furniture, Maya statuettes and other lavish objects.
There is also a small chapel where you can still see the bells used by the Franciscan monks to call the people to worship. Valuable antiques are preserved in the house, telling the story of the various owners.
Kancabchen – The principle activity is cattle-breeding but there’s also a squadron of pure-bred horses which star in the traditional Mexican rodeo-type festival.
Ochil – A tourist site where the entire process of heneken manufacturing can be observed down to the smallest detail. The hacienda was built in what was once an important Maya settlement.
Its particular character is derived from the vitality projected by the hacienda, offering as it does, a panorama of the handcraft made in Yucatan.
The craftsmen have special workshops in what used to be the old hacienda chapel. It is impressive to see the skill with which filigree jewelry, hammocks and embroidered items, among other things, are made.
San Pedro Chimay – belongs to the municipality of Merida. It is positioned approximately 16 km. south of the city. Henequen hacienda, originally dedicated to cattle breeding, its date of foundation is not precised.
In 1852, Mr. Juan Miguel Castro, founder of the port of Progreso, re-edificated the hacienda casque in honor of his wife, Ms. Maria de Jesus Lara, bringing that same year from Spain the patron saint San Pedro.
The name “Chimay” was already given to it since 40 years back, because of the abundance of trees of this species. In 1865, your majesty, the empress Carlota Amalia visited the hacienda in order to place the first stone of a latar known as “La Gruta” (The Grot).
During its splendor, the hacienda had high volumes of production, for which it was necessary to duplicate the machinery, and is why it counts with two boilers and two chimneys, the most recent of these with certain elements of Moorish character.
Originally the main house was of colonial structure and style; in this remodeling of 1865 it acquired eclectic expressions, maintaining corridors with arches of half point, carved stone columns and colonial gates.
Hacienda Tabi – This is a great and affordable way to experience an authentic hacienda (which claims to be the oldest in the area) without the added glitz and formality of the modernized versions. Once a thriving sugar plantation and the largest hacienda in the Yucatan, it lay abandoned for years but is now partly used as a museum and still in the process of being excavated and restored.