With its high walls, orderly garden and neatly trimmed hedges and lawns,
the hacienda offers a peaceful rural retreat in a world of cowboys, dogs and
horses. Think of long lunches served on broad terraces with plenty of tequila
and Mexican beer. The hacienda system began in Mexico on 1529, when the Spanish
crown granted Hernan Cortes the title of Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca, which
entailed a tract of land that included all of the present state of Morelos.
This was his reward for overthrowing the powerful Aztec and Mayan kingdoms with
just a handful of soldiers.
Spain granted large rural properties to members of the Spanish military as
a way of administering the colony. In Mexico, the owner of a hacienda was
called the hacendado or patron. Aside from the small circle at the top of the
hacienda society, the remainder were peones (serfs), campesinos (peasants), or
mounted 11 hands variously called vaqueros, gauchos, etc.
The Hacienda system was abolished in Mexico in 1917 after the revolution,
and the owners were stripped of much of their power. Today the remaining
haciendas are valued for their architectural beauty and continue as private
family estate or small hotels. Many are in ruins, giving a poetic touch to
their formers grandeur, and providing glimpses of a colorful past.
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