With so many haciendas in the area it is hard to pick which ones to visit. After some thought we decided on Hacienda Yaxcopoil, only 30 minutes away from Merida.
The Hacienda dates back to the 17th century during the booming years of the henequen cultivation when it occupied 22,000 acres of land and was considered one of the most important plantations in Yucatan. Today the hacienda occupies only 3% of its former size while the rest of the land developed into the small town of Yaxcopoil, which surrounds the hacienda. It was neat to see that the original school from three centuries ago still stands as the current elementary school for the town.
We met Roberto upon arrival, a young man who had been working there for two years and lives in the town. He was a great tour guide and took us through the hacienda while explaining the importance of every piece and each area of the estate. We checked out the several bedrooms and living areas with their beautiful, high ceilings and original tiles, wall-paint and European furniture; the kitchen and the dining area with the century old dining ware and utensils; and finally the chapel with its oil painting from the colonial period and an image of its patron saint, San Geronimo de Yaxcopoil, who is venerated by the entire town for the whole month of September, culminating with a big party (fireworks, food, processions and the whole nine yards) on 30 September, his birthday.
We then headed to the exterior where we visited the orchard area, the pool and dressing rooms and the well which had American-made motors and pumps from the early 20th century that are still in use today supplying water for the whole hacienda. Most impressive was seeing the henequen shredding plant with its machinery from the 19th century and the engine room which housed a giant German diesel motor from 1913 that ran with steam. Since Yucatan has plenty of subterranean water supplies, running this baby was no problem. The diesel motor was used last in 1984 when the production of the henequen fiber ended for the hacienda.
The workshop and storehouse buildings were beautifully decorated with neoclassic columns and four sculptures representing the seasons of the year. Here is where the henequen was worked into fibers that would later be sent to bigger cities in Mexico and the US. When the henequen production ended, the structure holding the workshop was used as a ballroom for the town. Today these buildings are closed as they are in need of restoration, but the facades are beautiful to see.
The hacienda even had its own share of pre-Colombian Mayan Ruins. The ruins by the name of Yaxcopoil where located west of the hacienda and covered 15 square kilometers. Several artifacts and ceramics found on this site are currently displayed in the “Maya Room” in the hacienda, which also happens to have the coolest flooring tile.
The grandeur and beauty of the hacienda is obvious and impressive to see, together with the personal belongings of its original owners who passed on the property for generations to its present owner, Don Miguel, whom we had the pleasure to meet. Don Miguel keeps the main house of the hacienda as a private museum and is planning on restoring the surrounding buildings in the future. He lives in Merida and oversees the 14 workers that currently work in the hacienda just to keep it in top shape for the tourists.
If Greg and I were Don Miguel, we would be living in that hacienda in no time!