A silent witness to colonial times, Hacienda Tikuch today operates as a tourist shop and a restaurant, on the way to Valladolid or Chichén Itzá ruins. But if you peep inside, you will find a fruit garden with a chapel, very romantic.
Tikuch hacienda is in the middle of a small village of the same name, with about 1,000 inhabitants. It is only 10km from Valladolid. The hacienda is a silent witness to the moving history of the conquest of the peninsula by the Spanish and the forced labour system that followed. Today the hacienda does not function as a ranch any more. Its lands lie empty, except the garden, which still produces a variety of fruit trees such as mamey, mango, plum and coconuts. The garden grounds are immaculate, with a turkey and peacock coop, a wind pump that supplies water for irrigation and even a chapel. The soil is rocky, but the tropical trees thrive here, some of them very pretty. It has a rather romantic feel, with the chapel at the end of the garden and the fields behind the garden wall full of scarecrows.
I came here with my husband Rhod and our friend Jim in 2018, on one of our trips around the Yucatán countryside. We stopped here just to refresh and look behind the scene of a pretty red colonial house.
So what story does the hacienda hide behind its walls? Valladolid was established by the Spanish after the conquest of the Maya in 1543, on the former Maya Cupul land. The villages around met the same fate soon afterwards. Ticuch was conquered by the Spanish in 1579 and its first alderman was Blas Gonzales.
The conquistadores were granted licences to collect tribute from the Indians, called encomiendas. The peasants were organised into 'The Republic of the Indians' administered by a class of Maya chiefs, who were granted a degree of autonomy in return for the regular delivery of maize and cotton cloth, from their slash-and-burn milpas (fields). The Spanish population lived in the cities, in this case Valladolid, on the proceeds of the tribute. The Indians were formally protected against slavery, but the Crown and the Church enforced these laws only erratically. The encomienda was abolished in Yucatán in 1785.
Yucatán was a provincial backwater and the hacienda, or landed estate, did not become an important institution here until the late 18th century (it was much earlier in the rest of Mexico), when restrictions on direct trade with Cuba and Spain were relaxed. I could not find the exact date of establishing hacienda Ticuch but it would have been around that time. The haciendas expanded rapidly. Most of them started as cattle ranches, with a low density of labour, becoming over time maize-growing estates. The land, which formerly belonged to the Maya, was granted to the Spaniards for their military services in the conquest. Because of the demand for sisal fibre, many haciendas turned to the production of henequén, the 'green gold' in the 19th century. It made the hacienda owners very rich and at the beginning of the 20th century, Yucatán was briefly one of the richest states in Mexico. I could not find any proof of Ticuch hacienda turning into a henequería and the hacienda restaurant staff were unable to tell me anything from its history. However, I do happen to know that the ranch Suytun, only 6km away, remained a horse ranch. If you go to the cenote Suytun today, you can still see the remnants of the stables and the training track for the horses. I found out from a local that Ticuch is referred to as 'the place of cotton spinning'. It is more likely a reference to the name of the original Maya settlement.
The peasants were burdened with tithes (10% of income), taxes and extortion, and many chose the relatively secure life on the haciendas after a crop failure, although they were treated there like slaves. In Mexico the haciendas were abolished by law in 1917 during the revolution, and the land was partially given back to the peasants. Many fell in decline and are being restored now by private developers who turn most of them into luxury hotels.
Ticuch has today just over one hectare of land and currently it is for sale. It is not too gorgeous, but it is in a good location, with cenote Suytun only 6km away and cenotes Palomitas and Dulce Agua a 20-minute drive north. It has one guest space upstairs (two rooms with a bathroom), a nice swimming pool, a little playground for children and that great garden with the adjacent fields. Adapted to the tropical climate, the property features high ceilings, tiled interiors, triangular canopies over the windows, a cobbled courtyard, and an arch flanking the main gate which now leads into the garden. The buildings are painted a vibrant red. I have not tried the food in the restaurant (we only had a drink), but the feedback from the visitors on Tripadvisor is very positive.
Like all villages around cattle ranches, Ticuch celebrates the Vaquería festival. Such festivals were run originally by the hacienda owners for their workers, vaqueros (cowboys) and vaqueras (cowgirls), on the occasion of shoeing the cattle, showing off their skills. This might indicate that hacienda Ticuch was indeed a horse or cattle ranch, after all. Folk music and dances are always present at such festivals, especially a jarana dance, when dancers shout funny rhymes in between the dances.
The village itself is small and has a surprisingly large church. Iglesia de Santa Isabel was recently restored with the support and supervision of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). It is named after the patron of the village, Saint Isabel. She established hospitals and orphanages in Spain, to help the poor. I find this pretty symbolic, for I am sure that the village was poor and needed help. It is still so today; in places it feels a little bit abandoned, the main park for the children is in a poor state, for example. It is the kind of village where you can still see old Maya women carrying bundles of wood on their backs, strapped around their foreheads, while passing a few restaurants for tourists.
How to get there:
Drive from Valladolid on the old highway road 180, not on the toll road 180D. It is only 12 minutes from the centre of Valladolid. There are buses on this route but I have not tried them. The Hacienda is in the middle of the village of Ticuch, on the main road. You can't miss it, its red colour is visible from a distance.