In addition to Maya ruins, the Yucatán Peninsula is filled with colonial haciendas from the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, some of them have been restored to romantic retreats and Hacienda Teya is no exception.
The full name of the hacienda is San Ildefonso de Teya, a mixture of Spanish and Maya languages, like the whole history of Yucatán. San Ildefonso is patron saint of the hacienda chapel and Teya in Maya means sapodilla tree.
You will find the hacienda in the village of Teya, just outside the town of Kanasín, a suburb of Mérida. It is a small village of about 500 people. In the past they would have all lived and worked inside the hacienda but today they all live outside, in the village. They may still work at the hacienda, but no longer in the capacity of a peón. It is pleasing to see that the colonial hacienda ill-treatment of the indigenous people in the past is over and that haciendas now offer properly paid employment.
I came here with my husband Rhod in December 2017, during our road trip around the Mérida countryside. We came for lunch and found the place heaving! The hacienda has clearly expanded the restaurant in recent years and is very popular with the locals.
Teya was founded in 1683 by Doña Ildefonsa Antonia Marcos Bermejo Calderón y de la Helguera, the wife of the Count of Miraflores de Los Ángeles (in Málaga, Spain). Or so we were informed by the history account on the menu of the restaurant. I find this a little bit confusing because the title of Count of Miraflores was first granted by King Charles II of Spain in 1689 to Juan de Torres de Navarra y de la Vega Ponce de León (who died in 1719), for the merits and services that he lent to the crown. Could this be her husband? The dates match but he never left Málaga. I can't believe that she would have come to today's Mexico by herself.
In any case, the land would have been given to the family by the Spanish Crown and it would have been undoubtedly the land of the indigenous Maya, as was the case of all haciendas in Yucatán. I searched for the name of the original Maya settlement but could not find it. There were a few Maya cities around, for example the settlement of Xio in Kanasín (to the west of Merida), and Acanceh ruins, today about 19km south-west of the hacienda. In the past, these cities would have had areas of some square kilometres but it is difficult to know exactly which Maya settlement was originally on the land of today's hacienda.
To start with, it was a cattle ranch. The next recorded owners are Manuel Ávila (in 1874) and Joaquín Mendiola after him. At the beginning of the 20th century the hacienda turned to the production of henequén, nicknamed the 'green gold' as it made the hacienda owners truly rich.
When the Mexican revolution arrived in Yucatán around 1915, some of the hacendados abandoned their estates. Alfredo Medina, the owner of Teya at the time, was ordered to give most of the land to the agrarian committee of Kanasín. At least this way the hacienda was not destroyed by the actions of the revolutionaries, which was the common case elsewhere. A decade later, President Lázaro Cárdenas implemented an agrarian reform. His decree turned the haciendas into collective lands called ejidos, and the former landowners were allowed to keep only around 150 hectares for use as private property. Hacienda Teya was abandoned. In 1974, Don Jorge C. Cárdenas Gutiérrez bought the estate and started a project of reconstruction that took him 20 years.
There are a few colonial buildings on the premises. The architecture corresponds to the Porfirian era, a mixture of Mexican and European motifs. The hacienda has a typical colonial style, manifesting itself in arcades, beams, heavy wooden doors, cast iron works, rich colours and tiled floors. You will find here the Hall of Stained Glass, the Hall of Maps, corridors filled with old photographs, the dungeon (now converted to a wine cellar).
The old powerhouse has been modified into a ballroom. You can see its chimney from a distance. Each henequén hacienda had its signature chimney. These were needed for steam engines for powering the shredding machines.
I loved the tiny chapel dedicated to Antonio de Padua, known for his devotion to the poor and the sick. I presume that this would have been a private chapel for the owners (there is space for only one or two people) while the larger chapel served for the masses for the peón workers (for which they had to pay; it was automatically deducted from their 'salaries', as was the school fee and the rent, leaving them nothing to live from).
The garden next to the main house is open and we found a cluster of village teenagers enjoying a quiet afternoon there. How refreshing that they have access! The trees in the garden are labelled and we even found a replica of a giant Olmec head (with no historical connection to the place, though).
Nowadays it is a small hotel with a convention centre and a restaurant known for its Yucatec specialities, such as papadzules, panuchos, lime soup, queso relleno (stuffed cheese), relleno negro (black stuffing) or caballero pobre ('poor gentleman') for dessert. Even Queen Sofía of Spain has dined here and liked it. We also enjoyed our food here; the selection was interesting and the service excellent, despite the large number of diners.
How to get there:
Teya is located just off of the Mérida-Cancún highway 180D, at km 12.5. The hacienda car park is inside the premises.