This beautifully restored hacienda is only open for corporate and private social events. However, the staff will allow you to stroll in and have a peep.
It is certainly a way to peep into the colonial lifestyle of the past free of charge. Hacienda Yabucú is on the way to the ruins of Acanceh and Mayapán and on the Convent Route, south of Mérida. So there is plenty to do around and it is worth just popping in. It can be reached via a dirt road from the small town of Acanceh.
It is immaculately restored today, in a striking red colour. Quite a visual experience! When visiting the nearby ruins of Mayapán with my husband Rhod, we did just that. When we entered the hacienda, we were approached by Gabriel, who works there. We were told one has to book a minimum of ten rooms. We were hoping to have a meal here but this was not possible either. However, people in Yucatán are mostly kind. Gabriel allowed us to walk about and we had a little chat about the place. We gave him a tip at the end of our visit.
We were taken by the striking red colour, beautiful gardens with a pool and even a playground for children. The most impressive element that I find at the haciendas is the vaulted corridor and the arched gateway. The chapel is just outside the main arched gate. The chimney is still standing and we were able to see some remnants of the rail tracks that took the henequén bales to the port of Sisal, from where they were exported abroad. Beautiful flowers are everywhere. There is also a back garden, where we saw some turkeys that were traditionally reared in Yucatán and nice decorative plants. The garden at its best times had fruit trees like mamey, guanábana (soursop fruit), oranges, and lemons.
When I am in historic places, I always try and find out the local history. What was their life like here? I invite you back in time but for a change, I will concentrate on the owners rather than the peons (the labourers), who I described in my other posts. And I will start with the most recent owner and work my way back. Like we did when we were in the hacienda.
In 2012, the engineer David González acquired the hacienda. He bought 173 hectares of land and a set of ruined buildings.
The old main house was threatened with imminent collapse and the chapel had no better luck. The machinery was just a pile of rusted scrap metal.
The press Boomer and the Ferris wheel had the same fate. The irrigation channels were also destroyed.
David painstakingly restored the hacienda and opened it for private events. His brother Luis is helping with the current administration. I must admit, they continue to do an excellent job of it. On the other hand, pity they don't have a cafe open to the public, at least. Once you restore such old houses, it would be great to make public access to them, in my view.
The hacienda is sitting on land which once belonged to the Maya. It shared the same history with the rest of the colonial haciendas in Yucatán, of which there were more than a thousand. The Spanish conquistadores received the Maya lands from the Spanish king for their military services in conquering the land and later for their support for the new government of Mexico. So it is no wonder that Yabucú is a Maya name, coming from Ya'ab Ukum or Ya'ab k'u, which means 'where the pigeons abound'. On the farm you can still see pigeons, and a variety of birds that inhabit the trees around. After all, the jungle surrounds the estate. I could not see any ancient Maya artifacts, which the current hacienda owners like to display. Perhaps none were left.
By 1790, Yabucú began as an indigenous brotherhood of the people of the little town of Acanceh. It was part of the network of ranches that made up the parish of Tecoh, until the year of 1779 when the jurisdiction was divided and a parish seat was established in Acanceh. Several years later, with the arrival of the Bishop Fray Luis de Piña, the brotherhood was sold to private individuals by order of the Spanish Crown. Yabucú was by then part of a complex system of haciendas around the villages of Tecoh, Acanceh, Telchaquillo and Timucuy. It was never an isolated farm; it was joined by paths to other farms such as Uitzá, Chapín, and Dzitiná. They were all breeding livestock and growing maize, fruit, vegetables and sugar (imported by the Spaniards from Europe).
From 1847 times were difficult for the hacienda due to the revolt of the native Maya against the hacendados who treated them like slaves. The revolt is known as the Caste War of Yucatán (1847–1901). The war started in the village of Tecoh, near Acanceh and the hacienda was apparently abandoned for a while, because of fear (cruelty was the name of that revolt). The revolt spread across Yucatán. In 1851 the hacienda was therefore sold by Doña Fulgencia Cicero for 4,278 pesos to Don Pedro Casares Quijano. The Casares family continued with livestock. But it was this Don Pedro who converted the hacienda to henequén production. Well, he certainly started it.
The henequén boom in Yucatán between 1880 and 1915 changed the local history. The haciendas increased their land, to allow for the fibre production. It was certainly worth it as this plant fibre made the hacendados true millionaires. No wonder they called henequén green gold. Yabucú was among the first farms to have a scraper and shredding machine. In 1871 the hacienda already had a 6-horsepower steam engine to process henequén. An article by Víctor Hugo Medina Suárez on the hacienda website gives the inventory of the hacienda in 1876 as follows: 150 head of cattle, 5 bulls, 400 mecates of half-cut henequén (16 hectares), scraping machinery, a cart for the service of the farm, some furniture (2 cedar tables and 6 wooden seats) and some tools such as a jimmy, mallets and spikes. This shows that both livestock and henequén were in production at the same time. At the time of the death of Don Pedro, he was the owner of the haciendas Yabucú, Xcucul and Concepción.
Yabucú was inherited by his daughter Dolores Casares Bolio, while the other two haciendas were inherited by his second wife and their children. The daughter Dolores married Don Julián Luján, the mayor of Acanceh town. They had 13 children! They lived at the hacienda (which was not common for hacendados) and turned it into a luxury country house. Don Julián bought more and more land (well, he would for so many children). By his death in 1900 his estate became truly large (1,900 hectares)! Branding irons were used for the cattle, to mark the ownership as there was a lot of cattle raiding and having such a large estate would have made it difficult to protect the cattle. At Yabucú the letters E and C were used for the branding, the latter for the family owners, either the Ciceros or the Casares. It was not wise to keep changing the branding, especially because of the constant lawsuits. In fact, by 1920 the cattle of the hacienda had significantly shrunk due to cattle rustling.
In 1903 Dolores sold the hacienda to her cousin Manuel Casares Escudero who installed railroads four years later, connecting the hacienda with the rails of the town of Acanceh.
Difficult times were ahead though. The First World War stopped the growth of the business for a while, then Yabucú suffered three fires and Don Manuel sold some of the land, some of it to his children. This was probably just a formal act, to protect the property ahead of the new land reforms. In 1934 the land reform by Lázaro Cárdenas kicked in, extracting land from haciendas to reestablish the collective Indian villages called ejidos. That was then when the family inscriptions were put on the main house fireplace, to mark its ownership (the inscriptions can be still seen today). The hacienda came into the hands of the native ejido. However, the Maya villagers did not have the capital nor the know-how for the hacienda to prosper and all the machinery was disassembled. Even the image of San Miguel Arcángel, the patron of the hacienda, was stolen from the chapel. It is displayed today at the Mérida City Museum (in the former Post Office building). The hacienda was abandoned until 2012 when David González acquired it. And we already know that successful story. When you walk into the hacienda today, you will still see the indigenous people working here, but I am glad to report that they are treated much better. The times of slavery are gone forever.
Today a lot of haciendas have been restored and turned into luxury hotels. One or two are museums (Hacienda Ochil), or are open to the public as restaurants (like the popular Hacienda Teya). Only Aké is a working hacienda still producing sisal and Sotuta de Peón produces sisal for demonstration during the tours. If you are visiting Yucatán, do find the time to visit one of them.