I had watched to many Mexican telenovelas (soap operas) as a kid to pass up the chance of trying to stay at a hacienda style hotel or at least to visit one. It would have to be the latter. Before embarking on our trip to Mexico we did some research into spending a night but it just didn’t fit into our itinerary. However we still had the opportunity to visit one. As we mentioned, a hacienda is a lavish estate house. Think Antonio Banderas in Zorro. These large and expressive estates were run and owned by extremely wealthy families who had interests in farming, business and often politics as well. However, as we were to find out, many are connected to a very dark part of Mexican history. Namely, slavery.
Driving away from the impressive Uxmal ruins we headed towards the village of Temozon Sur, a short 9km down the highway. Just through the little village and tucked away behind a row of tall palm trees is Hacienda Temozon Hotel. Unbeknown to us, the hotel has an air of exclusivity and we were somewhat interrogated into the purpose of our intended visit. We played our blogging card and were directed to the main building with a smile. The more simple option, available to everybody is to pay a small entrance fee to have a look around. The management was accommodating enough to offer us a tour of the grounds.
A local Mayan employee named Robert was our guide. He explained that the hacienda was built in mid 17th century and later became a hessian farm. The industry was highly lucrative. They used local Mayans as slaves (as well slaves from as far as Africa and China) and every day each person had to pick 5000 agave leaves in the fields. These leaves would be transported back to the hacienda where they would be processed by the means of (then) advanced machinery. The raw product, hessian fibre was shipped to US and England as material to make ropes, sacks etc. The owners of haciendas got very wealthy while the slaves worked 12 hours a day just for food. Slavery ended here on 22 August 1937. In Mexico it was ending between 1930-1940. In Merida we learned that an estimated 50 families controlled about 1000 of these haciendas – you can imagine the wealth.
The hacienda now has been a hotel for about 20 years and has a Mexican owner. A lot of machinery and carriages have been preserved and a part of the building serves as a museum, showing photographs from the old days and how the rich and the poor both lived. It was absolutely remarkable to learn about the history of this place. Robert told us about how his father and his grandfather worked at this hacienda. We were not sure if the grandfather was a slave or not. Robert was a remarkable guy, he has been teaching himself English at home for just six months and was able to give us a extremely thorough tour. We exchanged a quick lesson in vocabulary for a lesson in rope making.
The grounds were just incredible! They even have their own little cenote on the site which is used as a spa. Then there is the beautiful main dining area with a terrace overlooking a huge green courtyard and the pool. The hacienda has also played host several dignitaries, Bill Clinton and GW Bush both visited during their terms. Given the somewhat sad history of the place, it’s great to hear how it embraces love as being a world class wedding venue. Robert told us some months ago they had a wedding reception for over 900 people ( he left us guessing as to who it was).
We escaped the heat momentarily and had a refreshment on the terrace before leaving the oasis to find a cenote. We drove back to the main highway then zigzagged our way through some local Mayan villages. The small houses with their thatched roofs are typical of the area. The villages looked poor but it was interesting to see almost everyone on their smartphones. Nowadays technology doesn’t discriminate ; ) Kids were playing on the streets and every village was furnished with a soccer field. We finally found cenotes in Sant Antonio Muxil. We paid 50 pesos for the entrance and took a much needed dip in two cenotes – Cenote X-Batún (nicer ) and Cenote Dzonbacal. It was approximately five kilometers from the gate to the cenotes. They were both really beautiful and with just a few locals splashing about. The afternoon was drawing to a close so we had a quick swim and headed North towards Merida.
For a tour of cenotes in the area contact Robert Mukul on +529991030783