Life at the Hacienda – A Brief History
Life in colonial Mexico revolved around The Hacienda. They were the economic, political and social center of every settlement, town and city.
In the early 16th century the Spanish conquistadors, under orders from the Royal Spanish Crown, created the “Hacienda” as an institution to extract wealth from the land. As the haciendas grew, they became feudal estates supplying all the needs of the surrounding community, including food, clothing and medical aid.
Haciendas played host to a variety of activities ranging from simple family gatherings to elaborate occasions such as baptisms, weddings, celebrations of saints’ days, charro (cowboy) parties and contests, bullfights, and harvest festivals.
Travelers who stopped for the night, whether invited or not, were always treated to displays of hospitality, particularly in the more remote regions.
By the eighteenth century a typical hacienda was an elaborate institution. In addition to the main house and its guest quarters there were stables, a general store, a chapel, a school, equipment stores, servants’ quarters, granaries, corrals and a forge.
The haciendas were the landed estates of Mexico, some with territories as big as Belgium. Each one was a rural, autonomous social unit with its own history, and for each, myths accumulate over the centuries.
And at the heart of each Hacienda – La Cocina, a place where foods and spices came together and turned into great feasts where family gathered to share their daily lives.