click here. The main activity in Hacienda de San José de Contla's later years was producing sugar. The lush, iridescent green cane still grows for miles all around Contla. The Spanish word hacienda means "place where something is done or made". In spite of its function as a factory, the building seen above is graceful and architecturally appealing. Archways supported by tall columns seem almost lacy in their delicacy. Mex 110, which passes in front of the ruins, follows a route through the Sierra del Tigre important since pre-hispanic times. It connects the uplands of Michoacan, once the heart of the Tarascan Empire (also called the Purépecha) to Colima and the Pacific Coast. The Teco Kingdom was based in the area of modern Colima and trade between the Tarascans and the Tecos passed back and forth along this route. Both areas were home to even earlier cultures, whose names are unknown but whose remains have been found. These early cultures also appear to have communicated and traded.
modern village of Contla has 1752 inhabitants, and sits in a long narrow valley at 1160m (3835 ft) in altitude. The local economy is based on agriculture, largely corn, cattle and sugar cane production. Photo by Chuck Boyd
1165 AD, the Aztecs founded nearby Mazamitla as a military outpost guarding their frontier against their ancient enemies, the Tarascans. In 1481 AD, the Tarascans invaded the area. They passed through what would become Contla on their way to capture the salt beds near Laguna de Sayula, just north of Colima. Salt was an extremely important comodity for food preparation and preservation, and for industrial processes such as textile manufacture. The Tarascan Empire had little salt of its own. The Teco Kingdom controlled the Laguna Sayula and resisted the Tarascan invasion fiercely in what became known as the Salt War. The struggle continued until the Tecos finally drove out the Tarascans in 1510 AD, only a few years before the Spanish arrived. It was just such intramural conflicts as this that made the Spanish "divide and conquer" strategy so successful.
Plumeria rubra, was provided by my flower expert Ron Parsons (see the link to his website on the "Other Sites to Visit" to the right). The rain had prevented our group of hikers from reaching our waterfall goal. Our disappointment gave us extra incentive to spend some time at the Hacienda de San José de Contla. The Spanish conquistadors under Crisobal de Olid and Juan Rodgriguez Villafuerte passed through here in 1522, sent by Hernán Cortéz to explore the area after his conquest of the Aztecs. Over the next several years they conquered the Tecos, who put up a fierce resistance but to no avail. Some years after that, Nuño Beltran de Guzman shattered the Tarascan Empire with a brutality that rivals Heinrich Himmler. The ancient kingdoms and their rivalries disappeared in the holocaust of Spanish oppression and European diseases.
encomienda system on the local indigenous people. Cortéz and later Spanish authorities parceled out the indigenous people to their soldiers as rewards for services to the crown. The conquistadors could demand tribute from local villages in terms of food and other goods and, most importantly, labor. The early haciendas, churches, and great public buildings were built under a system that, in effect, was little more than slavery by another name. In 1537, the Spanish crown permitted the establishment of the town of San Cristobal Mazamitla. At about the same time the indigenous people of the Contla area became part of an encomienda that later became known as the Hacienda de San Jose de Contla.
Haciendas were a key locus of political and economic power, much as feudal estates were in Europe of the middle ages, and among the plantations of the pre-Civil War American South.
epidemics threatened to wipe out the local population. The inhabitants of the area resorted to ancient shamanistic remedies, coupled with Catholic religious processions. Another kind of crisis occurred during the War of Independence from Spain (1810-1821) when local insurgents battled royalist troops at Zapatero, a pass on the road through the mountains about half way between Mazamitla and Contla. The insurgents were led by Francisco Echeverria who triumphed over the Spanish troops but died of his wounds in Mazamitla shortly after the 1812 battle. Once again, the route that today forms Mex 110 played an important role in the struggle for control of passage through the Sierra del Tigre.
Reform Wars, that lasted into the 1860s. In 1854, Gordiano Guzman came out of retirement in a bid to reignite the social revolution. However, he was captured and shot by Conservative forces. The present community of Ciudad de Guzman was named after this hero of the common people.
Benito Juarez over the French-imposed "Emperor" Maximilian. Installed by French Emperor Napoleon III, Maximilian used French troops and turncoat Mexicans from the Conservative Party in his unsuccessful attempt to subdue Juarez, Mexico's democratically-elected president. French forces invaded the Sierra del Tigre and burned the archives at Mazamitla. Many creole hacienda owners supported Maximilian because he represented stability and protection of their privileges. Others supported Juarez because he advocated stripping the Catholic Church of the wealth and special powers it had accumulated since the earliest colonial times. These creoles turned greedy eyes toward that soon-to-be-dispossessed wealth. I have been unable to determine where the owners of Hacienda de San José de Contla stood. Many creoles changed sides as the political and military winds shifted, so the Ochoa family, owners of the Hacienda at this time, could have been on either side at one time or another. In order to protect their wealth and privileges in the chaos of the 19th Century, many hacienda owners banded together and formed private armies called Guardias Blancas (White Guards). While banditry was unquestionably a problem in the rural areas, the Guardias Blancas were also used as death squads to suppress any attempt by rural people to organize.