Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Historic Haciendas of Zapopan Part 2: Santa Lucia

Hacienda Santa Lucia was once one of the Guadalajara area's great estates. The casa grande (main house) is the rust colored building with the row of arches. The capilla (chapel) looms above it. Both are still in excellent condition. Between the mid-17th Century and the early 20th, the families that owned this hacienda wielded great economic and political power in the Guadalajara area. Hacienda Santa Lucia is located in Tesistán, a small city within the Municipalidad de Zapopan, northwest of Guadalajara. When the Spanish arrived in 1545, Santa Lucia was an indigenous pueblo called Nochistanejo. The pueblo was renamed for Santa Lucia, a Catholic saint, in 1570. By that time Spanish settlers had begun claiming estancias (livestock pasture) and caballerías (crop land), but these were still scattered and fairly limited in scale.  Hacienda Santa Lucia was not established as a large estate until the middle of the 17th Century, and did not become a real powerhouse until the middle of the 18th. The hacienda lies about 10 km (6.2 mi) north of Hacienda La Venta del Astillero (see in Part 1 of this series).

Gate to the complex of buildings that forms the nerve center of a hacienda, known as the casco.  Notice the campanario, or belfry, over the gate. The bell which once hung there summoned workers at the beginning and end of the work day. It also warned of the approach of visitors, sometimes friendly, sometimes otherwise. Within the casco's walls are the casa grande, the capilla, the caballeriza (horse stable), and the taberna (factory where tequila was produced and sold in bulk). Today, many of the structures within the old casco are private homes, like those seen above on the right. Other parts are used for special events and weddings. In the earliest years of settlement, Spanish Viceroys found it difficult to persuade people to move to this area because of incessant Chichimeca attacks. The general term "Chichimeca" refers to various tribes of fierce nomadic people from northern Mexico. These warriors had plagued Mesoamerican civilizations for fifteen hundred years before the Spanish arrived. What is now the Mexican state of Jalisco had long been the frontier between the Chichimecs and the civilized societies to the south. In 1540, shortly after the Spanish arrived in western Mexico, the Mixtón rebellion erupted. The situation became so desperate that Viceroy Antonio Mendoza came from Mexico City to take personal command. He finally defeated that particular group of indigenous rebels, but the Chichimeca tribes continued to pose a threat for another 150 years. Guadalajara was founded in this area in 1542, the year the uprising ended.

The zaguán (entrance hall) of the casa grande contains this 17th Century retablo. Often elaborately carved and painted, retablos are display cases with niches for statues of saints or the various incarnations of the Virgin Mary. A retablo usually stands behind an altar in a church or chapel, so this is probably not its original location. Below the first and third niches are small white faces framed with wings. These angelitos (little angels) are very common features in 17th Century Baroque decorations. After crushing the Mixtón revolt, Viceroy Mendoza realized he needed a buffer zone to protect central Mexico against future uprisings. He began liberally granting estancias and caballerías, and authorized the founding of Spanish towns such as the one at Nochistanejo. Then, in 1546, the conquistador Juan de Tolosa discovered a vast silver lode in Zacatecas, 246 km (153 mi) north of Guadalajara. The natural route for supplies to the miners ran through the Zapopan area to Guadalajara. Merchants began to use the newly formed new city as the supply point for the mines. It also became the center of civil and religious administration in western Mexico. The settlers in Santa Lucia soon responded to the growing markets of Guadalajara and Zacatecas by stocking their newly-granted estancias with cattle and sheep and planting maiz (corn) on their caballerías.

The zaguán also contains this small wooden table, decorated with a Pegasus on each corner. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico (or Nueva España, as it was called in colonial times) cattle didn't exist in the New World. They had few natural predators and--particularly in lightly-populated western Mexico--vast open lands upon which to graze. Great feral herds soon developed from mostrencos (unbranded strays). The cattle were so numerous that one author compared them to the 19th Century bison of the western US. The result was a mad scramble to acquire estancias on which to collect and fatten the cattle before herding them to markets in Guadalajara, Zacatecas, or even Mexico City. Cattle estancias each measured 10.9 sq km (6.7 sq mi) in size, while sheep estancias were smaller, measuring 4.8 sq km (3 sq mi). While some settlers acquired their estancias legally through grants from the Viceroy, other Spaniards obtained theirs using shady subterfuges. Sometimes, settlers simply occupied lands illegally that belonged to indigenous villages or to the Crown. However they were acquired, over time individual estancias were sold, or transferred through the bankruptcy, inheritance, or dowry processes. Gradually, they obtained a kind of defacto legality. More and more, these properties came into the hands of men intent on assembling large feudal estates on the European model. It was in this context that Hacienda Santa Lucia was founded in 1630. I have no information on the original founder but, in 1662, Agustin Gamboa became the hacienda's owner. By 1697, he had built the property up to 3 cattle estancias (13,167 acres), 3 sheep estancias (5784 acres), 15 caballerías (at 105 acres each), 11 suertes de huerta (vegetable and fruit plots) and 2 mill sites. The Gamboa family continued to own and expand the hacienda until 1736.

The zaguán, viewed from inside the patio looking out. Just inside the beautiful wrought-iron screen is the Pegasus table. In the foreground is a silver-trimmed saddle. From the time the Gamboa family took ownership to the middle of the next century, cattle were the main economic focus of haciendas throughout western Mexico. Although Hacienda Santa Lucia was raising maiz on some of its 15 caballerías in 1697, not all of the land was planted and agriculture was not yet the central focus of the hacienda. There were several good reasons for this. For one, the indigenous villages around Guadalajara still possessed sufficient land to produce a substantial maiz surplus and thus could compete with Spanish growers in the Guadalajara market. For another, unlike cattle herding, crop cultivation is labor intensive. The indigenous people were not inclined to work on Spanish farms, particularly if they had land of their own. Forced labor was available, of course, at least in the first century or so after the Conquest. However, protests by some religious orders against Spanish abuses caused the restriction and gradual elimination of the Spanish right to free labor. Thirdly, even as the practice of forced labor was gradually restricted, the actual supply of labor was dramatically decreasing. A variety of European diseases decimated the indigenous people beginning early in the 16th Century. In some areas, the native population plummeted by 90% or more. It was not until the mid-18th Century that the population recovered and labor again became plentiful.

This silver-trimmed saddle was a working tool and not just for decoration. Notice the machete in its scabbard, ready for slashing back thorny acacia or other brush that might block the horseman in the rough back-country. This area is the heart of Mexican "cowboy country". The famous Charro Tradition of horsemanship and roping skills began here in Jalisco State. Two hundred years before the first US cowboy strapped on his spurs, the Mexicans were already experts in the entire cowboy technology. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, cattle were plentiful, pasture land was cheap and easy to obtain, and cattle could be driven to market by a relative handful of seasonal workers. In 1781, Hacienda Santa Lucia was producing 7% of all the beef sold in Guadalajara. Between 1803-1807, the hacienda held the government beef monopoly for the entire city. The seasonal vaqueros (cowboys) drifted from one cattle drive to another, sometimes returning to their villages to tend their maiz crop. Hacendados who were good employers gained the loyalty of these men. In times of Chichimec threat or civil unrest, some hacienda owners could mobilize hundreds of these expert horsemen to form irregular cavalry units. Often, a grateful Viceroy would reward the hacendado with the military rank of captain, as well as additional estancia and caballería grants.

An exquisite statue of the Virgin of the Rosary stands in one of the niches in the patio. The 16th and 17th Centuries were a time of religious fervor. This was especially the case with hacendados and their families. Nearly every casco contained a capilla, always located in close proximity to the casa grande. If they could afford it, hacendados kept a resident vicar on the payroll to conduct mass in the chapel and to otherwise tend to the religious life of the hacienda. It was not uncommon for a son or daughter to become a priest or nun. To support them, the hacendado would establish a capellanía, or benefice, charged against the income of the hacienda. The owner often tried to secure his place in heaven by including money in his will, again charged against the hacienda, to pay for regular prayers for his soul. If a son or daughter inherited a hacienda and chose to take holy orders, he or she might donate part of the hacienda's income--or even the entire estate--to a convent or school. As a result, various Catholic religious organizations became wealthy and, by the end of the 18th Century, the Church owned or controlled as much as 1/2 of the arable land in Mexico. Many haciendas, however, staggered under the load of these religious financial encumbrances.

Yet another version of the Virgin Mary. The niche in which she stands is beautifully carved and contains one of the small white-faced angelitos at the bottom. The relationship between hacienda owners and the Church extended well beyond religion. The lack of a banking system in Nueva España left the hacendados constantly scrambling for ways to finance their operations. Cattle driving was risky, due to Chichimec raids, bandits, storms, river crossings, and stampedes. Crops failed from drought, floods, or were trampled by feral cattle. Grain prices for maiz and trigo (wheat) could fluctuate wildly. To secure operating and investment capital, hacendados tapped the growing wealth of the Church organizations. This further encumbered estates already paying for vicar's salaries, capellanías, prayers for deceased owners, dowries, and lavish homes and lifestyles in Guadalajara. Bankruptcy auctions, as well as sales for other reasons, occurred with surprising regularity. For example, Hacienda Copala, not far from Santa Lucia, was sold 10 times between 1697 and 1791. Nearby Hacienda La Magdalena turned over 6 times between 1727 and 1808. In contrast, Hacienda Santa Lucia remained within just two families for over 150 years, although there were at least a couple sales between family members during that time. The first sale was in 1722, apparently by one member of the Gamboa family to another. Then, in the 1730s, the Gamboas became linked through marriage to a family of Guadalajara merchants named Leñero. When the Gamboa owner of Santa Lucia died, her nephew, a Leñero, bought the hacienda from her estate. Several generations of the Leñeros then owned the hacienda for over a century. Among the family were men who used their shrewd business acumen to make Santa Lucia prosper even when other hacendados around them failed.

The ziguán leads into the patio of the casa grande, complete with bubbling fountain. Hacienda Santa Lucia is quite large and complex and includes several courtyards and gardens. In 1736, the hacienda was owned by Angela de Amesqua y Gamboa, who had inherited it from her father. She married a rising young Guadalajara merchant named Gabriel Sánchez Leñero, an emigrant from Toledo, Spain. His business interests included supplying mines and haciendas. While Gabriel got a boost up the social ladder through marrying Angela, a member of the land-owning elite, the Gamboa-Leñero alliance also contributed greatly to the economic stability of the hacienda. The weakness of the hacienda system had always been its limited access to capital. Raising livestock and crops both carried numerous risks, and profits could vary drastically from year to year. The construction of dams, irrigation projects, large storage buildings, and long walls to protect crops from livestock required large-scale, long-term investments. Capital for such investments had to come from sources other than the uncertain profits of the haciendas themselves. As already noted, some hacendados sought capital from church loans, and the mortgages which encumbered their properties often forced foreclosures and auction sales. Gabriel and other members of the Leñero family used the profits from their commercial operations to support needed investments at Santa Lucia and, conversely, used their business contacts to market the hacienda's various products. The deft balancing of these interests enabled the hacienda to become one of the most important estates in the Guadalajara area.

A iron-bound wooden door stands behind the arched portales facing a cobblestone courtyard. This is now the entrance to of one of several private homes within Santa Lucia's casco. Starting in the late 17th, and continuing through the middle of the 18th Centuries, a great shift occurred in the economic focus of many haciendas.  This involved a switch from cattle to raising grain crops, particularly wheat. These changes required major capital investments. There were three reasons for this. First, the over-harvesting of the feral cattle had resulted in a significant decline in the great herds. Second, by the middle of the 18th Century, the indigenous population had developed some immunity to European diseases and had largely recovered from the precipitous drop of the previous century. In addition, the growing mestizo population (mixed Spanish and indigenous) was also resistant to those diseases. As the labor supply increased, the ability to conduct large-scale agriculture increased with it. At last there was someone to put behind that plow! Third, Guadalajara's growing population created a corresponding demand for grain, particularly wheat. When it was founded in 1542, the city contained about 200 people, including 63 Spaniards. By the beginning of the War of Independence in 1810, the population had reached about 35,000. As the size and wealth of the city grew, so did its taste for bread made from flour. Wheat prices rapidly increased, spurring production. However, wheat requires considerably more water than corn, hence the demand for capital to build dams and irrigation projects. This resulted in bumper crops, which tended to depress prices. Investment in large stone storage buildings enabled haciendas to hold their grain off the market until prices improved. By contrast, small farmers and the indigenous villagers lacked these facilities and had to sell at harvest time, regardless of price. The mercantile capital the Leñeros could access gave them a significant advantage not only over small farmers, but over many of their fellow hacendados.

Another part of the casa grande, now also functioning as a private home. Gabriel Sánchez Leñero's family were not of the land-owning elite, but they were prominent in colonial society nonetheless. His father had been Alcalde Mayor (District Magistrate) of Aguascalientes at the beginning of the 18th Century. His cousin was a wealthy merchant in Mexico City. Gabriel himself served as Alcalde Ordinario (Municipal Magistrate) of Guadalajara, and financial administrator of the Convent of Santa Maria de Gracia and the Guadalajara Cathedral. In the mid-18th Century, Juan Alfonso Sánchez Leñero, Gabriel's nephew, came to Nueva España from Toledo. He took a job as a cajero (clerk) in his Uncle Gabriel's business. This was a time-honored way for an ambitious young man to get his start in the New World. He worked for Gabriel for several years and invested in a small store of his own, in partnership with his Aunt Angela. Gabriel died in 1760, and Angela a few years later. Upon her death, Juan Alphonso purchased Hacienda Santa Lucia from her estate for 37,000 pesos. He enjoyed a thirty-year career as both a merchant and an hacendado, amassing a huge fortune through silver-banking, livestock trading, and trade in general merchandise, as well as the profits from his hacienda's production. Upon his death in 1793, the estate of Juan Alfonso Sánchez Leñero--including Santa Lucia--was worth 500,000 pesos. Hacienda Santa Lucia alone was valued at 100,000 pesos, three times what Juan Alfonso paid for it!

Some of my sources of information for this posting:

Hacienda and Market in 18th Century Mexico, the Rural Economy of the Guadalajara Region, 1675-1820,  Eric Van Young, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2nd Ed. 2006

Land and Society in Colonial Mexico, the Great Hacienda, Francois Chevalier, University of California Press, 1970

Haciendas and Economic Development, Guadalajara, Mexico at Independence, Richard B. Lindley, University of Texas Press, 1983

This completes Part 2 of my Historic Haciendas of Zapopan series. In the next installment, we will look at Santa Lucia's 17th Century capilla, the remains of its tequila-making taberna, and continue with the story of this beautiful old estate and its place in Guadalajara's history. I hope you liked this posting. If so, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the Comments section below, or email me directly.

If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim


  1. Interesting history and good pictures. Thanks for the info, Jim! It means much more now that we're living here.

  2. Tom Sheehan....Pat and I are snow birds at present....but we are always happy to receive your stories. We will be back down there in old Mexico before too many moons and you continue to
    wh t our appetities. Thanks so much....Keep up the enticement! Tom and Pat


If your comment involves a question, please leave your email address so I can answer you. Thanks, Jim