Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Silver Mines of Hostotipaquillo Part 9 of 10: Ex-Hacienda Santo Tomás (the aqueduct and water wheel system)

Water cascades from the aqueduct sluice down into the waterwheel structure. A still-functioning aqueduct provides water to Hacienda Santo Tomás. The non-functioning waterwheel once powered machinery used in the silver refining process. Water was also necessary for the tequila production that, over time, replaced silver refining as the economic focus of the hacienda (see Part 8 of this series). Santo Tomás was not the only hacienda de beneficio (refinery) in the area that employed a waterwheel. Those who have been following this series will remember a similar arrangement at ex-Hacienda Mochitiltic (see Part 5).

In this posting I will show you the aqueduct and waterwheel and describe how they worked together. I'll also tell you a bit about the long history of waterwheels. Those wishing to visit ex-Hacienda Santo Tomás will find directions in Part 6 or you can use this interactive Google map.

The aqueduct

The aqueduct brings water from a source above and to the east of the hacienda. The two pillars are part of some ruined hacienda structures. Behind them, crossing the hillside, you can see the dark line of the aqueduct's wall. In order to reach this point, you need to walk down the street past the capilla (chapel) and take the right fork up the hill. You reach the point seen above near the end of the cobble stone street. From here, you need to scramble up the hillside to the aqueduct wall.

Access to water was essential at every hacienda. It kept livestock and crops alive, as well as providing for the needs of the human inhabitants. However, water was especially important on a hacienda de beneficio, where it provided power for the machinery in a time before electricity was harnessed. In order to do so, the water needed to originate from a source that was higher than the waterwheel in order to utilize the force of gravity. As a result, haciendas de beneficio--including Santo Tomás--were nearly always constructed in canyons or arroyos. 

The aqueduct still provides a steady stream of year-round water. The wall on the right is about 1 ft. (1/3m) wide and is walkable, if you have a sure sense of balance. However, you probably should not try this if you are not comfortable with it. The aqueduct continues around the bend in the hill. I was impressed by the quantity of water it carried in this arid region.

Aqueducts have been used for millennia by civilizations all over the world. Four thousand years ago, the ancient Minoans on Crete developed what may have been the first system of aqueducts for irrigation. In other places, aqueducts were used to transport water to support urban life. For example the ancient trading city of Petra (in modern Jordan) used a system of tunnels and channels carved from solid rock to provide water to their city.

Around the bend, the aqueduct heads toward the spillway structure. The spillway turns at a right angle from the aqueduct and drops its load of water several meters down into the waterwheel structure. As you can see, the hillside leading from the hacienda up to the aqueduct is pretty steep. The hill continues up to the left to where it meets the fence that lines the edge of the 15D cuota (toll road).

The Deccan civilization of India built some of the earliest aqueducts. One of them was 24km (15mi) long and, among other uses, supplied water to the royal baths. During the Iron Age, the people of Oman in Arabia used underground aqueducts constructed as "a series of well-like vertical shafts connected by gently sloping horizontal tunnels". One of the longest ancient aqueducts was built by the Assyrians (in modern Iraq). It was 80km (49.7mi) long and 10m (32.8ft) high where it crossed a 300m (984ft) wide valley.

The spillway juts out like the prow of an 18th century galleon. Just above the wall on the right, you can see the north wing of the casa grande. The adobe wall on either side of the spillway is the south part of the casco wall that surrounds and protects the main structures of the hacienda. The modern pueblo of Santo Tomás rises up the hill on the other side of the arroyo.

The Roman aqueducts are, of course, the most famous. Their water projects were built all over Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The various aqueducts feeding water to the city of Rome alone "totaled over 415km (258mi)...and set a standard of engineering that was not surpassed for a thousand years". 

This arch supports the spillway above. The view is to the west along the south casco wall. In the distance you can see a tall conical structure, which is one of the bastions that protect this side of the hacienda. There is another view of it in Part 6. One defect of the hacienda's defenses is the hill to the left which rises high enough that an enemy could look down into the courtyard inside the walls. Snipers in that high position could make movement difficult for the defenders.

Aqueducts were also present in pre-hispanic North and South America. Around 540 AD, the people who designed the famous Nazca lines in the Peruvian desert brought water to their communities with aqueducts that are still in use today. In Costa Rica, a unknown civilization of ancient people built another still-functioning system of aqueducts. Finally, when the Spanish arrived at the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán (today's Mexico City), they discovered two large aqueducts to bring fresh water across the salty Lago de Texcoco to the island city. The Spanish conquered the city, in part, by destroying its aqueducts

The water wheel structure

Another view of the water spilling into the water wheel structure. The long pipe running diagonally across these structures is a 20th century addition to the water system. The lower arch in the upper left provided the view of the casco wall and bastion seen in the previous photo. The large arch just above the pipe is the opening for the axle of the water wheel, which extended out to power ore-grinding machinery on both sides . Above the large arch is a row of square holes. These are for rafters which once extended out to support the roof of a structure that sheltered the grinding machinery.

The origin of the water wheel is even more ancient than that of the aqueduct. The very first may have been the shaduf in Egypt. It was developed around 4000 BC--six thousand years ago! A shaduf has a lever with a weight on one end and a bucket on the other. It is used to lift water out of the Nile up to the bank and into an irrigation ditch. Shadufs are still in use along the Nile today. Like they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The waterwheel structure, viewed from the courtyard. The structure is approximately 50m (150 ft) long and 7m (21 ft) tall at the lower end. This waterwheel structure is much more complex than the one in my posting on ex-Hacienda Mochitiltic.

It was a long time before water wheels were used for anything but irrigation. People had been grinding grain using something called a quern stone since around 4000 BC. Around 500 BC, a rotary quern stone was developed as a way to grind grains using human or animal power to turn the stone. However, by 400 BC, a Greek had the bright idea of harnessing water to do the grinding, thus creating one of the first automated machines. Sometime between 200-100 BC, people began using horizontal water wheels ("Noria wheels") to turn the grindstone.

An arch was constructed in the wall in order to allow easy access to work areas. Two of our Hacienda Hunters can be seen in the courtyard through the arch, along with the portales of the casa grande in the distance. At this point in its base, the waterwheel structure is about 1.5m (4ft) thick.

Archeologists speculate that the idea of a horizontal wheel came from the widespread use of pottery wheels in the area around Sidon (on Lebanon's coast), which also has many mountain streams. In any case, a Greek from Sidon called Antipater wrote about Noria wheels in 100 BC. Previous to this, about 250 BC, other Greeks had developed gears made of wood. Not too long after the invention of the Noria wheel, someone else figured out that if you made the wheel vertical and used the previously-invented gears, the result was much more efficient than using un-geared horizontal wheels. 

Openings on either side allowed access to the slot within which the wheel moved. I am not sure of the purpose of these openings, but they may have provided a way to maintain and repair the wooden structure of the wheel. 

The first vertical water wheels were of the "undershot" type. This involved immersing the paddles of the wheel in the stream passing below, in order to push them and turn the wheel, which then turned a horizontal axle. The axle rotated the gears, transferring the energy to the vertical grinding quern. This was a great advance over the horizontal wheel, but the velocity of the water could vary according to wet or dry weather, reducing efficiency. Then the Romans got involved and created the "overshot" wheel, which drops the water onto the paddles from above at a controlled rate. The one at Santo Tomás was of this type.

Another access point in the structure. This one has a row of rafter holes above it. Jutting out from the wall, just below each hole, is a wooden nub which gave extra support to the rafters. Although the opening and the rafter holes are lined with brick, the overall structure is constructed with rough stone, covered with plaster.

The Roman invention of the overshot wheel occurred sometime in the 1st or 2nd century AD. The Chinese also developed an overshot wheel about this time and may have gotten the idea through trade with Rome. The overshot wheel was more expensive to build, since it usually required a dam to create a pond and a mill race to carry the water to the wheel. However, the increase in efficiency made up for the initial expense. The velocity of the water could be controlled and additional torque was produced from the weight of the water falling on the paddles. 

The arched opening at the base of the structure is the exit point for the water. Another aqueduct beginning at the opening carries away the water. The stone-lined ditch turns sharply to the right and continues down the hill past one of the buildings in the courtyard.

The ruins of a great Roman mill have been found in southern France near Arles. The mill used 16 water wheels, two abreast, in stair steps down a hill, to produce enough flour to feed 12,000 people. Over the following centuries, water wheels were used for many other purposes, including sawing wood, running bellows in forges, and pumping water out of mines. After the Middle Ages ended, water wheels became central to the birth of the industrial revolution. By the early 1900s, they were being used to produce electricity. And it all began with the shaduf, six thousand years ago.

The grinding disks

Several circular pits are located near where the waterwheel axle emerges from the wall. I took this telephoto shot from above, on the aqueduct spillway. During my second visit, I was as yet unable to gain access to the interior of the hacienda and so had to perch precariously on the aqueduct spillway to photograph what I could. I was somewhat mystified by the circles, but their proximity to the waterwheel structure strongly suggested a relationship.

View of the inside of a roofless room on the west side of the waterwheel structure. The opening in the wall is where the axle emerges on this side. Barely visible in the lower right is another of the circular pits. There were at least a dozen of the pits near the axle hole, with about half of them on each side of the wall, . The rafter holes above the axle hole show that this area, like the one on the other side, was also roofed at one time.

Full view of the circular pit seen in the previous photo. Each of the pits has a hole in its center. I finally concluded that these were the bases of grindstones, which had once been placed horizontally over each pit and turned on an axle projecting up from the center point. The grindstones themselves are long gone, along with the geared apparatus that turned them,  However, this must have been a complex mechanical operation, with the waterwheel providing the power to turn multiple grindstones simultaneously. 

The large chunks of ore were first broken up outside the mouths of the mines, usually by women and children. The smaller rocks that resulted would have been packed down the mountains by mules and then fed into the grinding apparatus. This would have created a coarse powder, ready for the application of mercury in the "patio process". 

This completes Part 9 of my Silver Mines of Hostotipaquillo series. I hope you have enjoyed it. If so, please leave any thoughts or comments in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question, please include your email address so that I may respond in a timely fashion. In the last part of this series, Part 10, I will show you the area where the silver ore was further processed into ingots and discuss how it was done.

Hasta luego, Jim


Monday, June 3, 2024

The Silver Mines of Hostotipaquillo Part 8 of 10: Ex-Hacienda Santo Tomás (administrator's house, courtyard, and fabrica)

The administrator's house is mostly in ruins but still photogenic. The two story house stands on the southern edge of the courtyard, facing the casa grande (see Part 7). Immediately in front of the ruined house is a large rectangular pond, which once may have been a swimming pool. The mayor domo (administrator) was an important figure on any rural estate, but particularly so on a hacienda de beneficio. His knowledge needed to extend not only to the general administration of a hacienda but also to the particulars of the silver refining process.

In this posting, we'll look at the mayor domo's residence and I'll discuss his role on the hacienda. In addition, I'll show you a bit more of the courtyard and its central focus, the reloj de sol (sundial). Finally, we'll examine the remains of the fabrica de tequila (tequila factory) that stands to the west of the mayor domo's house. I'll talk about the tequila production process and its evolution as a source of profit when the silver industry declined. For directions to Hacienda Santo Tomás, please refer to Part 6 of this series.

One of the corner pillars of the mayor domo's residence. My friend Jim B can be seen walking through the ruins in the background. Brilliant bougainvillea grows up one of the arched portales along the front of the arcade. The remains of additional arches can be seen at the top and on the side of the pillar. In the distance is a wall with a line of rafter holes and a door. This is the great waterwheel, which we'll examine in the next posting.

Sizable haciendas and those in remote locations were run by mayor domos and only occasionally visited by the hacendados (owners). Sometimes the purposes of these visits were to examine the books, to inspect the property, and to consult with the mayor domo on various problems. At other times, the hacendado and his family simply wanted a break from city life and to enjoy a short rural adventure. On these latter occasions, they might hunt game or fish the river or socialize with folks from neighboring haciendas. If the visit coincided with a fiesta, they might go into the local pueblo to enjoy the spectacle.

View through one of the portales toward the pond, courtyard, and the casa grande. Beyond the casa grande, the pueblo of Santo Tomás rises up the hillside. The mayor domo's house must have been impressive in its own right, with arcades lined with portales on two levels. Unlike the tile floors of the casa grande, this one is made of flagstones. Much of the the house was made from bricks, probably dating it to the 19th century, when brick became an affordable building material.

Unlike most of the people working under him, a mayor domo would have been literate and familiar with basic accounting practices. He needed to write reports and letters to the hacendado and various officials and to keep the books for the operation. He was a professional and needed to comprehend every aspect of the operation so that he could act in the hacendado's absence. The position of mayor domo made him part of the managerial class of Nueva España and the early Republic. 

Coutyard and sundial

The courtyard and its sundial, with the mayor domo's house in the background. Given the size of the mayor domo's residence, it may have needed a staff of its own, possibly including a maid and a cook. The courtyard is expansive, with a rolling green lawn and a number of shady trees. The centerpiece of the courtyard is a reloj de sol (sundial). I found this interesting because hacienda courtyards are usually centered on a fountain. Of course, such courtyards usually don't have large ponds like the one in front of the mayor domo's house. 

An effective mayor domo also needed to be a good manager of people, particularly in a large operation like Santo Tomás. He would have had several subordinates to directly supervise the various crews working in the refining operation and the tequila distillery. The casa grande also needed supervision, as well as the tienda de raya (company store). Depending upon their actual jobs, some subordinates might have been literate. If a hacendado owned several haciendas, as was often the case in the Real Hostotipaquillo (the mining district), a mayor domo might run them all, with a subordinate at each to handle day-to-day operations.

The reloj de sol sits on a pedestal, not far from the casa grande. Haciendas such as Santo Tomás also had clocks, of course, and the hacendado and his mayor domo would have possessed pocket watches. However, most workers were unlikely to own something as valuable as a watch, much less be able to tell time with it. In addition, clocks would have been kept inside the casa grande and mayor domo's house. Only people who worked in those structures and those who had business there would be allowed inside. However, anyone could check the sundial simply by walking through the courtyard.

The sundial is shaped like a half-moon. Roman numerals line the curved edge. At the center of the top, barely visible, is a thin metal rod that extends forward. The shadow of this rod indicates the time as it touches the various numerals. The clock has numerals for 6am to 6pm, which are generally the hours of daylight. There would, of course, be no way to read the reloj de sol at night. I saw a very similar sundial in the plaza of the pueblo of Jamay, on the northeastern end of Lake Chapala. Indigenous workers had crafted it in the 18th century for the Franciscan church there. It is possible that this piece has a similar pedigree.

Fabrica de tequila

View of the mayor domo's house, the casa grande, and the courtyard from above. The structures along the south side of the courtyard are placed on a series of ledges that rise as steps up a steep hill. I took this shot from the ledge that would have been at the level of the 2nd story of the mayor domo's house. In the center of the photo, just below the pillar and portales, is machinery that was part of the fabrica de tequila (tequila factory). 

From the point of view of the Spanish Crown, the colonies were established to benefit the home country and its ruler, the King. One of the ways these benefits were to be accrued was through Crown monopolies such as the one on mercury, a vital part of the silver refining process. Another monopoly was on alcoholic beverages, such as rum and brandy.  This not only financially benefitted the Crown but also protected the markets of alcohol producers and merchants back in Spain.

Fields of agave azul, north of Hostotipaquillo. The high desert succulent known as agave azul (blue agave) is a derivative of the original wild maguey. Pre-hispanic people used the maguey for a variety of purposes, The fibre from the spikey leaves was used for thread, rope, and sandals. Women sewed using the needle-like spike at the tip of the leaves. It was also used for blood-letting in self-sacrifice rituals. The piña (pineapple) that is left when the leaves are chopped off looks like a Hawaiian pineapple, only several times larger. The sap from the piña was used by natives to make pulque, a mildly alcoholic drink that is still popular.

The Spanish had little interest in the maguey until the Crown monopoly made imported liquor expensive. In response, Spaniards in Nueva España started distilling the sap to make mezcal, a hard liquor. At first, this was confined to outlying haciendas for local consumption. However, mescal became very popular and hacendados in maguey country gradually recognized its commercial potential. In the 18th century, near the pueblo of Tequila, a man named José Cuervo planted huge numbers of magueys at his hacienda. Agave azul evolved from these wild plants and the liquor they produced became known as tequila.

Pit where agave piñas were roasted. After the spikey leaves were cut off by a man called a jimador (named for the tool he used, called a coa de jima), the piñas were brought to this pit where they were heaped up and roasted. You can still see the carbon soot on the sides of the roasting pit. 

José Cuervo quickly became the 18th century's leading producer of tequila. Other hacendados soon followed, including members of the Sauza and Orendain families. All these names may be familiar to tequila fans because the companies established by them still dominate the tequila industry, almost 300 years later. Under Mexian law, only liquor made with 100% agave azul and distilled in the state of Jalisco (and a handful of municipalities in Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas) may be called tequila

Daniel studies a large grindstone set in a mysterious stone circle. Daniel was one of our group of Hacienda Hunters on this trip. I have often found old grindstones on the various hacienda sites I have visited and I thought this arrangement was a bit odd. Why was the stone standing on its edge and what was that circle about? There was no sign giving any explanation, so I took a quick shot and moved on.  Later, when I was preparing this posting, a distant memory of a visit to Oaxaca tugged at me and I went back and looked through those old photos.

The grindstone in operation. Back in 2010, Carole and I took a day trip into the country outside the city of Oaxaca. We visited a fabrica which still makes mezcal in the old-fashioned way, much like tequila was once made at Hacienda Santo Tomás. The Fabrica de Mescal Artesanal contains a small museum and this was one of its displays. The same sort of grindstone, rolling on its edge and pulled by a horse, grinds piñas laid out inside of a stone circle. Mystery solved! This grinding process is the second step in making mezcal. 

The ground up piñas were further processed here. The mash was placed in the circular drum, which was then heated by fire, fed through the opening in the small brick structure seen above. The drum was turned on its axis using the wheel, either by hand or possibly by a belt arrangement. Water, cane or corn sugar, and various yeasts would be added to the mash to encourage the beginning of the fermentation process.

Next, the partially fermented mash would be placed in this large vat. The mash would be further heated through the oven below it. The fermentation process lasted anywhere from four to thirty days. After the fermentation, distillation was accomplished in two steps, with the piña fibers removed for the second distillation. The low grade alcohol produced in the first distillation would be added back during the second. Blanco (white) tequila is clear when distilled. That which has aged in barrels from 60 days to a year has a slight amber tint and is called reposado (rested). Anything aged longer has a dark color and is called añejo (mature).

Añejo is considered to be the highest quality tequila and is always the most expensive. While blanco is often used in mixed drinks like margaritas, añejo is supposed to be sipped straight. Blanco is supposed to be harsher than the other grades, while reposado is less so, and añejo is smooth. However, I have consumed all three and have often found blanco to be perfectly smooth and enjoyable, at least to my north-of-the-border palette. I think that the most important aspect is the particular brand, and there are hundreds to choose from.

The smoke resulting from the process would have been channelled through these brick chimneys. The machinery from the last couple of photos is near the base of these chimneys, but is obscured by the foliage. I took this shot from one of the ledges along the south side of the casco. The bricks used to construct the chimneys indicate that they were probably installed during the 19th century. However, tequila manufacturing probably got started at Hacienda Santo Tomás in the 18th century, using more primitive facilities. 

The tequila production area is well within the high casco walls, with their protective corner bastions (see Part 6 of this series). Raids to steal the barrels of liquor would not have been an uncommon experience at tequila producing haciendas. In addition to being a lucrative target, hard liquor has always been popular with bandits and rogue soldiers, who were often in need of a brief escape from their hard lives. So, the fortifications originally constructed to defend newly cast silver ingots would later have helped protect another valuable product of the hacienda.

A tree has grown up in this storage room since the last time it was used. The purpose of the room was not clear, but barrels of tequila may have been stored here. This is likely since the room is quite near the distillation structures. Tequila production would have gradually increased here in the late 18th century and this was probably coincident with the decline of the silver industry during same period and into the 19th century. I don't know when or why tequila production ended here, but it must have been profitable while it lasted. 

This completes Part 8 of my series on the Silver Mines of Hostotipaquillo. I hope you have enjoyed it. Please leave any comments or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. In Part 9, we'll take a look at the aqueduct and water wheel. These helped power the silver ore grinders and provided water to the hacienda

Hasta luego, Jim


Friday, May 24, 2024

The Silver Mines of Hostotipaquillo Part 7 of 10: Ex-Hacienda Santo Tomás (the casa grande)


View of the casa grande, courtyard, and a large pond. This section of Ex-Hacienda Santo Tomás is the most intact. In the previous posting (Part 6 of the series) we looked at the fortifications surrounding this old hacienda de beneficio (silver refining operation). The walls and bastions protected the casa grande and other structures within it that related to the production of silver and tequila. 

In this posting (Part 7) I will show you the casa grande, including its arcades, dining room, kitchen, and bedrooms and game room. Along with the photos, I will tell you about the daily life typical of people who lived in places like this. For directions to the pueblo of Santo Tomás and its hacienda, please refer to Part 6.

The entrance and zaguan of the casa grande

Entrance gate and back wall of the casa grande. The covered arcade along the back overlooks a cobble-stoned work area where a key part of the silver refining process was conducted. From the arcade, the hacendado (owner) and his mayor domo (administrator) could sit comfortably in the shade and supervise the work. The iron gate opens into the zaguan, a large hallway that leads to the central courtyard. Zaguans were typical features of casa grande architecture.

Hacendados often did not live on their rural properties, visiting only periodically to examine the books and to consult with the mayor domo about significant problems that may have arisen. Instead, they lived in comfortable mansions in nearby towns or even in more distant locations such as Guadalajara or Mexico City. 

The mayo domo's job was to administer the hacienda in the hacendado's absence. He was an experienced professional who sometimes became a hacendado in his own right. The mayor domo would either live in one of the rooms of the casa grande or, in the case of an important property like Hacienda Santo Tomás, he would be provided with his own residence within the casco walls.

Inside the zaguan we found two carriages, one with four wheels and the other with two. Although they were lined up one behind the other, the zaguan was wide enough for them to stand side-by-side. The gate in the upper right opens onto the interior arcade and the courtyard.  The four-wheeled carriage, equipped with a canvas roof and luggage rack, appears to be intended for longer distance traveling. The two-wheeler in front was probably intended for short trips around the estate or to visit neighboring haciendas

Until the last quarter of the 19th century, Mexico lacked rail networks and the roads were often little more than trails. This was particularly true in rugged, mountainous country like that around Hostotipaquillo. Most of these areas were accessible only by horse, mule, or burro. The carriages shown above would have been restricted to the few roads in a condition to handle them. In the late 19th century, a railroad spur was extended as far as Etzatlán, 89km (55mi) west of Guadalajara. This shortened the first leg of a rugged road journey to Santo Tomás from 2-3 days down to a few hours in a comfortable rail coach. 

However the last leg of the journey, from Etzatlán to Santo Tomás, is another 44km (27mi). This would have required a very long day's travel by wagon, carriage or horseback. Unless there was extreme urgency in returning to Santo Tomás, it is likely that the journey would have been broken up by visits to one or more of the several haciendas situated along the route. Such neighborly visits were a normal part of the hacendado lifestyle. The hacendados and mayor domos of these haciendas would have welcomed their visitors and the news they brought from the outside world.

A poster announcing upcoming bullfights hangs on the wall of the zaguan. The poster informs us that the Gran Corrida de Toros will feature six toros (bulls) and names the three bullfighters who will face them. There is another painting of a matador facing a bull in the hallway leading to the game room and the head of a large bull is mounted on the wall. Bullfighting was imported to Nueva España (colonial Mexico) during the early days of the Conquest. The first bullfight was held in Mexico City on August 13, 1529, only eight years after Hernán Cortéz led his conquistadors to victory over the Aztecs. 

Pope Pius V tried to ban the sport in 1567, but it was wildly popular in Europe and the ban was largely ignored, especially in far-away Mexico. Bullfighting has continued in Mexico up to recent times. However, public opinion has begun to turn against the cruelty of the sport. Recently, a poll showed that three quarters of Mexicans would like to see the sport banned and several Mexican states have done so. However, Mexico City's ban was recently lifted by a court order.

The courtyard arcade and its portales

View from the exit of the zaguan down the arcade facing the courtyard. The arches are called portales and are another typical feature of casas grandes and other hacienda structures. Much of life on a hacienda occurred outdoors and often involved lounging, socializing, or dining on a shady arcade like this. Beyond the portales is a grassy, tree-shaded central courtyard, with a large pond in one corner (see first photo). The pond may have been a swimming pool at some point.

Hacienda Santo Tomás was founded in 1668 by Francisco de la Isla Solórzano, who claimed the land through a denunció, which meant that it had been abandoned by the previous owner. When Francisco died in 1682, his sons José and Juan took over the property. They appear to have been absentee owners, because they hired Francisco de Mazariegos to be their mayor domo. He must have been one of the ambitious administrators because, by 1700,  he was listed as the owner. By then it was one of the three most important haciendas de beneficio in the Real de Hostotipaquillo real (mining district). 

View the north wing of the casa grande's arcade and part of the courtyard. Notice the flying buttresses supporting the west side. That is an architectural feature dating back to the Middle Ages. The part of the casa grande seen above contains the dining room and kitchen and an area to which we didn't have access but that probably contains offices. There is a corner at the far end of the arcade where it takes a right-angle turn. This east wing contains bedrooms with a game room at one end.

Francico Mazariegos died in 1704 and his wife and son became the new owners. However, they decided not to operate it themselves. Instead, they rented out the property over the next thirty-three years to a variety of mine owners. In 1737, Eugenio Francisco de Castro bought the hacienda for 1,700 pesos ($53,282 in today's US dollars). For most of the next fifty years, the hacienda de beneficio refined ore primarily extracted from the Copala mine, some distance away. However, ore also came from several nearby mines, including the Santa Efigenia, Nuestra Señora de Zapopan, Nuestra Señora de Santo Tomás, and the San Javier

Our group takes a break to chat in the arcade. There is a hat rack made of bulls' horns hanging on the left wall. The stairs behind the people lead up to the east wing, which forms the border of the courtyard along that side. The rust colored tiles on the floor of the arcade, resemble those I have found in many other haciendas. Tiles like this are easy to sweep or mop, an important consideration due to the dirt and mud that would have been regularly tracked in by those who lived and worked here. 

A will probated in 1787 lists the owner of Hacienda Santo Tomas as Francisco Antonio de la Brena and states that the property was a fully-functioning hacienda de beneficio. In researching its history, I have been unable to find further information. Because the hacienda has survived relatively intact, it must have continued to operate through the revolts, coups, and foreign invasions of the 19th century and even into the 20th, with its Revolution and Cristero War. At some point, silver refining and tequila production stopped, but why and when are currently unknown to me.

The Dining Room

The large dining room contains a table capable of seating ten. Families in the colonial period and the early Republic were large. In addition, there would often have been guests at dinner. These might have included people from one of the other haciendas in the area. Other possibilities include traveling government officials, clerics, merchants, or foreigners visiting from the United States or Europe. The description below describes hacienda life in the later 19th or early 20th centuries.

"The hacendado, his family, and staff ate an early breakfast. Bells clanged for a Mass at 6:00 or 7:00 A.M. (before or after breakfast), depending on the weather...By 2:00 or 2:30 P.M...(they) enjoyed a meal at the long table set with imported or hacienda linen, elegant china, cut glass, and Mexican and European silverware. Barefoot maids served...The butler may have worn white gloves. In the spacious, beamed, windowed room, cool in summer, warm in winter, the menu was varied."*

*Haciendas of Mexico, An Artist's Record, by Paul Alexander Bartlett, University Press of Colorado, 1990, pp. 43-45

A beautiful cabinet full of glassware stands in a corner. This is an example of the sort of furniture that would have been imported, or at least brought in from someplace like Guadalajara or Mexico City. In the earlier centuries, such elegant furniture would not have been found in most casas grande. What furniture that existed would have been heavy, rustic, sparse, and would have almost certainly been made by a local native carpenter, perhaps one of the peones acasilados

George Lyon, an English traveler of the early 19th century, described the furnishings he found in one country estate. "The owners of the largest and most attractive hacienda, which provided them with an income of $100,000, were content with lodgings and comforts that an English gentleman would hesitate to offer to his servants."* 

Stylish furniture had to be imported, and would have been far too expensive to waste on working estates far out in the country. A hacendado who possessed such furniture would have reserved it for his mansion in the city. In the late 19th century, when railroads were well established, more expensive items could be brought to outlying properties. The bigger haciendas even had their own train stations, although Santo Tomás never did. 

*Daily Life on the Haciendas of Mexico, by Ricardo Rendón Garcini, Fomento Cultural BANAMEX A.C., 1997, p.56

These shelves display an interesting variety of crockery. The bottom shelf contains four stone metates, along with their rollers, which are called manos. These devices are used to grind corn into masa (dough) which is then flattened into thin circular shapes. When cooked on a griddle, they become Mexico's famous tortillas. Manos and metates originated in very early pre-hispanic times, but they are still used in many Mexican kitchens. 

Some technologies appear to be universal among human cultures. When I visited the Ancient Egyptian section of the Louvre Museum in Paris, I was astonished to find stone devices that are almost identical to Mexican manos and metates. In addition, I saw small statues of Egyptian women using them in exactly the same way as portrayed in pre-hispanic Maya paintings. Ancient Mexicans and Egyptians both used small disks called spindle whorls to spin thread, backstrap looms to create cloth, and built stepped pyramids as tombs for their rulers. 

The Kitchen

A large kitchen contains some modern appliances. The cooks and kitchen help may have eaten some of their meals here, but the peones acasillados would have eaten in the huts they were provided as part of their wages. Other workers would have eaten their breakfast and the day's final meal in their villages after their work day finished. Refrigerators like those above would not have existed in a casa grande's kitchen until well into the 20th century, when electricity was finally extended to rural areas. But before then, food preservation was necessary, particularly for meat. The methods commonly used dated back centuries.

"(Meat) was cured with smoke or salt, or processed as sausage. Toward the same end, other foods were pickled. Fruit that was harvested from the orchard was turned into sweet preserves...whose preparation was to become a family tradition.The bread was...made in the adobe ovens that were present on all haciendas. During the early years. bread from wheat was only eaten by Spaniards...but eventually (it was) part of the diet of the workers on the hacienda, especially on those where wheat was grown..."*

The hacendado's desayuno (breakfast) would have included fruta (fruit), huevos (eggs), meat dishes, frijoles (beans), tortillas or pan (bread), café (coffee), chocolate, té (tea), and pulque or cerveza (beer). The main meal, served in the mid-afternoon, was called comida. It typically started with soup, then a meat dish like beef, chicken, pork, lamb or wild game like venison, turkey or rabbit. Dessert consisted of flan (custard), cajeta (caramelized goat's milk), cake, or fresh fruit and cheese. Comida would have finished with coffee, tea, wine, liquor, horchata (rice drink), jamaica (tropical drink), or chocolate

*Daily Life on the Haciendas of Mexico, p.269

The kitchen viewed from another angle. Again, modern appliances like gas stoves were a 20th century innovation. Wood fires were the rule for the first 400 years after the Conquest. Keeping a constant supply of cut wood for fuel, as well as enough food for the hacendado's family, staff, and guests, required the efforts of a number of workers. 

For the workers, desayuno would have consisted largely of tortillas and water. Comida would have included tortillas, frijoles y arroz (beans and rice), and occasionally a little meat. Seasonal fruits served included mangos, aguacates (avocados), naranja (oranges), bananas, or berries picked in the wild. Corn tortillas had been the dietary staple of ordinary people since pre-hispanic times. From the 16th through the last part of the 18th century, most haciendas provided their workers with a corn ration as part of their wages. This ensured a stable workforce in a era of labor shortages.

However, labor shortages eased after the great population decline of the 16th and 17th centuries. By the late 18th century, the hacendados no longer needed to worry about finding and keeping enough workers. They found that a little money could be saved by curtailing, or even eliminating, the corn ration. This directly impacted the diet of the workers and their families, causing great resentment. This anger contributed to the explosion of violence against hacendados at the beginning of the War of Independence in 1810.  

The east wing of the casa grande

A stairway to the left of the zaguan leads up to the east wing of the casa grande. The arcade is decorated with a bullfighting scene and a crucifix, two symbols important to hacienda life. This wing includes several bedrooms and a large room at the far end which was set aside for games and entertainment. 

One of the casa grande's several bedrooms. The brass bed frame is definitely from the 19th century. In earlier centuries, it is likely that the beds would have been framed with rough wood. Instead of metal springs, leather straps would have supported the mattress. Hanging over the bed is a painting of the Virgen de Guadalupe and on the wall at the foot is a bulls' horn hat rack from which a sombrero hangs. The floor has the same rust colored tiles found throughout the casa grande. The chair and side table were probably imported or at least brought from Guadalajara.

The same bedroom contains a small writing table and swivel chair. A vanity table and mirror can be seen along the left wall. The couch along the wall under the painting looks to be the same style as the chair in the previous photo. A thick-walled passage leads to another bedroom. Because of the adjoining bedrooms, this may have been a family suite. In geographical areas plagued by mosquitos, netting over each bed would have protected sleepers. 

I named this the "game room" because of the covered pool table in the right center. This room is found at the far end of the casa grande's east wing. It is where the hacendado's family and guests would have entertained themselves in the afternoons and evenings. Equipale tables where guests could sit and watch the pool game are scattered about. In the back corner is a full bar. Since Hacienda Santo Tomás produced tequila in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is likely that the "house brand" would have been served.

The bar occupies the back corner, complete with stools and stocked with liquor. On the wall to the left of the bar is a counting device to keep score in the pool games. In addition to tequila, pulque ("pool-kay") may also have been served. Pulque is a mildly alcoholic beverage made from maguey plants. Its origin goes way back into pre-hispanic times. The Aztecs strictly regulated its use and to become drunk risked stern penalties.

During the early colonial period, the Crown maintained a monopoly on European drinks like rum and brandy. This made them expensive and difficult to obtain. Soon, many haciendas began to look for a way to produce their own alcohol. Noticing that the natives made pulque from the maguey sap, the early Spaniards experimented with distilling the sap and thus invented tequila. In the 18th century, tequila became popular enough that haciendas like Santo Tomás began to sell it commercially. 

Bullfighting was a popular form of entertainment in rural Mexico for centuries. I have found mounted bulls' heads similar to the one above in many of the haciendas I have visited. Some of them raised fighting bulls for profit. Although it was originally a sport confined to adult males, women have become matadors too. In 1949 Conchita Citrón was badly gored in a bullfight. Remarkably, before going to the hospital, she returned to the ring to kill the bull that injured her. In 2010 a 12-year-old boy killed a bull in Mexico City's Plaza del Toros, becoming the youngest person to win the title of matador

I found this among a group of family photos on the game room wall. It occupied a prominent position among the other photos. I was startled, at first, by the image of Fidel Castro sharing a moment with a young member of the hacendado's family. I shouldn't have been. People in Mexico view the various revolutions that have occurred in the 20th century very differently than do people in the United States. 

The city hall of Zapopan, a wealthy suburb of Guadalajara, contains a large mural of 20th century revolutionaries. Honored are Mexico's own Emiliano Zapata, but also Che Guevara of Cuba, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, and Vladimir Lenin of Russia. Mexicans remember that the U.S. Ambassador conspired in the overthrow and murder of Francisco Madero, the first President of Mexico after the 1910 Revolution, and the U.S. intervened militarily in 1914 and 1917. This has led them to respect the revolutionary struggles of other people. In fact, Fidel Castro launched his revolution from Mexico, where he gathered his forces while in exile from Cuba.

This completes Part 7 of my Silver Mines of Hostotipaquillo series. In the next part, we will check out the remains of the mayor domo's house and the tequila distillery near it. I hope you have enjoyed this part. If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave them in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section, please include your email address so that I can respond in a timely fashion.

Hasta luego, Jim