Friday, October 29, 2021

Jamay Part 5 of 5: La Maltaraña and its beautiful Villa Cristina

The Villa Cristina is dilapidated but still impressive. Approaching it, wearing the hat, is my friend Alfredo. Ahead of him are our two guides, Tony and Rosy, from the Oficina de Turismo in Jamay. Isla La Maltaraña, where the old mansion stands, has become famous (or infamous) because of legends about its association with Porfirio Diaz, who ruled Mexico with an iron fist for 35 years. 

In this final part of my Jamay series, we'll take a look at the casa grande named Villa Cristina, which is now commonly called Bella Cristina. For the purposes of this posting, I'll call it by its original name. I'll also show you the fortified bodega that stands nearby. Along the way, I'll recount some of the property's fascinating history. 

After I originally published this posting, I heard from Tony Burton an historian of the local area who has written several books about the history of Lake Chapala. These include Western Mexico: A Traveler's Treasury, Lake Chapala Through the Ages and his new book If Walls Could Talk. He very kindly filled in some of the blanks in the story and offered some useful corrections which I have now included. 

Finding La Maltaraña. The casa grande is at the northern edge of the pueblo called La Palmita on Isla Maltaraña, near where Rio Lerma empties into Lake Chapala. Heading east through Jamay on Highway 35 you will come to a calle (street) called Prof. Eusebio Garcia Briseño. Look for a grocery store called Super Mercado on the corner and turn right there. Drive three long blocks to the "T" intersection with Calle Morelos

Turn left and then turn immediately right onto Carretera Gallardo, which branches off Calle Morelos at an angle toward the southwest.
Follow Gallardo for approximately 7.5km (4.7mi) until you reach the bridge over Rio Lerma. Once across the bridge, you will see a small green sign on your right that says Maltaraña. Continue past the sign until you reach the first paved street on your left, called Benito Juarez. Turn left there.

Drive one block and then turn left for two blocks to a "T" intersection. On your left, about 50m away, you will see the bodega. It is a large, brick building with a tall hexagonal bastion on its right end, topped by a turret. Park and walk toward the bodega. From there, off to your right across a field, you will see the Villa Cristina. On this Google map Villa Cristina is shown as "Hacienda Bella Cristina." 

Villa Cristina

The casa grande was built in the French style. In his efforts to modernize Mexico, Porfirio Diaz brought in experts from Britain and the United States to build his railroads. For the arts, however, Diaz looked to France. Clothing fashions in the French style quickly became popular among Mexico's wealthy elite and French art and architecture blossomed in the cities. 

However, aside from Villa Cristina, there have been few examples of French architecture at haciendas I have visited. One other is the casa grande called La Florida at Hacienda Atequiza. Both casa grandes were built during the Porfiriato, as the period of Diaz' rule was known. The owner of Hacienda Atequiza was a wealthy man named Manuel Cuesta Gallardo.

Manuel Cuesta Gallardo (1873-1920). He was born into a wealthy and politically influential family able to trace its ancestry back to the Spanish Conquest. An indication of Cuesta Gallardo's status is that the godfather of his children was none other than Porfirio Diaz. In 1903 Manuel acquired the Hacienda de Atequizaa vast estate founded in 1556. There are stories that Presidente Diaz visited La Florida during his Semana Santa (Easter Week) vacations at Lake Chapala. However, according to Tony Burton, this has not been confirmed in the available records.

Manuel Cuesta Gallardo was an avid proponent of all the late 19th century's technological advances, including telephones, internal combustion engines, and electrification. He invested heavily in hydroelectric projects around Lake Chapala, using his brother, Joaquin Cuesta Gallardo, as the chief engineer. In 1890s, Diaz passed laws giving the federal government (effectively himself) control of the water and shoreline of the lake. 

Manuel Cuesta Gallardo seized this opportunity and persuaded Diaz to authorize a dike running from Isla Maltaraña to Hacienda La Palma on Lake Chapala's southern shore. His brother Joaquin directed the 1906-1909 project, which drained Cienega Chapala, a wetland that once made up the eastern third of the lake. Manuel later sold off the land at a huge profit. 

A two-level hexagonal tower stands over the main entrance. At the top is a railing surrounding a mirador (lookout) which provides expansive views in every direction. Unlike the bastion tower attached to the bodega, which was designed for defense, this one was probably intended for aesthetic purposes. Villa Cristina has 365 doors and windows, one for each day of the year. Clearly, it would have been a very difficult structure from which to fend off attackers.

La Maltaraña was originally part of Hacienda Cumuato, owned by José Castellanos. He hired the architect Guillermo de Alba to build the mansion in 1903-04. Castellanos named Villa Cristina after his wife. In approximately 1905, Joaquin Cuesta Gallardo acquired Isla La Maltaraña and its lovely casa grande. According to Tony the acquisition occurred under "dubious circumstances". However, its location would have been ideal for the headquarters of the dike project.

Villa Cristina, from the rear. Alfredo, Jim B, and Gary examine the back side of the casa grande. Our guides cautioned us against entering the house because of its instability and the support poles provided convincing evidence. Numerous sources refer to the casa grande's 365 doors and windows. Although I didn't count them, there are certainly plenty and Villa Cristina must have been airy and full of light. 

To the left, the earth rises up to form another of Cuesta Gallardo's dikes. This one runs along Rio Lerma, keeping it within its banks during the rainy season. All the dikes, land drainage, and hydroelectric projects created great economic benefits. However, these flowed primarily to the Cuesta Gallardo family and secondarily to the hacendados who purchased the former marshland from them. 

The indigenous communities who had supported themselves from Cienega Chapala's fish and other wildlife were impoverished when it was drained. Small farmers who wanted to grow corn could not compete with the rich hacendados who rushed to buy up the new lands for cash crops like sugar cane and sorghum. Public resentment against the Cuesta Gallardo family began to grow.

El Presidente Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915), in all his glory. His full name was José de la Cruz Porfirio Diaz Mori and he ruled Mexico from 1876 to 1911. He was born in Oaxaca into a poor family, and his father died when he was only three. However, Diaz managed to acquire an education and attended a seminary in preparation for the priesthood. The 1846 U.S. invasion of Mexico changed all that. Diaz volunteered, abandoning religious life for a long military career. 

His exploits during the Reform War (1857-60) and the French Occupation (1861-67) won him a national reputation. In particular, Diaz' victory against the French in the May 5, 1862 Battle of Puebla is still celebrated every year as Cinco de Mayo. In addition to these formal wars, Diaz participated in numerous revolts against one Mexican regime or another. Although he started out as a radical Liberal, supporting Benito Juarez against the Conservatives, Diaz also had personal political ambitions. 

Following the expulsion of the French in 1867, Juarez was seated as President of Mexico. Diaz then led several revolts against Juarez and his successor, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada. He finally managed to overthrow Tejada in 1876 and installed a crony as temporary President. The following year, Diaz won the first of a total of seven terms. That 1877 election was probably his only legitimate election. The Porfiriato was finally ended by the Mexican Revolution. Diaz left for exile in Paris in 1911 and died in 1915. 

Chuck adjusts his camera as he emerges from the cellar. (Photo by Jim Boles) Our guides told us that this cellar may have been used by Diaz as a torture chamber for his political enemies. According to them, chains and manacles had been found dangling from the stone walls. However, the stairs down into the cellar were blocked, so we were unable to confirm any of this. Legends of all kinds abound in Mexico and I've learned to be skeptical. 

Whether torture happened here or not, Porfirio Diaz was definitely an autocrat. He coined expressions like cinco dados o cinco balas ("five fingers or five bullets", meaning a handshake or death). Another favorite was "pan o palo" (bread or the stick). For 35 years, Mexicans put up with this. Diaz' rule had brought stability after more than six decades of revolts, foreign invasions and chaos, starting with the Independence War of 1810. 

In addition to stability, the Porfiriato was about modernization. Had the benefits of it been spread widely among Mexicans, Diaz would be remembered fondly and the Revolution avoided. However, the wealth created flowed primarily to Diaz and his inner circle, even as the lives of ordinary Mexicans deteriorated. Strikes by workers protesting poor wages and working conditions were crushed. Campesino protests against hacendado land seizures were ignored or repressed. A vast explosion became inevitable.

La  Bodega

Cattle graze peacefully beside the old bodega. Like the one at Hacienda San Miguel de la Pazthis bodega was built as a fortress to protect the valuable products of the hacienda and to function as a refuge in case of an attack. The high brick walls are supported by buttresses. The row of holes just above the tops of the buttresses may have been gun slits. The only door is protected by a hexagonal bastion on one corner of the building. 

On November 20, 1910, the Revolution broke out. A little more than two months later, on March 1, 1911, Manuel Cuesta Gallardo took office as Governor of the State of Jalisco. He had been warmly supported by Porfirio Diaz. However, the Cienega Chapala project had drawn considerable public ire. This was further fueled by anti-Diaz sentiment and revolutionary fervor.

The final straw came when several people were killed by police gunfire at a demonstration against the new Governor. The public outcry forced Manuel Cuesta Gallardo to step down on March 28, after less than a month in office.

The bastion has gun slits on each of its hexagonal sides. The crenelated top would have provided a good view of any attacking force.The railing running along the top of the wall would have provided cover for riflemen. Both Manuel and Joaquin were involved in producing grain alcohol, a commodity that would have required close security, along with all the rest of the estate's valuable goods.

In 1912, Manuel was again humiliated when he ran for election to the Federal Senate. One of the key issues in the election was land reform, which his opponent supported and Cuesta Gallardo denounced. Manuel got more votes than his opponent but fraud was charged after it was discovered that more votes were cast than there were registered voters. The election was then invalidated by the federal Chamber of Deputies and Cuesta Gallardo never took office. 

Antique farm equipment stands near the bodega. (Photo by Jim Boles) After the drainage of Cienega Chapala, the rapidly expanding haciendas quickly began to plant sugar cane, sorghum and other cash crops. Soon, they dominated most of the arable land in the area. Corn, the staple food of ordinary people, had been the main crop of the small farmers and indigenous communities. In the stampede for profits, the corn producers were squeezed out. Many lost their lands to the haciendas through legal maneuvers and even by illegal expropriations. 

Manuel Cuesta Gallardo married Victoria Gómez Rubio, another member of the elite stratum of society. The wedding took place in 1917, only three years before his death in 1920. In 1900, his brother Joaquin had married Antonia Moreno Cocuera. Upon his death in 1915, Antonia inherited La Maltaraña. She didn't occupy the property for long, however.

The Revolution was reaching its height about that time and violent struggles over land were breaking out everywhere. In 1917, land reform was enshrined in the new Mexican Constitution. After two of Antonia's sons were killed in a dispute over La Maltaraña's land, she departed. With that, the Cuesta Gallardo family's connection with the property ended and it passed into the hands of Luis Aviña and Mauricio Orozco.

Alfredo and Rosy clown for the camera. Our group learned a lot while having a great time. Our guides, Rosy and Tony worked hard and went out of their way to show us the best of Jamay, including La Maltaraña and the historic Villa Cristina. They even took us to a great local restaurant where we were serenaded by mariachis. We reciprocated by treating them to lunch and giving them a very good tip before we parted. 

In spite of the provisions of the new Constitution, Luis Aviña and Mauricio Orozco fiercely resisted the distribution of any the land at La Maltaraña. This continued even after the local people formed an ejido (communal land organization) and tried to use the new legal procedures. The two hacendados employed every means, legal and otherwise, to obstruct and delay the process. In 1934 Presidente Lázaro Cárdenas was elected and threw his support behind land reform, but still Aviña and Orozco fought against it. 

Both sides committed acts of violence in this struggle. It was not until 1960 that the campesinos finally took possession of the lands they had been legally entitled to for so long. Today, Villa Cristina stands as a symbol of the opulence and greed of Mexico's great landowners and the desperate struggle that it took to break their grip on the country.

This concludes Part 5 and ends my Jamay series. I hope you have enjoyed this one, as well as the other parts. If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you use the Comments section to leave a question, please be sure to include your email so that I can respond in a timely manner.

Hasta luego, Jim


Monday, October 18, 2021

Jamay Part 4 of 5: Hacienda San Miguel de la Paz

Tall brick columns line the front of the casa grande. Unlike Hacienda San Agustin, shown in my previous posting, Hacienda San Miguel de la Paz is not in very good shape. Still, it has a fascinating history, as well as a number of interesting architectural features. The people exiting the porch are members of our group. The wall to the right of them is festooned with colorful ads for the political candidates of various parties.

We never know exactly what we will find when we go in search of a hacienda. Sometimes they are in perfect repair and may still function as agricultural operations. At other sites, the buildings may have been converted to other uses, as is the case with this one. Still others are in ruins, slowly crumbling in some remote pasture. However, we have almost always found at least some trace, even if it is only a part of one wall. 

More than 110 years have passed since the Mexican Revolution began. By the end of that struggle, the dominant position that haciendas had occupied in Mexico for hundreds of years was overthrown. Many of the sites that we have been able to find and explore may not exist in another 20, 50, or 100 years. I am glad to have had the opportunity to find these old haciendas, and show them to others before most of them have disappeared. 

How to find Hacienda San Miguel de la Paz.  Head east from Jamay on Highway 35 for about 4.2km (2.5mi). Turn left at an overhead sign pointing north to San Miguel de la Paz. Drive 9.5km (6mi) on the San Miguel-Jamay highway to the outskirts of the pueblo. Once you enter San Miguel, the name of the street on which you are traveling changes to Calle Epigmenio Zaragoza

Continue on that street until you reach the Plaza Principal. Turn left on Calle Antonio Ramirez along the south side of the Plaza. Drive one block and then turn right for two blocks on Calle Manuel Dieguez, along the Plaza's west side. On the left corner, you will see a small red, white, and blue auto parts store, with a sign saying Refaccionaria. Down an alley just to the right of the store, you will find the front arcade of the casa grande. Click here for a Google map. 

La Casa Grande

Two of our party walk down the arcade toward the entrance. The columns and walls of the casa grande were built with red brick that was once completely covered by white plaster. On either side of the main entrance, there are four tall windows in the Neo-Classic style. The somewhat shabby condition of the building today cannot conceal its once elegant appearance.

According to a wall plaque, the casa grande was built in 1910, the same year the Revolution broke out. The hacienda for which the casa grande was the centerpiece had been created by joining together two separate haciendas, both of them dating to 1800. One was Hacienda San Miguel, located 2.5km (1.55mi) north of the current pueblo in an area called El Potrero Nopales. The other was Hacienda La Paz. Its site was 4km (2.5mi) to the south in El Potrero Cosme

Front entrance of the casa grande. The door seemed a little odd to me, as if it had been designed for a family of very tall and skinny giants. It opens into a foyer called a zaguan, which is a typical feature of a casa grande. This leads into a central courtyard. Red brick is a material often found in haciendas built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, their most prosperous period. Before that, adobe and stone were more commonly used because of low cost and easy availability.

There were economic and dynastic reasons why the two older haciendas were combined into one, with this casa grande built as the new headquarters. First, the construction of a railroad line through the area in 1910 transformed the local economy, as it did wherever a rail line was built in Mexico. It made good business sense to combine the two haciendas in order to increase production.

Previously, goods had to be transported over unpaved roads on wagons or by pack-trains of burros. A journey to Guadalajara, the largest market in the area, took several days. Transport by rail cut the time to hours. Railroads also created links to national and even international markets. Until the last half of the 19th century, the typical hacienda was modestly profitable at best and often served primarily as a symbol of social status. Now, profits skyrocketed. 

The second reason to combine the two older haciendas was dynastic. The portraits above were taken at the marriage of Miguel Orendáin and Dolores Faustiana Somellera. The joining together of Hacienda San Miguel and Hacienda La Paz into a much larger estate was part of the marital arrangements negotiated by the two families to give the young couple a good start in life.

The Orendáin family appears to have emigrated to Mexico from the Basque town of Orendáin in northern Spain. Among the first to arrive was Vicente Orendáin. He settled in the pueblo of Tequila in the early 1800s and became one of the founders of Mexico's tequila industry. Vicente bought his first tequila-distilling hacienda from José Cuervo in 1836. The Orendáins later sold that property to Don Cenobio Sauza in 1889. Today, Orendáin, Cuervo, and Sauza are major tequila brands. 

All this is to say that the Orendáin family was wealthy and socially connected. From a dynastic point of view, encouraging a marriage between Miguel and Dolores to create a larger and more profitable hacienda was a "no-brainer". I have no information about Dolores' family, but she was certainly from the same social class, since her family had a spare hacienda to contribute as her dowery. 

Casa Grande interior

Remains of a doorway arch where the zaguan opens onto the courtyard. Assisted by his brother Javier, Miguel Orendáin rapidly consolidated the two old properties and built an impressive new casa grande as the headquarters of new hacienda. No doubt, the increased revenues from access to the new railroad line helped pay for it all. 

While some of the largest haciendas, like Atequiza and Mazatepec, had the wealth and power to demand their own railroad stations, Hacienda San Miguel de la Paz doesn't appear to have had one. However, stations at the nearby towns of Ocotlán and La Barca would have been close enough to easily transport their goods for rail shipment. 

Courtyard of the casa grande. The balloons and chairs had been set up for a party to celebrate the birth of a new baby to one of the town's families. The casa grande and other structures were taken over by the ejido (communal farmworkers organization) after the land reform that followed the Revolution. The casa grande now functions as a community center for classes, community events, and parties.

Miguel Orendain and his wife appear to have been generous to the small community that was growing up around their hacienda. They funded the construction of a new church and built housing for the priests. In addition, they built a school for the community's children, supervised by the priests. The Orendains are remembered by elderly residents as reasonably enlightened. 

The meaning of the stork is the same in Mexico as in the U.S.  My good friend Jim B took this shot of me as I explored and photographed the casa grande's interior. Since I am always behind the lens, I seldom appear in my blog's photos. I always appreciate it when one of our group thinks to take a shot of me that I can include.

La Bodega

If you think this bodega looks like a fortress, you're right.  The thick walls are 15m (49ft) high and are supported by massive buttresses. On top of each corner is a circular bastion with gun slits. The railing between the bastions could be used by riflemen to train their weapons on attackers.The only entrances are four large doors along the front. Today, there are metal curtains which can be raised and lowered, but once there were thick, iron-studded wooden doors.  

So, why was a bodega constructed like this? The storehouse is 1000sq m (3281sq ft) and it functioned as a strongbox to protect the most important products of the hacienda. For almost 130 years, from 1810 through the mid-1930s, Mexico was wracked with wars, insurrections, revolutions, and chaos. Groups of armed men roamed the countryside. Some were military units of one faction or another. Others were simply bandit gangs, sometimes made up of former soldiers with no better prospects. 

To maintain themselves, food and horses were vital. The finery to be found in a casa grande was all well and good, but what they needed to keep operating was all stored in the bodega. Since it was the most defensible structure available, the hacendado and his workers could fortify themselves there against these assaults. They could hold out against most attackers using the food the bodega already contained, assuming they had stored an ample supply of water and ammunition.

A small arched structure stands above the entrances. This was the campanario (bellfry). The now-missing bell was used to summon the workers in the morning and dismiss them in the evening. Since few, if any, of the peones would have possessed watches, the bell was an important means of controlling the workday. Another of the bell's functions was to alert everyone to approaching dangers, such as bandit attacks or fires.

Eventually, Miguel Orendain sold the hacienda and his family moved elsewhere. The new owners were Antonio, Miguel and Trino Martinez, three brothers who are not fondly remembered in the community. They attempted to maximize profits by demanding strict twelve hour work days. If a peon's tool broke, they forced him to pay for it through extra unpaid work. These tactics probably succeeded for a while, but the Revolution eventually brought change to San Miguel de la Paz.

Mexico's post-Revolution land reform came in waves. The first was in 1917, with more waves in the 1920s. The final round occurred during the 1934-40 term of Presidente Lázaro Cárdenas. In 1936, the hacienda's workers formed an ejido and land reform finally came to Hacienda San Miguel de la Paz. The three Martinez brothers, seeing the writing on the wall, abandoned the hacienda and left the community in possession of the land and its buildings.

The turret of a corner bastion. Notice the gun slits. The fact that the ejido wasn't formed until the mid-1930s is probably due to several factors. First, it is likely that the relatively benign, paternalistic style of the Orendains made people reluctant to demand land from them. Second, the Martinez brothers, like many other hacendados, would have used every scheme they could think of to fight off the formation of the ejido

In the 1920s, during the second wave of land reform, many hacendados tried to fight it by forming alliances with the Cristero forces then rebelling against the government. The Cristeros were Catholic reactionaries who fought against the implementation of the Constitution of 1917, which restricted the power of Mexico's Catholic Church. Some hacendados used Cristero gangs as death squads to assassinate ejido leaders, in return for supplies and hiding places. 

Cristeros were active around San Miguel. They dynamited the tracks of the railroad so they could assault the train for the payroll it carried. Residents of San Miguel were pleasantly surprised that the government soldiers who passed through on their way to fight the Cristeros were polite and didn't abuse or steal from them. While the national government finally suppressed the revolt in 1929, it is likely that efforts at San Miguel de la Paz to win land reform were inhibited until the conflict's end. 

This concludes Part 4 of my Jamay series. I hope you enjoyed it. If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you do leave a question, please include your email address so that I may respond in a timely fashion.

Hasta luego, Jim


Monday, October 11, 2021

Jamay Part 3 of 5: Hacienda San Agustin

Hacienda San Agustin is a 19th century estate that is in relatively good repair. Above, you can see some of the arcade and portales (arched openings) that line the front of San Agustin's single story casa grande (big house). Only about 1/3 of the length of the casa grande's arcade is visible in the photo. Attached to the east end of the arcade is the blue and white capilla (chapel) called the Templo del Rosario

Hacienda San Agustin is one of three in the Municipio (county) of Jamay to which I organized group trips in 2013 and 2016. Hacienda San Miguel de la Paz and Hacienda de Bella Cristina will be covered in my next two postings. All three are located in small pueblos that grew up when the haciendas were dismantled and their lands distributed to the campesinos (farmworkers) following the Revolution of 1910.


The pueblo of San Agustin is located 1/2 way between Jamay and La Barca. After driving about 8km (5mi) west from Jamay on Highway 35, you will encounter a small green sign on your right with an arrow pointing south toward San Agustin. After turning right and traveling about 500m (0.3mi) on Calle Hidalgo, you will reach the pueblo. 

Continue on Hidalgo until you come to an intersection where you will see the old bastion of the hacienda's main gate. It is a cylindrical brick structure with a domed top. The bastion stands about 5m (16ft) high and its diameter is about 2.5m (8ft) across. Turn right at the intersection and you will see the arched portales of the casa grande about 100m (328ft) in the distance. For a Google map of the Jamay area, click here.

La Bastión de la Puerta (Gate Bastion) is the old entrance of the hacienda. The brick structure attached on its right once supported a massive wooden gate. If you look closely, you will see three sets of vertical slits near the bottom, middle, and top of the bastion. These were gun slits and they were not just for show. 

Throughout the history of haciendas in Mexico, they were targeted by hostile tribes, bandits, and rogue military units. The raiders sought loot in the form of money, silverware, horses, food, weapons, and important individuals to ransom. Women were often kidnapped as sex slaves.

The gate was part of a defensive wall (now dismantled) that surrounded the area of the hacienda called the casco, which means "helmet" in Spanish. The wall defended the hacienda's nerve center, like a ballplayer's helmet protects his brain. Typical structures contained within that nerve center would be the casa grande, capilla, the stables, and main storerooms. The person responsible for the gate was called a zahuanero.

La Casa Grande

The casa grande arcade, looking west. At the far end, the building is joined to the bodega (storerooms) at a 90 degree angle toward the south. The arcade forms the front wall of a square structure with a large courtyard in the middle. The courtyard is surrounded by the main office, dining room, kitchen, and rooms for the hacendado's (owner's) family and guests. 

A casa grande was much more than a residence. In addition to the hacendado's office, the large dining room doubled as a meeting space. Many a revolt was plotted in the great dining rooms of Mexican haciendas. 

Also included was the tienda de raya (company store) where workers were paid in hacienda-minted tokens that they immediately spent on daily necessities. A tienda de raya was both a profit center and a mechanism for extending credit to workers. Hacendados used it to ensure a stable labor force through debt slavery.

For a bird's-eye view of the casa grande, bodega, and capilla, click here. This arrangement of structures and rooms follows a classic pattern set during the early colonial period.

Inside the casa grande's arcade, looking west. Except for the ferns, most of what you see here is original. Although we were not able to gain entrance to the casa grande during either of our visits, San Agustin's structure follows that of scores of other haciendas I have visited. The pattern is so consistent that I look for it when using Google's satellite view to search the countryside for haciendas.

One common misconception about a hacienda is that the word refers to a house. The Spanish word actually means a place where something is done or made, referring to the whole economic operation. Another misconception is that they were all ranches. Some were, but others were large agricultural operations growing a wide variety of crops. Still others were semi-industrial, such as large sugar cane mills. Finally, some functioned as refineries for gold or silver mines.

La Capilla

The main door of Templo del Rosario is at the arcade's east end. The walls of the casa grande were made of large adobe blocks, with timber rafters overhead. The vast majority of haciendas I have visited have contained a capilla, usually attached, or in close proximity, to the casa grande. Some capillas are very simple, while others are quite grand. This one falls somewhere in between. 

Most of the residents of Mexican haciendas were deeply religious, from the hacendado down to the humblest peon. Those who actually lived on the hacienda, rather than in an outlying village, would have worshipped here. The larger, wealthier haciendas, and particularly those in remote areas, often had a priest in residence. Since Hacienda San Agustin is so close to Jamay and La Barca, it is likely that the priests who conducted services would have traveled here from one of those towns.

Templo del Rosario has a single nave. It is nicely-decorated in a simple Neo-Classic style, with seating for about 30 people. When we visited, a wedding was under way, as you can see from the women's formal dresses. Like many capillas attached to former haciendas, this one follows a interesting historical pattern. 

After the Revolution, Hacienda San Agustin and others like it were broken up and the lands re-distributed to the campesinos. Although the owners might retain possession of the various structures within the casco, they could no longer afford to maintain them. As small pueblos grew up in the ruins of the ex-haciendas, the residents took over many of the structures that the hacendados had abandoned. 

Some buildings were re-purposed as public offices, schools, libraries, etc. Others were cannibalized for materials to build private homes or stores. The one exception to re-use or cannibalization was usually the capilla. Like Templo del Rosario, such capillas have continued to be lovingly maintained as the community's church.

La Bodega

The bodega's front is rather attractive for a utilitarian building. The arcade forms the public-facing side of a large square structure. Hacienda bodegas usually have a rather forbidding, fortress-like appearance. Apparently the hacendado who built this one had a sense of style. From the satellite view previously referenced, you can see a row of stables behind the west end of the structure. These would have been occupied by fine carriage and riding horses maintained for the hacendado's use.

Hacienda San Agustin was founded sometime during the last half of the 19th century by Martin Garnica and Clementina Llanos. The operation grew to employ about 400 people. The ones living on the hacienda's property would have included clerical workers, maids, and cooks, as well as skilled tradesmen like blacksmiths, carpenters, and horse wranglers. However, most of the employees would have been seasonal workers hired for planting and harvesting and would have lived in Jamay or elsewhere. 

The bodega's arcade, looking north toward the casa grande. A row of evenly spaced doors along the left of the arcade lead into the bodega. Inside, produce of various kinds would have been stored, along with farm machinery. In its day, the bodega would have been a hive of activity, with tradesmen plying their crafts, field hands receiving their work instructions, and wagon drivers maneuvering their vehicles for loading or unloading.

Apparently, the founders of San Agustin and their successors were well-liked by those who worked here. Elderly people recall the pride workers felt in the success of the hacienda, even though they themselves were landless. When the hacendados began to produce electricity for their operations, they also provided it to the people of the growing community. In addition, they built a school in 1929, with an enrollment of 20 students. However, the school occasionally lacked teachers.

Land re-distribution began in 1917 in Mexico, but came late to Hacienda San Agustin. It was not until the 1940s that local campesinos formed an ejido and applied for the distribution of some of the Hacienda's land. The ejido concept dates back at least to Aztec times. Land is owned communally by an ejido's members, but the crops grown by individuals belong to them. An ejido member who fails to use his/her assigned land productively may find it given to someone else.
El Cohetero

A cohetero prepares to launch. Coheteros are men who make and set off the incredibly noisy cohetes (rockets) that are so popular in Mexico. While our group was picnicking in front of the casa grande, our conversations were suddenly interrupted by a tremendous BANG! We immediately recognized the tell-tale sounds of exploding cohetes. High above, we could see small puffs of smoke. Apparently some sort of fiesta was happening, although we hadn't a clue about which one.

A cohete smokes as it begins to rise from its launch point. I walked over to the source of the commotion and found the coherto busy setting up. Coheteros are generally friendly guys, and he proudly showed me how it all worked.  Cohetes are basically cigar-sized firecrackers attached to long thin sticks. They can be launched by hand, but a rack like the one above is safer. When set off as a whole barrage, the effect can approach the Battle of Stalingrad. 

The most notable date in the Hacienda's history was April 18, 1891, when the son of its mayordomo (foreman) was born. Although no one could have guessed it at the time, José Guadalupe Zuno Hernandez would one day grow up to be Governor of Jalisco and one of the most illustrious men in state's history. (See Part 1 of this series for his story). 

This completes Part 3 of my Jamay series. I hope you enjoyed it. If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below, or email me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section, please leave your email address so that I may respond in a timely fashion.

Hasta luego, Jim


Saturday, October 2, 2021

Jamay Part 2 of 5: Ruins of the 17th century Templo Maria Magdalena

Steeple of Templo Maria Magdalena. The Templo was built in the 17th century by friars from the Augustinian Order. Members of the Order had arrived at the port of Vera Cruz in Nueva España (Mexico) in 1533, but didn't get to Jamay until 7 years later. It took them another 133 years to get around to building the stone Templo to replace the original adobe-and-thatch churchThings moved at a more leisurely pace in those days.

For the second part of my Jamay series, we'll take a look at the fascinating ruins of this colonial-era church. In addition, I'll talk a bit about the Augustinian and Franciscan Orders, and their efforts to evangelize the people they viewed as "heathen savages". 

Map showing the Templo at the south end of the Plaza Principal. After taking the exit off Highway 35 marked Jamay, you follow a one-way street called Calle Zaragoza until you reach the Plaza. Park and walk toward the steeple of Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Rosario. As you approach the church, you will see the ruins of the Templo on your right, surrounded by a grove of palm trees. To access a Google map of Jamay and the area around it, click here.

Exterior of the Templo

View of the Templo, looking south from the Plaza. The ruins are surrounded by palms and hedges of purple bougainvillea. Usually when I have visited, no one else has been there to disturb the serenity. 

In 1521, Hernán Cortez and his conquistadors seized the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán (today's Mexico City) and captured Cuauhtémoc, the last Emperor. Three years later, in 1524, twelve friars from the Franciscan Order arrived. They were followed by the Dominicans in 1526. 

About the same time, the Augustinians petitioned Pope Alexander VI for the right to evangelize in Nueva España. Permission was finally granted in 1533 and their first seven friars debarked at Vera Cruz on June 7 of that year. 

Campanario atop the steeple. The bells that once hung in the campanario (bell tower) were probably removed when the Templo was dismantled for materials to build the Parroquia. The Templo was constructed using rough stone, held together with mortar made from nopal cactus. The steeple's corners and openings for the bells were framed with a red volcanic rock called tezontle. The four corners of the steeple contain columns called pilasters, which are carved with rosettes and abstract designs.

The newly arrived Augustinians set up their headquarters in Mexico City. Supported by further arrivals from their Order, they set out in various directions to evangelize among the natives. One of these groups arrived at Poncitlán, northeast of Jamay and set up a regional base. From there, they branched out to smaller villages, finally reaching Jamay in 1540. 

The Franciscans had reached Lake Chapala prior to the Augustinians. They settled in Jocotopec in 1529 and set up a priory at Ajijic in 1531. However, their efforts seem to have been focused on the western end of the lake and it is not clear whether they made any attempt to evangelize at Jamay in that early period. If there was any Franciscan presence, it was quickly eclipsed in 1540 by the Augustinian arrival. Almost certainly, their first order of business would have been to build a small adobe church and convent.

An arch frames one of the spaces that once contained a bell. The bell hung from the rough-hewn, wooden support beam which still spans the space. The keystone of the arch contains a rosette, which was a popular decorative element. The steeple was a late addition to the structure. The Augustinian friars, using native labor, had built the original stone church in 1673 without a steeple. The Templo replaced the old adobe structure they had used for the previous 133 years. 

For reasons that are unclear, the Franciscans took over responsibility for Jamay from the Augustinians in 1766. One of the first changes the Franciscans made was to add the steeple and its campanario to the 103-year-old Templo. This may have been their way of putting their Order's stamp on their new acquisition 

When they built the steeple, the Franciscans added a particular decoration that symbolized their core values of poverty and simplicity. The interior and exterior borders of the arch seen above are carved to resemble the rope belts that the friars wore around their rough wool habits. This same symbol can be found on Franciscan architecture throughout Mexico. 

Below the window is the date of the steeple's construction.  The window's rope border encloses other decorative elements. In addition to the rosette at the bottom, there is a cross at the top, combined with the letters IHS, a "Christogram". These letters are an anagram for "Jesus Christ" that dates back to the persecutions during early centuries of Christianity. In those times Christians used secret symbols to communicate their faith.

Under the window is a raised inscription beginning with ENE, a Spanish abbreviation for January, and ending with 1766. In between these are what appear to be Greek letters with an unclear meaning. Just after 1766 are symbols for the sun and moon. 

Doorway to the interior of the steeple. The opening is very small, probably only a little more than a meter (3.28 ft). Even given the short stature of the people in the 18th century, they would have had to stoop low to enter. At one time, this door may have led to a spiral staircase up to the top, but nothing of that remains. The old wooden door is much too large to have belonged to this entrance, so it must have come from a different part of the church.

Santa Maria Magdalena, for whom the Augustinians named their church, was one of Jesus' disciples. The Franciscans retained the name after they acquired the Templo. According to the New Testament, Mary Magdalene was very close to Jesus and was the first person to encounter him after the Resurrection. Who exactly she was and her precise relationship with Jesus have been matters of controversy since the earliest days of Christianity.

Symbols of the sun and moon appear after the date 1766. According to Richard Perry, these may represent the Virgin Mary. However, the sun and moon were also important symbols for the indigenous people. Colonial-era Mexican churches were usually built by the native people, particularly in the earlier centuries. Not surprisingly, symbols with dual Christian and pre-hispanic religious meanings can often be found in these structures.

In spite of rigorous efforts by the Church to suppress such "idolatry", indigenous people often retained some of their old beliefs. Carving symbols with double meanings might have been a way of fighting back against their oppressors. On the other hand, they may have accepted the new religion but were just hedging their bets. 

Small window on the side of the nave. The small round window inside the arched niche was sealed up at some point. Notice the rough, uncut stone used in the construction of the wall. In the centuries that followed the early era, adobe churches were the norm. 

Starting in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, stone churches began to appear. However, cut stone blocks were expensive and their use was often restricted to corners or to frame doors and windows. For large expanses like walls, rough stones gathered from the surrounding fields were utilized.

Statue of Jesus in the patio to the left of the church. I found the expression on the face, and particularly the eyes, to be somewhat disturbing. This maniacal glare is not a portrayal of Jesus I have ever encountered in any other church. It's not clear when this statue was created, but it appears to have been reassembled from many broken pieces. The statue may have been destroyed in the same earthquake that caused the Templo to be abandoned.

The Nave

The now-roofless nave is filled with interesting bits and pieces. The semi-circular apse at the far end was where the altar once stood. It was the most important part of the church and would have been filled with paintings, statues, and other decorative elements. The people standing to the left of the apse are members of my group who have just emerged from the small sacristy to the left of the apse. 

Remains of a pilaster and arch along the nave wall. A pilaster is a decorative column, and generally non-load-bearing. Several of these would have been spaced along the walls on either side of the nave. The spaces between would have been filled with paintings or other decorations.

Another rope border curves above four-petaled flowers. The curve of the stone assembly in the middle suggests that it may have been part of an arch, perhaps over the nave. Similar faint carvings on the stones to the right and left can still be seen. The flowers are another example of a decorative element with a dual meaning. 

In the pre-hispanic world, four-petaled flowers represented the Cardinal Directions (east, west, north, and south). Each direction was associated with its own color, god, and myths. The Aztecs believed that the place where the Cardinal Directions meet was the center of the cosmos. There, the rain god Tlaloc lived in a turquoise room.

More cryptic anagrams. The meaning of these is even more obscure than those on the steeple. To the left, the capital letter A is followed by what may be a 4 or possibly a cross. The next chunk of debris contains the capital letters P and R. Whether these two chunks fit together or were randomly placed is also unclear. 

Like the symbols found on pre-hispanic temples, inscriptions like these were aimed at the elite who could understand their hidden meanings and intended to be obscure and mysterious to the general population. Illiterate indigenous and mestizo people made up the vast majority of the Templo's congregation in colonial times. These mysterious symbols, along with rites conducted in unintelligible Latin meant they had to take the whole thing on faith. 

Tombstone from the Templo's cemetery. The inscriptions were too weatherworn to be legible, although I could make out a few numbers that might have been part of a date. 

On October 2, 1847, a great earthquake rocked the eastern end of Lake Chapala. Centered at nearby Ocotlán, the temblor severely damaged the Templo in Jamay. The destruction was great enough that the authorities eventually decided against any attempt to rebuild.
Jamay's priest, Father José María Zarate, ordered the structure to be blown up so the rubble could be used to build a new church. 

Work on Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario began in 1850 and was completed in 1860. Tombstones from the Templo's cemetery were among the building materials used  when the Parroquia was constructed. The builders apparently missed this one.

The Sacristy

Baptismal font surrounded by a wrought iron screen. We found the font inside a small room that was once the sacristy. A sacristy is a room where a priest changes into his vestments and where sacred objects are stored. The entrance to the sacristy is just to the left of the apse at the far end of the nave. Fonts like this were used for baptizing infants, the first step along the path to becoming a full-fledged Christian.

A niche in the sacristy wall contained a strange-looking stone object. We didn't know what to make of it until we pulled it out of the dusty nook and recognized it as the sculpture of an open book, carved out of stone. Closer examination suggested that the object represents an open Bible.

The stone Bible contained a faint inscription. Later research revealed that the inscription is the Ten Commandments, written in Latin. It is likely that the stone Bible had once occupied a place of importance, perhaps on the altar or on a special stand. My research has failed to turn up any other reference to stone Bibles in colonial churches, so this one may be unique. I would be glad to hear from anyone who has encountered other examples.

A pair of wooden doors stood in the corner. They may have once been used for the sacristy entrance, or possibly for another of the Templo's rooms. They are clearly a matched pair. As anyone who follows this blog knows, I am a sucker for old ruins. Some of the most interesting parts of these ancient places are the old wooden doorways. They often contain evidence of the fine craftsmanship of people from long ago.

Floral detail on the right-hand door. The elaborate floral images carved on the wooden doors are typical 17th century Baroque features. The old Templo has apparently become enough of a tourist attraction to convince the State of Jalisco to invest $1.2 million pesos ($58,680 USD) to renovate the ruins and to create a corridor connecting the Parroquia, the Templo, and the Casa de Cultura

This completes Part 2 of my Jamay series. I hope you have enjoyed it. If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. If you leave a question, please be sure to leave your email address so that I may respond in a timely fashion.

Hasta luego, Jim