This site is not in any of my hacienda research materials and its identity stumped me. The ruins are very near to an old railroad station marked El Castillo. In addition, the name of a nearby church is San José del Castillo. Since churches and railroad stations were often closely associated with old haciendas, the most likely name for this mysterious site is Hacienda San José del Castillo. If anyone out there can supply a more accurate title for the site, please do so. In the mean time, that is the name I will use. To find the site on a Google map, click here.
The Chapels, New & Old
There is still another possibility. After the 1910 Revolution, many haciendas were broken up and their lands distributed to the campesinos (farm workers). Many old haciendas evolved into the current pueblos that dot the countryside. The rural people were, and still are, very religious. It is possible that it was they who decided to replace the crumbling old capilla with a new church. This is another of the many mysteries of this site.
First, it has a long, rectangular shape, typical of the nave of a church. Second, the structure's physical relationship with the rest of the complex is typical of a capilla. Third, although the entrance is now filled with brush, it is similar to other hacienda chapels I have seen. Finally, the new capilla stands only a few feet away. My good friend Jim B has accompanied me on almost 100 hacienda visits. After comparing notes, we agreed that this had to be the old capilla.
The cura took confessions and gave absolution for sins, performed marriages, baptisms, and funerals, and presided over a host of religious fiestas. This gave him a great deal of power over the people within the parroquia, and they paid him substantial fees for each of these services. Sometimes, a hacendado would loan a worker the money to cover these fees. This, along with the tienda de raya (company store), became one of the ways in which the system of "debt slavery" was established on haciendas to maintain a stable labor force.
A cura, whether visiting or in residence, would always attempt to stay on the right side of the hacendado and his family. In fact, the priest might well be a relative, perhaps a son who was not the heir. Hacendados would often pledge a stipend to support a relative who entered the church. That, in turn, was a way for the hacendado to stay on the right side of the Church. (Photo of a mural at Hacienda del Carmen, in Jalisco)
The main courtyard of the casa grande was the center of life on a hacienda. Visitors arriving in carriages or on horseback would be greeted here. Household staff might use the space to perform tasks related to their jobs, such as husking corn, cleaning clothes, repairing saddles, etc. On social occasions, the hacendado's family might entertain guests here, including dances to which the families of neighboring haciendas would be invited.
When I found the first one, I wasn't sure of its purpose. Then I noticed the second, third, and fourth. The brush probably concealed even more. From their positions in a line several feet from the walls, it was clear that these were the bases of the now-vanished portales.
The covered walkways allowed a person to move around the perimeter of the courtyard without exposure to rain or the harsh mid-day sun. They also created a comfortable space to work or just to relax and socialize. Similar portales can still be found throughout Mexico, not only at haciendas but in the plazas of old colonial towns and cities.
The women's clothing also indicates that they occupy a higher status than farmworkers' daughters. However, they are probably not members of the hacendado's family. It is likely that they are the daughters of the hacienda's other skilled workers. The higher an individual's status, the more formal the courtship process would be. Normally, the young people in the scene above would be discreetly observed by an older female family member who would ensure nothing even mildly scandalous occurred. (Photo from mural at Hacienda Buena Vista in Michoacan)
Main Entrance, Zaguan, & Courtyard Rooms
Monument Valley, the Navajo Tribal Park in southern Utah. The Monument Valley area, along with the rest of the Southwest US, once belonged to Mexico. Then, in 1846, the United States invaded and seized the Southwest at the point of a gun.
Because of its remoteness, it is unlikely that many in Mexico were aware of this remote desert with its spectacular buttes and mesas, even when it was part of their country. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the mural was painted before 1846. In fact, Monument Valley remained obscure even in the US until well into the 20th century. Just how and why this mural was painted in such an important location is yet another of the ruin's many puzzles.
All of the rooms have high ceilings, which would have made them cooler. The thick adobe walls are covered with painted plaster. In addition to rooms for the hacendado's family and high-status permanent staff (administrator, teacher, priest, etc.) there would have been several rooms set aside for guests.
In Mexico, the old tradition of hospitality is "mi casa es su casa" (my house is your house). This custom is still very much in effect today. Throughout the colonial period and most of the 19th century, there were few hotels. Those that existed were mostly in the larger towns and cities. Travelers through the countryside would often stop at a hacienda for the night. In return for the hospitality they received, they provided news of the outside world and a welcome break from routine.
High-status travelers such as government agents, church officials, well-to-do merchants, and other hacendados would generally stay in the casa grande. Persons of lesser status might also be allowed to stay the night on hacienda property. However, it is likely that they stayed outside the casco walls, either in the cottages of the peones acasilados (workers with housing as a benefit) or in a convenient campsite.
In the early centuries, the pots the woman is filling would have been made from local clay and she would have draw the water from a nearby stream or pond. Hand pumps for wells and factory-made pots came into fashion in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the scene, the woman works industriously, while the men idly chat. Apparently, some things change very slowly. (Mural from Hacienda Huejotitán, near Lake Chapala in Jalisco)
The Railroad Connection
A number of other haciendas I have visited have train stations in close proximity. Some historical records show that the stations were built at the behest of hacendados anxious to gain an easy way to ship their goods to market. The Hacienda San Isidro Mazatapec (west of Guadalajara) is an example of this The hacienda owner had enough wealth and power to force the railroad to make a considerable diversion from its intended direction so that a station could be built on his property.
Ironically, the overthrow of Diaz came about, in part, because of the railroads he pushed for so strongly. Revolutionaries like Pancho Villa quickly recognized the value of trains for rapid troop movements. Less than a year after the revolt started, Diaz was on his way to exile. The importance of railways can be seen in many old photos taken during the Revolution in which trains or railroad tracks appear in the background. (Photo taken at the Railroad Museum in Aguascaliente, Mexico).
This completes my posting on Hacienda San José del Castillo. I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email them to me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section PLEASE include your email address so that I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim