Visiting the old haciendas outside of Mérida is such an interesting way to spend the day.
Last week, Jorge and I set off for a long-overdue visit to Uayalcéh de Peón. We drove south along the highway to Uxmal for approximately half an hour, then we took a left at the well-marked turn off to Abalá. After driving 5 kms further, we reached the town. Just past its small plaza, we bumped along yet another narrow road for 15 kms, and reached Hacienda Mucuiché – almost a complete ruin, except for its imposing archway. We
checked with some men we saw on the edge of the road – just to be sure we were headed in the right direction. They assured us that Uayalcéh was not far, and 10 minutes later we arrived.
The gate was open, and we saw people walking around the grounds, so we drove in and parked our car in the shade of a huge acacia tree. The word majestic doesn’t begin to describe the layout of this hacienda. There are four main buildings:
* The machine house where the de-fibering plant was installed – a colossal structure with a high clock tower
* The manor house, built atop a raised platform that can be accessed by climbing a wide stone staircase.
* The church where Mass is held every Sunday
* The bodega – the warehouse that now houses a Conasupo store.
We could also see where the corral, the
orchard and the workers’ quarters had been. Except for the Bodega, the buildings are in poor shape. There were great piles of small gauge railway track that used to crisscross the fields. These rail networks were used to connect the various haciendas and to transport the long sisal leaves to the machine house.
One life-long resident told us that in its heyday, Hacienda Uayalcéh stripped 1,200,000 leaves a week. After processing, the fibers were hung out on long wire lines, and when they had completely dried they were packed into bundles and carted to the manufacturing centers.
The manor house is not as elaborate as the machine house but the wide stairway is splendid. We walked up and were greeted by the caretaker. Unlike the brusque one we met at another hacienda a couple of weeks ago, Don Fernando was extremely pleasant. He even opened the doors to the house and showed us around a bit. He was very careful to keep us in the main rooms. There were some wonderful old photographs and pieces of furniture. Apparently the current owner comes to the hacienda frequently. But Don Alonzo
Peón Martínez is elderly; it is doubtful that he has the energy or the means to restore the hacienda, but hopefully someone will – and soon. Many of the roofs have caved in and walls are mildewed. Plants are growing through cracks in the walls and the floor.
The church (it is too big to be called a chapel) is where the villagers attend Mass, hold weddings and so on. It has lovely statues, altar pieces and the tombstone of an illustrious family member, José María Peon Cano 1802 – 1858, can be seen right by the altar.
To get back to Merida, Don Fernando explained a much shorter route: We drove straight through the hacienda gate and out of town along a good road. We found ourselves at the Hacienda Tekit about 15 minutes later, then in another 7 minutes we passed Hacienda San Pedro Chimay, 2 minutes after that, we were at Hacienda Tahdzibichen, on the outskirts of Merida. Easy!
Here are a few more photos… click on any one of them to start the slideshow