Description and history.
Pak’al in uol, which in Maya language means “A garden inside the heart”, it’s the name that was chosen for the eco-touristic development of the old Hacienda San Francisco. The name appropriately defines the desired concept that we want to share with our guests: a place of green lushness, beauty and peace. The hacienda is located in Dzidzantún, heart of the millenary Maya lordship of Ah kin Chel.
Hacienda San Francisco was founded around 1857. The founding of the hacienda was due to the purchase made by Albino Manzanilla Cámara of and old orchard, which according to local tradition, belonged to the Franciscan monks of Santa Clara convent in Dzizdantún. Continuous purchases of land over the years made it grow as big as 9600 acres, that extended along what we now refer to as the municipalities of Dzidzantún, Dzilam and Temax.
As a liberal, progressive and illustrator, Albino Manzanilla Cámara, he provided the hacienda with an electric plant, phone service, school, ball room, chapel, tortilleria, a tienda de raya (where basic goods of daily consumption for the peons were sold which could only be bought using the money acquired trough labor in the hacienda, money that could only be spent inside the hacienda). By 1904 a hospital of sober neoclassical style had been added, which consisted of an administration department, four pavilions, and operation room and a physician’s house.
During its best years, Don Albino had a whole township to house the hacienda’s 2000 plus workers. The township was built in a reticulate shape with octagonal corners and a public well in each crossroad. The township was divided in neighborhoods, within them, qualified, semi-qualified workers inhabited, which were made out of Maya, Yaquis, half-breeds and Korean workers.
Dedicated primordially to the exploitation of henequen, it diversified its activities to the raising of cattle ( at a point in time it had eleven cattle ranches ), selling grain ( corn ), fur, fruits (coconuts and oranges), lumber, coal, and sea salt. Thanks to the introduction of powerful machinery, henequen production rose in such a way that at a given moment in time the hacienda was considered the most productive hacienda in all of Yucatán, producing over 600 thousand cladodes of henequen a day (Bracamonte, 1990). Therefore, just to name an example, the accounting book of 1993 (few years before being fractioned), states that by that year it was calculated that:
“ … 54,088,530 leafs of henequen would be taken from 2,163,541 henequen plants along an extension of 18,030 lengths of rope, calculating around 120 matas by rope assuming a 25 leafs per mata yearly with a general average of 28 kilograms of henequen fiber per thousand leafs, for all of the beds inside San Francisco’s hacienda. This leafs will produce around 7,767 cladodes of 195 kilograms of tread each, in other words 1,514,565 kilograms of product.”
However, according to what can be found in the surviving accounting books, by the early XXth century, a great deal of the hacienda’s income came from the selling of salt to Veracruz, México and New Orleans. By then the hacienda had its own pier and ships. An army of workers mostly men, but including women and children, moved every year along the coast to extract salt from the mines the hacienda had along the shore part of its extension. Mina de Oro, the famous salt ranch, which still has ruins that stand along the coast, became year by year in a bustling town during the salt harvest season. In 1937 alone, 3000 thousand tons of salt were estimated to be sold.
The expropriation of land by the Mexican government to endow peasants with land (action which left the hacienda with less than 300 acres), the fractioning derived from family division of the land, and the fall of the henequen business due to the invention of synthetic fibers, caused its imminent ruin. The hacienda ended up being sacked by inhabitants and foreigners. Chicago vanes, Austrian furniture, French floors, Belgian beams, Marseillesque tiles, and English machinery became a simple memory in people’s mind.
After 23 years living in abandonment and ransacking it was purchased by the Ruz Sosa family, who since 1995 have consolidated the architectural structures that still remain afoot, planting over 5 acres of endemic plants and others that fit local climate, rehabilitating the sowing fields so as to recover part of its functionality of old.
San Francisco hacienda is about an hour drive from the capital of the state. It is located 63 kilometers from Merida, capital of the state, Yucatan, México. The hacienda is easily reachable trough the modern and wide set of highways (via Motul and Tizimín) or trough the coastal line (Merida-Progreso-Telchac-Santa Clara), which is a pleasant drive along the coast and the marshes where the biggest colony of Flamingos of America inhabit.
Beyond its architectonical aspects, four acres of gardens pop out. The gardens are filled with tropical plants endemic to the region and some brought into the region, where families and species of different types of plants coexist , species such as Dracaenas, Heliconias, Marantaceae, Baugineas, cacti, abutilons, ixoras, cordylines, ferns, palms, lilies, Anthuriums, bromeliads, orchids, succulents, hibiscus, bulbous and a long etcetera.
With didactical objectives, a small botanical garden is being prepared, which will encase endemic plants of the region, properly identified.
Nature lovers will be able to enjoy flora and fauna observation, via walking or riding one of our bikes trough the paths and trails that communicate over 150 acres which comprehend the hacienda, encasing many ecological niches due to its location. Within the hacienda one can visit different ecosystems such as sub-deciduous and deciduous lowland, rocky lowland, and pasturelands, hydrophanous vegetation areas, and an open sinkhole. Its 22 acres dedicated to horticulture and fruit culture, include local fruit orchards ( mamey, four types of sapodilla, avocado, mango, sour sop, anonas, star apples, coconuts, papayas and diverse citruses, etc) including endangered species such as the Jacaratia Mexicana, and other domesticated plants which have been cultivated from pre-Hispanic times such as brown cotton and coyuchi.
Along the paths (some with bathrooms) or from the watchtowers o viewpoints, diverse wild life can be observed, sucha as deers, foxes, rabbits, weasels and even ocelots, but without a doubt the cherry on the pie are the numerous and varied species of birds that fill the sky with their plumages and chants, specially at dawn and nightfall, when diverse species of owls hunt and feed.
A first visit from the experts of Pronatura (non-governmental organization that operates within natural ecosystems in order to protect them from exploitation and destruction) managed to identify, in just four hours during a daylight tor of the central part of the estate, 55 species of birds corresponding to 21 families of resident birds, migratory, summer passerby, and even three endemic endangered species. Eagles, hawks, humming birds, tanagers, parrots, doves, pigeons, quails, swifts, thrushes, cardinals, among others, make it a real paradise for bird watchers.
For those who enjoy splendid starry nights, the hacienda offers telescopes ( situated in the terrace of the old engine room), whereas those interested in handcrafts can visit the ceramic shop Taham Luum, which offers a large variety of dishes, lamps and numerous ceramic objects which are perfect for presents or house decoration.
Restaured, as far as possible without losing its original design, the hacienda opens its doors to tourism, offering our guests:
- 15 villas provided with living room, dining room and kitchen on a terrace, one or more dormitories, individual garden, and small swimming pools
- 8 ripios, houses of the old Maya tradition, with palm leaf roof, with one dormitory, bathroom and garden.
The first are situated along the main entrance and central garden of the hacienda, while the later are located behind the main complex, next to the ecological reservation zone.
Hacienda San Francisco offers a swimming pool and a multiple uses hall (board games, pool table, etc.) and soon we will be offering tennis court, basketball court and a skating court.
In spite of its modest appearance, the town of Dzidzantún holds many surprises for those who wish to discover them. By the time the Spaniards came, Dzidzantún was the capital of the Maya empire de Ah Kin Chel, and according to them, it was a well developed province of “ big and medium well constructed stone buildings” which also served as graves. None of it stands nowadays but the importance of the site is self evident due to its chapel, the second largest in the state of Yucatán, built by the Franciscan monks during the 16th century so as to evangelize the whole population.
The massive construction, with medieval characteristics on its lower floor, gothic molds on the dome ceiling and plateresque elements on its façade. Inside it holds, behind a rather modest wooden altarpiece, a valuable (tough deteriorated) fresco with allusions to the Virgin Mary, where the famous Maya blue can still be seen. In some of the parts of this enormous convent the original designs can be seen, standing out above the coat of limestone paint, that resemble renaissance painting, such as the Franciscan shield showing the sores San Francisco received not unlike those suffered by Christ.
As a tradition loving Mexican town, Dzidzantún holds vaquerias (shows involving dancing and horse riding shows) jarana dances (traditional Yucatecan dance) and a colorful procession, starting before dawn, where two images of Santa Clara , holy patron of the town, are carried on the shoulders of its believers, ( the main image on the shoulders of men and the smaller one on those of women’s) until they reach the sea, and the beach that holds the name of the patron, to say hello to her sister, who according to tradition, upon reaching the beach together, her sister turned into a mermaid after being unable to find a town to be the patron of. Therefore the tradition dictates that her sister must go to visit her, and after having greeted her sister, the holy patron is put on a boat where during her trip, the territory upon which she will exercise her patronage is marked.
Close by surroundings
Santa Clara beach is located just barely 10 km away from Dzidzantún, with its clean calm waters and good restaurants. Continuing your journey to the northwest down the coastal highway, which goes through the sea and the salt estuaries, there are several interesting sites to visit such as Chabihau and San Crisanto, where locals offer rides among the mangrove trees and the petenes (vegetation island, from Maya language meaning to be round) on board small flat boats, the sink hole Dzonot Tzik, with its crystal clear water, where swamp crocodiles can be observed ( Cricidylus Morletti in honor of biologist Arthur Morletti the first person to describe the species) along with several different species of marine birds both endemic and migrant, including colonies of pink flamingos. In this community the Coconut festival takes place at late July and early August.
Another place of interest are the salt flats, several of which have been exploited since pre-Hispanic times. Proof of it is the archeological site of X’cambó, barely 30 minutes from the hacienda. X’cambó was built near the sea and the salt flats, where the Maya stored the salt obtained from drying it out, to later export it outside of Yucatan, whether by land or by sea. During the 19th and 20th century a great deal of the production was controlled by the Hacienda San Francisco, particularly in the area of Mina de Oro, from where the salt was exported to New Orleans. Nowadays artisan extraction of salt carries on as a tradition in the villages of Santa Clara and San Cristanto.
In the salt ranches of the haciendas the salt mounts were covered with palm tree leafs to protect it from impurities.
Very close to X’cambó you can find the village of Dzemul, the municipality head , in the center plaza a magnificent colonial chapel stands with its splendid half covered windows.
If from Santa Clara you take the opposite way road, towards the northeast, after 13 km of driving trough the marshes, Dzilam de Bravo can be reached. Dzilam is a fishermen’s village which has a beautiful protected natural area (ANP by its Spanish nomenclature), place where several marine birds make their nest, swamp crocodiles among their mangroves and in the middle of the ocean magnificent sweet water spots streaming from the mouths of underground rivers that characterize the Yucatan Peninsula, phenomenon from which the place takes it name after, “Bocas de Dzilam” (Mouths of Dzilam). It’s possible to visit them using motor boats offered by a local group of people, which also offers food in a restaurant by the beach.
By going 11 km to the south from the hacienda, it’s possible to reach Cansahcab, a small village that holds numerous Maya traditions (such as Vaquerias) and others common with the popular Catholicism, such as saints’ processions. Of all the sains revered in Cansahcab , The Virgin of Asunción stands out, as the holy patron of the place, whose procession takes place every August 15th . Close by we can find the remains of haciendas San Antonio Xiat and Santa Maria.
The gigantic convent and church of Izamal was built using the base of a pre-Hispanic Maya pyramid as its foundation. In that way not only was a millenary site of worship was taken advantage of, but were also Christianizing an important landmark.
Bigger towns of Yucatan’s churches ( such as the one in Mani, Yucatan), had huge atriums and open chapels ( to the left) to allow multitudes of people come to worshipping acts and ceremonies.
Montejo el Mozo hadn’t obtained all lands in the state, by 1532 he started his campaign to conquer the northern part of the peninsula, there he founded an Hispanic settlement which he named Ciuda Real de Chichen Itzá, but as soon as he started demanding tribute payment, the Maya people took up to arms. He managed to avoid a murdering attempt by Nacom Copul , lord of the province, but finally, under siege, with no food , he had to flee to the province of Ah Kin Chel, whose inhabitants gave him shelter. There he would later erect the city of Ciudad Real de Dzilam in 1534.
North – Surroundings
North – reservations
- Dzilam de Bravo: Dzilam de Bravo offers the visitor, beautiful sights where boat rides can be done so as to admire the beautiful estuaries surrounded by mangroves, home of several aquatic birds, enjoy the sweet water spot in the middle of the ocean, visit a sink hole among the mangroves and enjoy a beautiful day.
- San Felipe: without a doubt a quaint fishermen’s village, made out of rustic wooden houses. There you can walk in the boardwalk along the estuary, where the beauty of vegetation can be admired.
Northern – beaches
- Santa Clara: only 14 km from hacienda San Francisco, this typical fishermen’s town is ideal to spend a nice day by the beach enjoying a nice rest under the shade of the palm trees and enjoy a nice meal in one of the local restaurants where typical dishes can be obtained.
- Telchac: Telchac small village in the Yucatecan coast know for its serene crystal clear water, are the perfect place to practice diverse aquatic sports such as swimming and have a nice rest. It is very nice to stroll around in tis quaint little plaza, the small boardwalk and the lighthouse give a very peculiar feel to the place.
Northen – sink holes
- San Crisanto: the rehabilitation of the mangrove connecting paths is what makes this tour possible in small rafts or gondolas accompanied by the silence and tranquility during which one can observe birds, flora, fish and mighty crocodiles. At the end of these canals there is a beautiful water eye where you can swim and cool down on its crystalline waters.
Surroundings – south
South – Colonial cities
- Izamal: Approximately 60 km from the hacienda, this city has Maya pyramids, colonial buildings, parks and plazas. You can also visit the community museum, situated next to the convent.
- Chichen Itza: located about a 100km from the San Francisco Tzacalha. Chichen Itza opens its doors to visitors every day of the week from 8:00 am until 17:00 pm, enjoy the magnificent light and sound show offered daily at 20:00 pm with simultaneous translation for English and Spanish speakers.
- Yaxuna: it is a peculiar archeological site of monumental constructions, surrounded with corn fields and dense vegetation.
- Mayapan: considered as the last great Maya capital and in spite of it not being a place with big constructions, over four thousand architectonic structures have been discovered on site.
- Kabah: located at 23km southeast from Uxmal, it is known as the second most important religious center of the Puuc style.
- Sayit: located at 33km southeast from Uxmal it is a urban center of great extension, developed around years 600 and 900 d.C.
- Labna: located at 42km southeast from Uxmal it has a small but important Maya urban center, famous for its beautiful stone carved construction called “The Arch”.
- Xlapak: located at 38km southeast from Uxmal, one of the most beautiful and greatest jewels of Puuc architectonical style, called “The Palace”.
South- sink holes
- Cuzama: Famous in the region due to the peculiar shape in which the sink holes are accessed, the tour is done in small carriages pulled by horses called trucks trough over 7km of railroad tracks.
- Ik’kil: located at 500mtrs from Chichen Itza, it is a must see spectacle. It is situated on an ecological park with a restaurant.
South – Grottoes
- Balancanché: it is a cavern that served as a ceremonial center for the ancient Maya Indians. Located just 6km from Chichen Itza, over one thousand years old ceremonial pieces left by Maya priests, can be admired.
- Loltun: one of the greatest attractive of these grottoes are the rustic paintings, on a wall hand printings can be seen and on others more elaborated paintings representing, faces, animals and staggered frets can be seen. In the diverse rooms and galleries nearly 60 meters of depth and over 700 meters in extension, diverse archeological pieces, ceramic and other objects, have been found.
South – Convents
- Tecoh: in this place you can visit a church and a convent dedicated to the Virgin of Asunción. It is built above the base of a Maya pyramid.
- Tekit: it is a prosperous town where you can find the Parrish of San Antonio de Padua, with its images of saints each on their own niche. It resembles a museum but with a small altar.
- Mama: its temple and the ex Franciscan convent was founded on the year 1612 and it presents a beautiful belfry and a closed atrium. On the back of the building one can find a beautiful garden, a Ferris wheel and a saint on each niche.
- Mani: it was a religious site of great importance which still conserves amazing samples of its enigmatic past as the magnificent Templo del Convento de San Miguel Arcangel (founded around the year 1549).
- Teabo: it is known by its two most representatives sacred construction, the parish and ex convent of San Pedro and San Pablo.
- Oxkutzcab: the temple of San Francisco de Asis was founded in the year 1581 and finished in 1699. On the inside the main altarpiece with Solomonic columns with niches and sculpture, stands out.
Surroundings – east
- Rio lagartos: this place conserves the imminent ecological character of the zone. In Rio lagartos you can visit protected natural reservoirs, where the fresh waters of the rains fuse with the saline water of the sea to create the habitat of animals and plants endemic to the region such as the white tail deer, alligators, pheasant and hundreds of bird species.
- Valladolid: approximately 120 km from the hacienda San Francisco, in this city you can visit, besides beautiful barrios and churches, the museum of San Roque, located on the same street as the Cathedral and the Municipal Palace. Valladolid has several restaurants offering local and international cuisine and also you can enjoy innumerable dished typical of the region such tender loin Valladolid style, sausage and pickled chicken.
- Ek’Balam: located 25 km north from Valladolid, this archeological zone may be visited everyday from 8:00 am to 17:00 pm. Ek’Balam has 45 structures and it is surrounded by two concentric stone walls and one more that joins the central buildings.
- X’kekén: also known as Dzitnup, it is located 7 km southeast from Valladolid. This sink hole is inside a subterranean chamber, it has shallow water which is so crystal clear you can actually see the multiple fish it holds.
Surroundings – East
- Celestun: a port full of mystery, where the most exotic species converge, such as the pink flamingo. Celestun has fresh water holes that give you the opportunity to mitigate the heat inside its fresh cool waters. There is nothing better than enjoying a boat ride down the ria on boats handled by the local fishermen offering great rides accompanied by rich tales of the area.
- El Palmar: one of the most important ecological reserves, since it shelters a fascinating amount of flora and fauna making it an ideal destiny for ecotourism. The lighthouse, considered to be the tallest one in the state, is one of its main attractions.
- Progreso: considered the gateway entry to Yucatan, an unbeatable place to practice different aquatic sports, kite surfing, windsurfing and kayaking, you can stroll down the boardwalk, enjoy the breeze and savor the delicious food in the many restaurants surrounding the boardwalk.
- Sisal: Legendary cabotage port, from where almost all of the henequen produced in the state in the early 19th century.
- Mérida: located 65km from hacienda San Francisco Tzacalha, this city offers all kinds of services, travel agencies and car rentals. In Mérida both modern and old fashioned meet. A stroll down its main streets and sites, it offers its visitors a whole palette of surprises.
- Uxmal: located 80km from the city of Mérida, known as “the three times built”, it’s one of the most majestic archeological zones in all of Yucatán.
- Xcambo: Sitting on the humid woodlands of the marsh, just 2km away from the coast. The city was very important in the development of the commercial and salt oriented business during the pre-Hispanic. A very colorful festivity is celebrated during May for the Virgin Mary.
- Dzibilchaltun: it was one of the greatest urban centers which bloomed in the northern part of the peninsula, standing out as one of the oldest Maya cities.
- Aké: Archeological zone which in spite of its importance as a pre-Hispanic of the north of Yucatán, its little known. Its‘s 32km sacbé (pre-Hispanic white roads) stands out.
- Oxkintok: the name means “three suns or three flints”, it’s a place that calls out due to the great extension between its structures, joined by rescued white roads.
- Calcehtok: also known as X-Pukil, it has a very intricate tunnel system on the inside. Inside the grotto you can see 30 m chambers where stalagmites, stalagmites and diverse calcareous forms. Trough the cavern there is abundant pre-Hispanic material, where intact vases and unexplored halls exist.
- Muna: it is a township which houses the temple and convent of Asunción. Its three bodied side bulrushes and the pinion crowning the façade interestingly stand out.
- Acanceh: this town’s main attraction it’s the Plaza of the three cultures (“Plaza de las tres culturas”), conjugating pre-Hispanic, colonial and contemporary times. The temple dedicated to Our lady of nativity (Nuestra Señora de la Natividad) and the chapel of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Virgen de Guadalupe), stand out.
- Uman: in this city you can visit the magnificent parish of San Francisco which used to be a Spanish convent in the 16th century. Of huge proportions, its front is made out of quarry with three attractive ogival arches with paired pilasters.