|Ex Hacienda Jaral de Berrio|
| View from the kitchen|
A few days ago our new best friend Rich and his wonder dog Bunjee invited us on a journey to visit Jaral de Berrio, a 15th century ex hacienda in San Felipe Torres Mochas, about an hour and a half from San Miguel. We left at dawn and arrived early enough in the morning to avoid the rising heat, where we discovered a rambling complex of ruined buildings and conical granaries surrounding an empty square plaza, fronted by the hacienda itself.
According to the caretaker, who opened the gates for us
(after much calling out and banging on doors), Jaral de Berrio was the most important hacienda of its time and one of the largest land owners in the world. It was the first place to produce tequila in Mexico with permission from Spain, and plans to revive production of mescal and tequila are evident in the stacks of oak barrels lining the courtyard, as well as the shiny new distilling equipment located in the outbuildings next to the main hacienda.
Hopes are to renovate the buildings with profits from the sales of mescal, which have been in disrepair since they were abandoned several hundred years ago and left to the caretaking of the local community egido, which (according to the caretaker) proceeded to strip it of all valuables and let the rest deteriorate.
Thick walls and doorways leading to more rooms
Carved wooden doors hang crooked from rusting hinges, a caracol wooden stairway spirals into darkness, steps worn into soft grooves from centuries of use. We tiptoe warily on worn tiled and wooden parquet floors that suddenly open up into ragged gashes with views of the rooms below. There are no rules or cautionary signs here to keep you from the apparent dangers of the unstable supports. This is Mexico, after all, and as usual, your safety is in your own hands.
|Pigeons inhabiting empty rooms|
These days the rooms are inhabited by pigeons, bats and swallows. Papery wasps' nests adorn the rafters and the pungent stench of bat guano emanates from dark corners. Tumbleweeds congregate in the hallways, and they say that the ghost of the Count's daughter wanders through the abandoned rooms, perhaps in search of a forgotten past when the silos were filled with grains and the ballrooms with dancing counts and countesses.
|Detail of an interior mural|
By mid day a brown haze appears on the horizon as a hot wind picks up and swirls the eternal dust through the broken windows. It's time to leave, but not before the guard offers us a tiny ceramic jarrita of Jaral de Berrio mescal to send us on our way into the dusty streets.
-Posted by Susan