Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Haciendas and Their Legacy
We visited four haciendas in the Otavalo area. In the early 16th century, the King of Spain divided up Ecuador into huge land masses and gave them to the 210 conquistadors who defeated the Incas. Many descendants of these original Spanish conquerors, now mestizos because those original Spaniards had relations with the indigenous people. In fact, over 80% of the population is mestizo.
The hacienda got indigenous people to work the land, 100,000 acres or more, for free or if they were paid, it was with money only good at the hacienda. This system went on until 1964! Finally, the president made Land Reform Acts and hacienda owners had to give land parcels to workers who had been there for 20 years or more. The land was big enough to build a house and garden.
The original haciendas are now open as hotels and restaurants and they are functioning as farms.
Hacienda Zuleta was the first hacienda we visited. Fabulous place to visit! We stayed there 4 days. The owner of this hacienda was forward thinking and in the 1950's gave land away to all of his workers. They now hire help to keep their cows, help make their cheese, and run the farm, still big but not the original 250,000 acres.
The next Hacienda Cusin is also a hotel, but we did not enjoy it a such as Zuleta. It was originally owned by the church and sold to several families until it came to the current owner. In the 1990's, they built a monestery which they use for catered events.
We went to lunch at the third hacienda. Like the others, the gardens are amazing. Hacienda Pinsaqui which was first constructed in 1790. It was originally a textile workshop, employing 1000 local weavers and spinners. Fabrics woven here were exported to the U.S. In the late 1800's. Now it is a beautiful full service hotel and restaurant.
The fourth hacienda was different. It is now a rose plantation, roses are a huge export business. Hacienda La Compania de Jesus has been the the same family for over 300 years. It has hundreds of green houses since it is on the equates and too hot to grow roses outside.
The house was built 100 years ago in a French neoclassical style. The ceilings, floors, wallpaper, rugs and furniture are original from when the manor was built.