Manga de Clavo Found!

The Real Manga de Clavo

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Manga de Clavo Map
How to Get There
General Map of the Area
An Unexpected Tip
I had pretty much given up the hunt for "Manga de Clavo" until a cruise ship arrived in Veracruz, and I was asked to be a translator for one of the tour bus trips.

While we were waiting for the ship to dock, I realized I was surrounded by experts on the area: the other tour guides.

Don José Aburto has been a guide in Veracruz for the last 27 years.

He told me also that he had spent several years searching for "Manga de Clavo".

"Did you find it?", I asked.

He said, "Yes, itīs at Vargas".

"Vargas?", I wondered to myself.

A Visit to Vargas
I took a second look at my old map of Doņa Fannyīs route.

"Hmmm," I thought to myself. Vargas is on the other side of Santa Fe, and Doņa Calderon de la Barca would have had to backtrack 5 miles or so to change horses.

It was my last lead, and might be worth a try.

The Route of Madame Calderón de la Barca--From Veracruz to the Hacienda Manga de Clavo

Vargas isnīt far from Veracruz
Vargas is about 20 minutes from Veracruz. At Paso San Juan, thereīs a sign that points off to the right. "Vargas". I took a right off the old Veracruz-Xalapa highway onto a blacktop in reasonable condition, and wondered if this was going to be another dead end lead. A couple of days before I had met a tourist guide in Veracruz with some 27 years experience. He told me that he had looked for "Manga de Clavo" for several years and finally located it. It was Vargas. I was there to check out his story.

One of the areas I also wanted to check out on the map was "El Rancho de Los Gringos." I like the name. It is no longer called by that name and looks like it belongs to a rich rancher. And at the sharp curve to the left at the railroad tracks is the Veracruz slaughter house.

Not Many People Around
Off in the distance I could see a small town along the railroad tracks. I drove through town looking for old buildings, and about the oldest one I saw was a corner store which looked like at one time it may have been the railroad station, but it was closed. In fact, most of Vargas was closed. The few people were older women or young girls, and babies. No men. I guess they were at work in nearby Veracruz. Most of the town was quiet, and even the typical little family corner stores selling Gansitos and Cokes were closed. I drove on to Loma de Iguana, and turned around to take a closer look at Vargas.

Signs of Life
Another friend who knew the area well told me to look on the other side of the tracks, so I turned left and crossed the tracks onto a dirt road lined by a bunch of small houses. And there I saw one man with a hat. He looked like an inspector for the CFE, the Power and Light Company. I stopped the car.

"Are you from here?", I asked, "Iīm looking for some historical information about the town."

"No, Iīm not from here, but at the next street corner take a left and about half way down the block you will see some men. They are from here in Vargas and can help you."

Maybe Iīm getting a little closer, I thought to myself.

Luis Buddies
My Guides
Luis and His Buddies
Next to Santa Anna's Well
"Iīm Looking for Manga de Clavo"
At the corner I turned left and half way down the dirt street were 6 or 7 men in a small group.

They didnīt look like they were going to work.

I pulled up beside them and stopped rolling down the window.

One of the guys looked like the leader.

He wore a black cowboy hat, new cowboy boots, and chains of gold necklaces and crosses around his neck.
Luis, El Licenciado
"Excuse me, but I am looking for the ruins of Santa Annaīs old hacienda, "Manga de Clavo". "

"Do you know where it is?"

The rest of the men smiled and the leader said, "Yes, seņor, this is "Manga de Clavo." There isnīt much left now."

He explained that the area north of the railroad tracks is called "Manga de Clavo" and south of the tracks where we are now is called "El Deshuesadero", or junkyard.

About all that remains of "Manga de Clavo" is up on a low hill, the highest point in town. Some rocks and a well. Other men began talking, remembering places I might look. Better, yet, let me send one of the "muchachos" to show you where it is.

"Luis, here will take you. Heīs a Licenciado. One of the guys said, wait a minute let me go get a shirt."
Rocks Far
Rocks: All thatīs left
While we were waiting for the man to run home for a shirt, I told them about my search and the importance of this area.

In Mexican history Gen. Winfield Scott had set up his headquarters here during the US invasion, and the story about Doņa Calderon de la Barcaīs elegant breakfast.

There must have been some elegant visitors at "Manga de Clavo".

"Tell me what happened?", I asked. "Where is the old house and outbuildings?"
Closer Look
A closer look at the rocks.
"From the descriptions Iīd read, "Manga de Clavo" was huge and extended from Veracruz to Tolome. 12 leagues or 48 kms. long."

The menīs eyes got wide. Then they looked at the ground, perhaps partly of out of embarrassment.

The leader of the group explained,

"From what we remember, the stones from the hacienda were taken by the townspeople to build a school. And others used the material to build their little houses here in town."
Santa Anna's Well
"Thatīs OK", I said. "Iīm not here to make historical judgements, but to see where the hacienda was."

"Iīve found it isnīt correct to criticize motives of our great grandparents."

"Perhaps those were times of desperate poverty and hunger."

The men pondered the thought awhile, and gradually began to look at me again, and the cloud had lifted.

The men still looked a little ashamed for what their grandparents had destroyed.
Well Close
Santa Anna's Well
A closer look at the well.
By that time, the man came back with his shirt. Luis and his buddies piled into the car for a tour of Vargas.

First we went to the highest point in town, which is really not all that high. There they showed me some rocks on a street corner.

"Thatīs all thatīs left of the hacienda "Manga de Clavo"."

Across the way they showed me a very deep well.

"Thatīs the well of hacienda "Manga de Clavo"," they told me.
Well Close
The Exact Location of Santa Annaīs Mansion
The Wrap Up
We continued on our tour of the town and we worked our way back toward the railroad tracks that divide the hacienda in half.

They showed me some other walled properties now owned by local ranchers that once formed "Manga de Clavo".

Finally we were back at where we started. Luis asked for my phone number and gave me his. The guys liked the pictures I took of them.

Luis said he knows how to use Internet, and I gave him my web page address and told him to watch for his pictures.

So, Luis, here are the pictures.

The Dark Side of Mexican History
Sometimes Mexico has its dark side. Itīs a part of history that nobody wants to hear about. A leader who is a fool or is widely hated. Such were the times of Santa Anna, and this was the man who during the good times he was widely acclaimed, but died poor and alone, forgotten and despised by the countrymen who had once supported him. Of course, in Texas Santa Anna is probably the most disliked man in 19th century history.

Later History After Santa Anna
After Santa Annaīs capture in Texas at San Jacinto, he was held as a prisoner for a year, and the first 4 months he was chained to a tree "like a dog" and almost went crazy. But thanks to the kindness of the Dr. Phelps, owner of the plantation just west of Galveston, Santa Anna was allowed to live with the family.

During that time in the US, in order to live well, he sold bonds or shares of his properties. In 1873, when he made his final trip to Mexico City on the railroad "Manga de Clavo" had another owner, Don Francisco Vargas whose name is almost lost to history.

Most of all, at the end of my search, I think back over the last 5 weeks search for "Manga de Clavo" with the satisfaction of having found what I was looking for. It was the searching of old records, then physically checking out the different locations, some of which I want to go back to visit the friends Iīve met. The treasure of Mexico is in the people you meet along the way.

Mystery Solved: The Hacienda at Puente Nacional
After the long search for the real "Hacienda Manga de Clavo". The final question remained. What about the Hacienda at Puente Nacional?

As luck would have it, the other day I came across a book with some old maps and found the original hacienda at Puente Nacional is called Hacienda "Santa Ana". The local people werenīt totally wrong.

I guess itīs easy to get confused. In Spanish it is called "La Hacienda de Santa Ana", but perhaps not the "Hacienda de Santa Anna" which is the correct spelling of José López de Santa Annaīs name. Since the real "Manga de Clavo" no longer existed and nobody really knew differently, the people of Puente Nacional could claim it as "Manga de Clavo".

I think the hacienda "Santa Ana" is a lot older than "Manga de Clavo", (purchased by Santa Anna in 1825), and is the scene of many important events in Mexican history during the Spanish colonial period as well as Independence, and the Mexican Revolution due to its strategic location along the Camino Real. I plan to continue exploring the area.

Time to Change the Oil
Today I need to go change the oil and get ready for another trip. In the same book with the map of the Santa Ana hacienda in Puente Nacional I found an old map. On it was the location of the lost port of Boquilla de Piedras.

Boquilla de Piedras supplied guns and ammunition by patriot insurgents out of New Orleans and Galveston was used the insurgents in an attempt to attack Veracruz against the Spanish from 1812 to 1815. It was finally destroyed by the royalists in 1815. It was never rebuilt and is lost in memory.

Hereīs the Story about the Lost Port of Boquilla de Piedras.

Update on the Hacienda at Puente Nacional
With the passage of time, you discover new clues, and realize you may have come to some wrong conclusions along the way. That is the case with the old hacienda at Puente Nacional.

Here's the latest on the Hacienda at Puente Nacional.

Here's a hint: it was called Paso de Varas.

>>> A New Look at the Hacienda
at Puente Nacional

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