Boca del Monte, Veracruz
One of Santa Annaīs Lost Haciendas

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

The area around the port of Veracruz has a lot of "lost" or abandoned haciendas. Sometimes they go back 300 years. Much of the story behind them has been lost. On the weekends, I enjoy digging into the past like a detective trying to decipher mysteries of the past.

For several months I have been searching for the "lost" haciendas of Gen. José Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, probably the most hated man in Texas History. He is not treated well by Mexican History either.

My search started on a visit to Puente Nacional, about a 30 minute drive from Veracruz. I was looking for the old fort which in those days was called Puente del Rey. Below the fort was what looked like an old hacienda or military garrison, abandoned and forgotten many years ago. On a later visit, the local people told me it was Santa Annaīs Hacienda "Manga de Clavo."

In later research in historical documents, I found the distances didnīt match up and went searching for Santa Annaīs lost hacienda, "Manga de Clavo".

After many months of asking people and searching I found the location of the the real Manga de Clavo.

My friend, Lic. Nestor Madrid Vargas, one of the guides at the Fort of San Juan de Ulua, here in Veracruz, loaned me an interesting book called, "Las Haciendas de Veracruz." It was mentioned that Santa Anna had 4 haciendas that were taken from him and sold by presidential decree in 1855.

In addition to Manga de Clavo and El Lencero, near Xalapa, there was Boca del Monte, and Paso de Varas. The name sounded familiar. I had gotten lost in the countryside a year earlier and had driven through there without knowing it.

This is the story of my continuing search for the lost haciendas of José Lopez de Santa Anna. I am still looking for Paso de Varas, which I think is now a bus stop near Cardel, Veracruz.

How to Get There
The Search for a Lost Hacienda In April, I met Dr. Ignacio Chavez at the birthday party for my good friend Hector Cruz. Everybody called him by his nickname, Nacho.

I told him about my interest in the haciendas once owned by General José López de Santa Anna and my explorations searching for Manga de Clavo.

He said there is a lot of history in his home town of Huatusco and invited me to visit some day.

Boca de Monte was one of Santa Annaīs haciendas, and he had some friends there.

Huatusco is in the Foothills
Huatusco is in the foothills between the coast, and the mountains around the Pico de Orizaba.

The foothills are out of the way and off the beaten path, and where the past is very close to the present.

A couple of weeks later I got an email from Ignacio that he had something interesting for me to see, and asked when we could get together.

He also wanted to show me his pictures of birds and the nearby Bosque de la Niebla.

Not an Average Backyard
The clothes are hung out to dry like every Sunday, but during the Mexican Revolution around 1915 to 1917, the revolucionarios took over the Hacienda Boca del Monte, and simply moved in. It is like the location of a movie like "The Old Gringo".

Doņa Hilda said the soldiers used the back yard was used for target practice. She is very sensitive, and I think it was really the scene of the firing squads long ago.

You can still see the bullet marks.
The Firing Squad
Bullets Close

Road from Paso de Ovejas
The Pico de Orizaba in the Background
Sunday Morning
After taking a left at the little crossroads village of Conejos, just after Paso de Ovejas, I headed west down the secondary road towards the mountain town of Totutla. Off in the distance was my old friend, El Pico de Orizaba.

In a phone call Nacho had invited me to go along with some friends to visit the Hacienda Boca del Monte. He knew someone there and it would be easier that way.

We had agreed to meet at 9 AM at "El Capricho", another crossroads about a half mile before you get to Totutla.

By this time it was 9 AM, and I still had another 45 minutes to go.
El Capricho
El Capricho Junction
At about 9:45 I arrived at the junction in El Capricho. It was basically a corner store and "tortilladora" which at that time of day wasnīt selling too many tortillas.

Nobody was there. Just a couple of country folks standing around.

I ordered a bottled Coke and sat on the small sidewalk and relaxed.

I felt better after the Coke, and wondered what to do. I guess they had left me. It was only reasonable.
El Capricho
A Few Minutes Late
I wondered if Nacho and his friends would be waiting for me. 45 minutes late is pushing it, even in Mexico.

Perhaps if I called Nachoīs house, he may have left a message with someone.

So, on my cell phone I called his house. Nacho answered and profusely apologized for being late. One of his friends was sick and was running late.

They would be there in about 20 minutes. I was in luck.
Boca del Monte Market
Nacho arrived in a pickup truck with a bunch of kids in the back.

First, he apologized for being late. He was happy I had made it. I introduced myself to the others and off we went. Nacho rode with me and told me more about the others on the trip.

Miguel Angel is a high school teacher of history in Huatusco and Julio is a biologist whose specialty is orchids.

He said we were going to Boca del Monte where one of the guys knows a cousin of the present owner.
The Hacienda
The Hacienda
Casa Fundada en 1905

Front Porch
An Unexpected Home Tour
Other than a couple of people shopping at some of the colored tarp covered "puestos" in the market, it was a quiet Sunday in Boca del Monte.

Nacho said he knew one of the relatives of the hacienda owner and went looking for him.

We went up on the cool front porch, and at the far end was a little restaurant.

When you are visiting in a new village, itīs always a good idea to buy something at a local store or get a bite at one of the smaller restaurants.

It kind of breaks the ice of suspicion you sometimes feel with the people in the town. Iīve also made a lot of friends this way.

So, I invited our little group to a Coke in the little restaurant, down at the end.
Window to the Living Room
We climbed up to the corridor and walked past the living room of the home toward the restaurant.

The ceilings must have been 30 feet high, and the front porch was cool and peaceful, probably like it had been for the last 100 years.

I looked at the living room which was sparsely furnished with an elegant old faded wallpaper reminiscent of the pastoral tastes of long ago. Lots of flowers and animals.

Well, here in the country I guess we are in a pastoral setting.

There were 3 or 4 tables and our group grabbed up 2. The little kitchen was attended by two older women and their granddaughters.

It looked like they might be related to the owners of the Hacienda Boca del Monte.

As it turned out, my guess was right.
Doņa Yolanda
A Late Breakfast
Doņa Yolanda serves the best in country Mexican "antojitos", and I ordered 2 cheese empanadas, and started talking to Miguel Angel.

He has lived in nearby Huatusco all his life and was telling me that before the Spaniards came was one of the many roads from the coast.

Just like the market out front, this was a place where people came to trade items from the coast, as well as items from the highlands.

The 2 empanadas arrived. Doņa Yolanda first asked if I ate picante and I said yes.

They were delicious, so I ordered 2 more.
Country Kitchen
Profesor Miguel Angel
Profesor Miguel Angel
Santa Annaīs Deed
Before the trip Nacho had obtained a copy of the original escrituras or Deed of Property for the Hacienda Boca del Monte.

In Mexico, a deed will tell the whole story of the property.

In the car Nacho had given me the papers and when we were talking about haciendas, Miguel Angel asked to see the papers.

He showed me where the property was originally owned by José Antonio López de Santa Anna.

It was true. This was one of 5 haciendas owned by Santa Anna!
Front Page
Reading Old Documents
Old documents are slow to read. It helps to read them out loud.

Miguel Angel told us the document like is a bill of sale and went on reading it out loud.

"At 4 PM March 19, 1889, Don José Ygnacio Esteva of Calle 5 de Mayo, Veracruz, Ver. sells the Hacienda Boca del Monte to Don Rafael Jácome for the amount of $30,000 pesos in silver."

I felt kind of a rush of excitement as Miguel Angel read the documents.
At the top of Page 3, I found "...on August 21, 1855, before Public Scribe Don Angel Benitez, the property title was granted to Don José Ygnacio Esteva by Don José Antonio López de Santa Anna in Jalapa..."

Santa Anna

Santa Anna was on the run. He had resigned as president on August 10, saying he had to go to Veracruz to arrange some "business affairs." Obviously, he needed money fast. He was on his way to Havana, Cuba. Mr. Esteva must have gotten a real bargain!

In the restaurant there was a reverent silence for their relatives of the past.
Profesor Miguel Angel
Doņa Hilda went on to say that when her grandfather bought the land he built the first house on the hill, then built the house where we are now in 1905.

Originally he had built a small house on the hill about a half block away. He later built a house for each one of his children. This particular house built in 1905 was built for her grandfather.

Then my mind wandered. In 1905, there were no cars, or even electricity.

This must have been a very remote area back then, in spite of the stability brought about by the Presidency of Porfirio Díaz from 1874-1910.
Faithful Witness
What happened here in 1910 during the Mexican Revolution?

"It was very bad. The Carranzistas took over the hacienda and the family had to leave. Down in the back yard they even used the wall for "target practice"."

During the 1920īs, it was even worse when hordes of poor land hungry agraristas took over our property.

My family had to run for their lives because of the death threats. Later, we went to the Agrarian Court in Xalapa, and they allowed us to keep a small amount of land for ourselves. We donīt have very much today.

During the 1930īs it was very bad, too, because of the religious strife. The churches were closed for 6 years. And, only until after that, have our lives have calmed down.
A Letter From the President
A Final Blow
After the decision of the Agrarian Court, many hacienda owners recieved a letter like this one from the President of Mexico.

(This particular letter is from another hacienda, and is probably similar to one everyone recieved.)

Basically it says: "...I have received your resignation to all rights to be indemnified for the ... lots on your land. I congratulate you on your generous and patriotic comprehension of the enormous debt of lands given to the campesinos as an act of social justice and to increase agricultural production. It will give a decisive step in the progress of our history..."

"...Mexican people who have here a home here for their descendents to enjoy the peace that brings the collective well being, contribute in the way that you have done for the improvement of the people and the fraternal union of their children with the new generations of Mexico with whom you should bravely share the transcedental task of consolidating our nationality..."
your attentive friend and servant,
Lázaro Cárdenas

The End of the Large Haciendas in Mexico
That was the end of one of the huge haciendas owned by Santa Anna.

Sanctioned by the goverment to avoid violence, most the other haciendas in Mexico were taken over by the people who had worked the land, as well as others who moved in later.

The families continued to coexist side by side resigned to make things work. Many of the townspeople have relatives who have gone to work in the States and send money home. Doņa Hilda told me her cousin lives in California, and also sends money home.

Unfortunately, thatīs the dark side of how the agrarian reform movement worked out.

A Lone Typewriter
A Deserted Ballroom
In front of the main corridor is the living room. It looked like a deserted ballroom with an old typewriter on a solitary table.

Nowadays, people use wall paper, and upon closer inspection I realized it was the original paint from 1905.

The murals and intricate designs were elegant and finely painted by hand, as if it were the Palace of Versailles.

There was no furniture except in one corner with a real pedal Singer sewing machine. Doņa Hilda said it was the best model Singer ever made.

Electricity was a recent invention and probably didnīt arrive in Boca de Monte until the 1950īs. The highway here wasnīt paved until the 1970īs.

The hacienda was a touch of elegance by candlelight out in this remote area.
A Ranch Hand Walks Through
Sofa and TV
Rabbit with Shadow
An Elegant Dining Room
I could just imagine the formal dinners with candelabras on the dining table.

The paintings looked life-like, even after 99 years of rough treatment and neglect.

Next to the dining room was a large bedroom with the same type of murals and detail work.

I didnīt go into the bedroom out of respect for the family.
Flower Arrangement
A Modern Kitchen
A Modern Kitchen
In contrast with the old, there have been some changes in the old hacienda.

Doņa Hilda next took us to the modern kitchen.

Although it probably looked like the original kitchen in 1905, the wood stove had been replaced by gas.

Underneath the burner is where they kept the firewood.

She also said, you really have to see the bedrooms.
Kitchen Table
Cooking on Gas
A Bedroom
The New Bedroom Section
The new section of bedrooms was a real contrast with the old section and almost looked liked the Holiday Inn with fresh cool colors.

The view from the back, out the window, is beautiful overlooking the valley.

From the bedroom balcony is a view of the back year and the upstairs patio with flowers.

It is really beautiful and peaceful, maybe kind of like where a famous writer might want to come live for a couple of weeks unknown amongst the local population.

The evenings are cool, and when you wake up you can probably hear the chickens in the morning.
Bedroom Terrace
View from Bedroom
Saddles at the Ready
A Working Hacienda
Saddle are at the ready to remind us that this is still a working hacienda.

There are cattle to attend out on the mountain. Peones to be supervised in the care of the coffee plants and other tasks.

Pickup trucks are for flatlanders where the roads are good.

On the hacienda the horse is still the best mode of transportation.
Cattle Brands
Animal Skin
Coffee Roaster
The Back Patio Terrace
I stepped out on the spacious back terrace to admire the view and spotted an interesting invention. It was a coffee roaster and grinder.

A simple affair that was effective for the small amounts of coffee produced on the hacienda for local use.

Miguel Angel bought a two kilos.

One for himself and the other to give away.
Family Photos
The Family
In the homes of Mexico, the history of the family is always present, even in the homes of the very poor.

It is a connection with the past, and a source of pride and a way to feel oneīs own identity.

It is a way to keep the proud moments of the past alive as part of the present.

Doņa Hilda took down the sepia colored photo of her father, and told us more about the stories she had heard as little child.

She also told us her daughter was a doctor, and graduated from dental school.
Family Photos
The Sacred Heart of Jesus was painted on the wall over a doorway in the living room by Doņa Hildaīs grandfather, Don Rafael Jácome.

He had never painted in his life and no one knew where his inspiration came from.

The Legend says, "Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Advocate of difficult and desperate causes, " perhaps reflects the needs in the in this out of the way place for help in times of trouble.

The original owner, Don Rafael Jácome, is buried behind the house he built on the hill, close to the land he loved.

The Wall
One Last Look
We take one last look at the Firing Squad Wall and wonder how these people must have survived the violence of two generations.

Or really their grandparents.

They must have been very tough and persistent people.

And how this hacienda has survived the turmoil is somehow a miracle unknown by many.
Time to Leave
Now it is time to return to civilization, and a normal life again.

Standing for a moment looking down on the scene where many faced the fear of the firing squads back in 1916, and are now forgotten and unknown.

And how the family who is now custodian of this house struggles to keep the simple life in the country they have always known.

Before today, the Jácome family didnīt even know us, and they opened their home and their family history to us.

We all feel like we are also members of the family, and want to come back.

Sometimes, I just love Mexico.
Group Picture
Moments You Want to Last
It was time to leave and we had one last coke. Reluctantly, we walked back down through the remnants of the Sunday market to the church where we had parked the cars.

I thanked Nacho for inviting me to Boca del Monte. There were final "abrazos" with Miguel Angel and Julio and handshakes to the shy children. It was one of those moments when you donīt want to go home. We all felt that way.

Then, Miguel Angel said letīs get together again in two weeks for a tour of Huatusco. We all agreed with smiles and finally boarded our vehicles for the ride home.

The trip back to Veracruz was fast, as I returned to the 21st Century, satisfied that I had found another lost hacienda of Santa Anna, and some new friends.

INEGI Map--Huastusco

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