Mexico and Beyond
JARAL DE BERRIO
The Jaral Years
In the state of Guanajuato, an old hacienda takes us back to the bourgeois splendor of the 18th century
Text and photos: Héctor J. G. Mellado
A part of our history was born in the countryside. Many of the old haciendas that in their time were synonymous with progress and opulence, today are no more than the memory of the bonanza from their better years.
The Mexican Bajio region is a clear example of how time has changed the fate of these haciendas, turning many into places that are left on their own, facing the ravages of time. One of these is Jaral de Berrio, located in the municipality of San Felipe, in the state of Guanajuato. From the moment you’re on the road, headed towards Valle de Reyes, you can see in the distance the two towers that crown its splendid façade. Its origin is linked to Mexican nobility, particularly the homonymous marquisate, one of the richest families in the country during most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The hacienda stood out, among other things, for the production of mescal and the raising of bulls and horses. An old anecdote tells us that at the beginning of the 19th century, architect Manuel Tolsá held a contest with the purpose of choosing the horse that would serve as model for the equestrian statue of King Charles IV; the one that we can see today in Mexico City, known as "El Caballito" (the little horse). The chosen one was a steed named "Tambor", a fine example of those that only existed at the hacienda of Jaral de Berrio.
During the War of Independence the place suffered the attack and looting of the insurgent troops under the command of Javier Mina. But Jaral is still standing, even after the place was abandoned in the days of the Revolution. Although it has changed owners repeatedly, time has given way to the deterioration of the place after its neglect. Time itself consumes little by little the tapestries and paintings of its interior. The floorboards are old boards that creak and raise dust when stepped on, and the floor of the second story is sinking. There is no longer any glass in its windows and the fabric of its dropped ceiling is torn: a perfect place for animals to find shelter. The splendor of those years is gone and it’s not planning to return.
The tour of the hacienda provides - for those who enjoy sites with history - magnificent views inside and outside the main house and through the entire complex, including what is left of the grindstone where mescal was processed using a beast of burden. From the high parts of the construction one can observe the entire view of the place and its surroundings. Jaral de Berrio invites you to travel through time and imagine the life of yesteryear.
In recent times, initiatives have been created to bring life and maintenance to the place. You can also buy the mescal that bears the name of the hacienda, which has the taste of the mescal that’s produced in the Mexican Bajío.