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Hacienda (UK /ˌhæsiˈɛndə/ or US /ˌhɑːsiˈɛndə/; Spanish: [aˈθjenda] or American Spanish: [aˈsjenda]) is a Spanish word for an estate. Some haciendas were plantations, mines or factories. Many haciendas combined these productive activities. The hacienda system of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, New Granada and Peru was a system of large land holdings.

Similar system existed on a smaller scale in the Philippines and Puerto Rico. The hacienda were developed to be self-sustaining in everything but luxuries meant for display, which were destined for the handful of people in the circle of the patrón, also known as the hacendado.


Wheat mill and theatre of Vicente Gallardo; Hacienda Atequiza, Jalisco, Mexico, 1886.

Haciendas originated in Spanish land grants, made mostly to conquistadors. The system is considered to have started in present-day Mexico, when the Spanish Crown granted to Hernán Cortés the title of Marquess of the Valley of Oaxaca in 1529. It gave him a tract of land that included all of the present state of Morelos. Cortés was also granted an encomienda, which included all the Native Americans then living on the land, and with power of life and death of every person on his domains.


In Spanish America, the owner of a hacienda was called the hacendado or patrón. Aside from the small circle at the top of the hacienda society, the remainder were peones, campesinos (peasants), or mounted ranch hands variously called vaqueros and gauchos (in the Southern Cone), among other terms. The peones worked land that belonged to the patrón. The campesinos worked small holdings, and owed a portion of their crops to the patrón. The economy of the eighteenth century was largely a barter system,[citation needed] with little specie circulated on the hacienda.

Stock raising was central to ranching haciendas, and most estate raised enough stock to supply their own needs. Where the hacienda included working mines, as in Mexico, the patrón might gain immense wealth. The unusually large and profitable Jesuit hacienda Santa Lucía, near Mexico City, established in 1576 and lasting to the expulsion in 1767, has been reconstructed by Herman Konrad from archival sources. This reconstruction has revealed the nature and operation of the hacienda system in Mexico, its peones, its systems of land tenure and the workings of its isolated, intradependent society.

Gardens of the Hacienda San Gabriel in Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico.

The Catholic Church and its orders, especially the Jesuits, were granted vast hacienda holdings. This connected the interests of the church with the rest of the landholding class. In the history of Mexico and other Latin American countries, the masses developed some hostility to the church; at times of gaining independence or during certain political movements, the people confiscated the church haciendas or restricted them.

Haciendas in the Caribbean were developed primarily as sugar plantations, dependent on the labor of African slaves imported to the region. were staffed by slaves brought from Africa.[1] In Puerto Rico, this system ended with the abolition of slavery on March 22, 1873.[2]

South American haciendas[edit]

In South America, the hacienda remained after the collapse of the colonial system in the early nineteenth century when nations gained independence. In some places, such as Dominican Republic, with independence came efforts to break up the large plantation holdings into a myriad of small subsistence farmers' holdings, an agrarian revolution. In Argentina and elsewhere, a second, international, money-based economy developed independently of the haciendas, which sank into rural poverty.[citation needed]

Palacio San José, Argentina; owned by Justo José de Urquiza, 19th century.

In most of Latin America the old holdings remained. In Mexico the haciendas were abolished by law in 1917 during the revolution, but remnants of the system affect Mexico today. In rural areas, the wealthiest people typically affect the style of the old hacendados even though their wealth these days derives from more capitalistic enterprises.

In Bolivia, haciendas were more prevalent until the 1952 Revolution of Víctor Paz Estenssoro. He established an extensive program of land distribution as part of the Agrarian Reform. Likewise, Peru had haciendas until the Agrarian Reform (1969) of Juan Velasco Alvarado, who expropriated the land from the hacendados and redistributed it to the peasants.

Other locations[edit]


In the Philippines, the hacienda system and lifestyles were influenced by the Spanish colonization that occurred via Mexico for more than 300 years. Attempts to break up the hacienda system in the Philippines through land reform laws during the second half of the 1900s have not been successful. There were protests related to the Hacienda Luisita.[citation needed]

Puerto Rico[edit]

Francisco Oller's depiction of Hacienda Aurora (1899) in Ponce, Puerto Rico

Haciendas in Puerto Rico developed during the time of Spanish colonization. An example of these was the 1833 Hacienda Buena Vista, which dealt primarily with the cultivation, packaging, and exportation of coffee.[3] Today, Hacienda Buena Vista, which is listed in the United States National Register of Historic Places, is operated as a museum.[4]

The 1861 Hacienda Mercedita was a sugar plantation that once produced, packaged and sold sugar in the Snow White brand name.[5] In the late 19th century, Mercedita became the site of production of Don Q rum.[6] Its profitable rum business is today called Destilería Serrallés.[7] The last of such haciendas decayed considerably starting in the 1950s, with the industrialization of Puerto Rico via Operation Bootstrap.[8][9] At the turn of the 20th century, most coffee haciendas had disappeared.

The sugar-based haciendas changed into centrales azucares.[10] Yet by the 1990s, and despite significant government fiscal support, the last 13 Puerto Rican centrales azucares were forced to shut down. This marked the end of haciendas operating in Puerto Rico.[11] In 2000, the last two sugar mills closed, after having operated for nearly 100 years.[10][12]

In popular culture[edit]

In popular culture, haciendas are often portrayed in telenovelas, such as A Escrava Isaura and Zorro.

Other meanings[edit]

Nowadays, the "Ministerio de Hacienda" is the government department in Spain that deals with finance and taxation, and which is equivalent to the Department of the Treasury in the United States or the British Treasury in the United Kingdom.

List of haciendas[edit]

Main house of the La Chonita Hacienda, in Tabasco, Mexico, still a working cacao farm

See also[edit]


  1. ^ African Aspects of the Puerto Rican Personality by (the late) Dr. Robert A. Martinez, Baruch College. (Archived from the original on July 20, 2007). Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  2. ^ Abolition of Slavery (1873). Encyclopedia Puerto Rico. 2012. Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  3. ^ Robert Sackett, Preservationist, PRSHPO (Original 1990 draft). Arleen Pabon, Certifying Official and State Historic Preservation Officer, State Historic Preservation Office, San Juan, Puerto Rico. September 9, 1994. In National Register of Historic Places Registration Form—Hacienda Buena Vista. United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (Washington, D.C.). Page 16.
  4. ^ Exotic Vernacular: Hacienda Buena Vista in Puerto Rico. Aaron Betsky. "Beyond Buildings," Architect: The Magazine of the American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  5. ^ Nydia R. Suarez. The Rise and Decline of Puerto Rico's Sugar Industry. Sugar and Sweetener: S&O/SSS-224. Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. December 1998. Page 25.
  6. ^ Rum: The Epic Story of the Drink That Conquered the World. Charles A. Coulombe. New York: Kensington Publishing. 2004. Page 99. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  7. ^ Our History. Destileria Serralles. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  8. ^ Operation Bootstrap (1947). Encyclopedia Puerto Rico. "History and Archaeology." Fundación Puertorriqueña para las Humanidades. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  9. ^ Informes Publicados: Central y Refinería Mercedita. Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico. Oficina del Controlador. Corporación Azucarera de Puerto Rico. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Informe Número: CP-98-17 (23 June 1998). Released: 1 July 1998. Retrieved: 13 July 2012.
  10. ^ a b "Economy: Sugar in Puerto Rico", Encyclopedia Puerto Rico, "Economy." Fundación Puertorriqueña para las Humanidades. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  11. ^ Nydia R. Suarez. The Rise and Decline of Puerto Rico's Sugar Industry. Sugar and Sweetener: S&O/SSS-224. Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. December 1998. Page 31.
  12. ^ Benjamin Bridgman, Michael Maio, James A. Schmitz, Jr. "What Ever Happened to the Puerto Rican Sugar Manufacturing Industry?", Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Staff Report 477, 2012
  • Bauer, Arnold. "Modernizing landlords and constructive peasants: In the Mexican countryside," Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos (Winter 1998) 14#1 pp 191-212
  • Konrad, Herman W. (1980), A Jesuit Hacienda in Colonial Mexico: Santa Lucía, 1576–1767, Stanford University Press, ISBN 978-0-8047-1050-3 
  • Lyons, Barry J. Remembering the Hacienda: Religion, Authority and Social Change in Highland Ecuador (2006)
  • Mörner, Magnus. "The Spanish American Hacienda: A Survey of Recent Research and Debate," Hispanic American Historical Review (1973) 53#2 pp. 183-216 in JSTOR
  • Tayor, William B. "Landed Society in New Spain: A View from the South," Hispanic American Historical Review (1974) 54#3 pp. 387-413 in JSTOR

Further reading[edit]

  • Balletto, Barbara Insight Guide Puerto Rico
  • De Wagenheim, Olga J. Puerto Rico: An Interpretive History from Precolumbia Times to 1900
  • Figueroa, Luis A. Sugar, slavery and freedom in nineteenth century Puerto Rico
  • Scarano, Francisco A. Sugar and Slavery in Puerto Rico: The Plantation Economy of Ponce, 1800–1850
  • Schmidt-Nowara, Christopher Empire and Antislavery: Spain, Cuba and Puerto Rico, 1833–1874
  • Soler, Luis M. D. Historia de la esclavitud negra en Puerto Rico

External links[edit]