History

Hacienda El Lencero
Another of Santa Annaīs Haciendas

Photos and Text by John Todd, Jr.

Stone Carved Atrium Cross
El Lencero, Veracruz
El Lencero Goes Back to the 1500īs
El Lencero, near Xalapa, is the best known of Santa Annaīs haciendas.

He didnīt own the hacienda for very long, from 1843 to 1855.

Yet, it is a very old hacienda that traces its origins back to the early years of El Camino Real and the Spanish Colony in the 1500īs.

Itīs is now a beautifully restored open air museum.

El Lencero, just off the main highway, is one of those places you never thought you had time to see, and later you are glad you went.

To stroll the same grounds where Santa Anna courted, and later married his second wife, the beautiful Doņa Dolores Tosta, is especially nice when you are with someone you love.

The best time to go is during the week when you have the whole place to yourself. They are closed on Mondays.

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How to Get There
How to Get There
Itīs not far from Xalapa, along the original Camino Real, about 8 minutes off the main highway to Veracruz. From Xalapa you take a right at the sign, about 5 miles outside of town.

When you drive up from Veracruz on a hot tropical day, the weather begins to get cooler as you climb in altitude.

In less than an hour from Veracruz, it feel like being transported to another more comfortable world where you donīt worry about being in the hot sun.

From Veracruz you drive past the Xalapa airport, and double back at the next "retorno".

Then you wind through what must have been the village where the hacienda workers once lived.

Their homes have flowers and potted plants on the front porches and up on the balconies.
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The Entrance
The Entrance
From the beginning, when you walk past the sentry box everything changes.

You step onto the moss covered cobblestones, and it feels like you have been taken back several centuries.

You can no longer hear the traffic from the highway, and perhaps the sounds of the birds are all that is heard lightly in the background.

The Hacienda El Lencero is a place of leisure, with lots of space and time to walk and think.
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The Big House
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Atrium Cross
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A Statue
Protected by the Angels
Walking the little road past the main house must have been much the same as now.

For 300 years, the walk has been the same.

The green grass, and the small atrium cross and statues of the saints to remind us we are protected by angels.

Founded in 1580
El Lencero, sometimes written as El Encero, is very old, and goes back almost 300 years before Santa Anna.
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Coat of Arms
He owned it for less than 20 years.

The original Lencero was one of the 22 official way stations between Veracruz and Mexico City approved by the royal commission.

It is said that the original concessionaire was Juan Lencero, one of the soldiers of Hernán Cortés. Eventually the hacienda covered some 5,860 hectares. A hectare is the size of one city block.

It was a combination stable and hotel for travellers along the Camino Real.

Included in the price of admission is a free tour given by the employees.

When we saw the buckboard, we realized in those days that just getting to El Lencero must have been an ordeal.
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The Main House
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Buck Board
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The Music Room
Original Furniture
The trip from Veracruz to Mexico was 22 days during the dry season, and 32 days or more during the rainy season.

Country living was sparse in those days, as we could see from the furniture.

Downstairs were the reception, dining rooms, and a den set up as a hunting room. Upstairs were bedrooms, a room for the sick, and a complete bathroom.

In the back of my mind I had always wondered what a bathroom looked like in the days before running water and indoor plumbing. At El Lencero my riddle was solved.

In the center of the complex is a peaceful fountain.
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Breakfast Room
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Fountain
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The Chapel
The Chapel
Every hacienda had its own chapel.

In front of the complex is a chapel with Grecian columns surrounded by the ever present brilliant yellow day lilies.

This is where Santa Anna, recently widowed, wed his second wife Dolores Tosta.

It has a mixture of some very old paintings, and mostly reflecting 19th century tastes.

I was surprised to see Snoopy on the altar which added a human element to the very old church.
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Watched Over by the Madonna
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The Chapel From the Back
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Geese
A Quiet Path Around the Lake
Behind the chapel is a pathway that leads to a lake created by a dam.

There are tame swans and geese close to the water that come up close and let you feed them.

French Impressionist painters would have been at home here.
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A Quiet Path
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A Path Beside the Lake
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The Lake
Santa Annaīs Haciendas
Last year I began doing research on the haciendas owned by Santa Anna.

It seems that in the 1840īs he went on a buying spree and bought several haciendas.

From the description of Manga de Clavo by Madame Calderon de la Barca in 1843, there wasnīt much furniture.

Santa Anna was an avid fan of cockfights and gambling, so his mind was probably not on furnishings.
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A Quiet Bench
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A Fountain
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Two Chairs
The Furnishings
The furnishings at El Lencero look like they came after Santa Anna was forced to sell his haciendas before leaving for exile in 1855.

Later the government confiscated the rest of his property.

The Restaurant
Our stroll was taking us back to the front entrance again, and we stopped at the main building which has been converted into a beautiful restaurant.

The restaurant is slightly elegant, yet retaining much of its old 19th Century charm.
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The Restaurant
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The Porch
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A Solitary Rocking Chair

Each table had fresh flowers as if they were ready to serve.

I especially like the front and back porches outside.

The Porches
To sit in a rocking chair on a cool rainy afternoon, just after lunch, deciding whether to sit there awhile longer or go take a siesta.

In the evenings, I could imagine the men smoking after dinner cigars, and talking business late into the night, watching their children chasing fireflies in the grass out front.

It was hard to leave this world.
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The Last Cannon is Now Harmless
But, I looked at my watch and realized it was time to go.

We had to begin our drive back to Veracruz, less than an hour away and back to the tropical coast.

Coffee Beans
Coffee grows everywhere around Xalapa. So does cinnamon and other spices.

For someone from the coast, the cool mountain air seems to accentuate the subtle smells and sounds of the little towns in the mountains.

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An Old Cross

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Coffee Beans
The Music from a Distant Radio
Off to the side of the street, under the tall trees along the street, are coffee plants with the healthy beans growing.

You begin to smell the aroma of someone cooking on a wood fire in a small home back in the forest.

Then walking past a silent cannon we could hear the faint sounds of an accordion from a radio playing old music by "Los Alegres de Terán".

I realized I didnīt want to get in the car to go back to the highway for the trip home.

Then I felt fortunate that I wouldnīt have to ride a buckboard back to Veracruz.

El Lencero is such a peaceful place.

Next time I come here, I plan to set aside more time to stroll with friends.
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The Original Camino Real
One Last Look
Maybe next time I could spend a little time in one of the rocking chairs on the porch just like the did in the old days.

As we walked down the quiet cobblestoned street, I looked back towards the main gate.

We were on the original Camino Real from Veracruz to Mexico City.

This must have been a welcome sight for the weary coach traveller. I am looking forward to my chance for a trip to El Lencero.