The best way to experience the history of Mexico's haciendas
It’s not just the pre-Hispanic relics that are fascinating. The extravagance of the Colonial era is equally evocative and in many ways more approachable — especially by bike.
Beto Martinez from Bici-Burro bike store in San Miguel de Allende led us on a tour of the once-fabulous haciendas.
On the trail
The route began at Jaral de Berrio hacienda, about 90 minutes drive north from our base in San Miguel. It was once one of the largest haciendas in New Spain and even had its own train stop. We started there, walking through the shell of “the Castle” — the nickname of the Berrio’s family home.
Jaral de Berrio
It’s been almost a century since anyone has lived here and the French wallpaper is peeling off in chunks while wild foxes run through the overgrown courtyard. Anything made of wood — doors, shutters, beams — has been looted.
The church in Trancas
From there we rode cross-crountry on trails and dirt roads, following the Sierra del Cubo range as it snaked southward. Butterflies sucked up moisture from the rains collected in the ruts while we passed one ex-hacienda after another: Hacienda del Cubo, Hacienda de Quemada. Shepherds with herds of goats waved as we passed.
Mineral de Pozos
For nearly 300 years Pozos was a major silver mining and smelting town, dotted with massive estates and home to the first training hospital in Mexico. But then came the 1910 Revolution and the collapse of the silver market and the population shriveled from tens of thousands to a few hundred stubborn souls.
The ore ovens and hacienda walls are still standing but most of the homes are devoid of doors and ceilings. What does remain are the myriad pozos, numerous deep wells that vanish into the earth.
Pozos continues. There are a handful of small bed-and-breakfasts and galleries a la San Miguel but for us the attraction was the biking.
Hacienda de San Joaquin de las Trancas
After several hours we climbed a small rise and descended into Hacienda de San Joaquin de las Trancas. It’s a rariety, a 450-year-old hacienda with a contemporary income.
A hacienda becomes a hotel
Trancas is a hidden resort, complete with pools, bikes, horses, tennis courts, period furniture and the ability to handle anything from a large wedding to a fashion photo shoot.
From haciendas to ghost towns
The next day we explored the nearby Mineral de Pozos, a ghost town half-awake from its century-long slumber.
There are routes to the highest peak that lead past 250-year-old smelters while on the other side of town is a new dedicated bike trail with solar powered lights for nighttime rides into the campo. Aside from the butt-busting cobblestones in the streets, biking anywhere in Pozos is wonderfully carefree since there is no traffic.
The bike trails start close to the best Pozos bike store, Mision Bicis, just outside the main square. The trails are well-marked indicating harder or easier routes and are sprinkled with shaded picnic tables. And from here there’s a view of Pozos that nobody in a car will ever see. There are cacti and loose rock on both sides of the trail but with a watchful eye, you can avoid both.