Friday, November 13, 2015

Jaral de Berrio

Onto more reminiscing about the trip to México:

Our dear friend Jan, who now lives in San Miguel, took us to the ex-hacienda Jaral de Berrio, two or so hours north of San Miguel.  Traces of its past glory, an enormous house of many rooms with sumptuous wallpapers and fabric-draped ceilings.  Now in tatters and populated only by doves and mice, they conjure the ghosts that must surely walk the halls at night.

An imposing sight from the outside, now mostly uninhabited, you can see how it still dominates this landscape.  The sign says entrance is strictly forbidden, but if you pay the teenagers working on their motorbike inside the gates 20 pesos, they will gladly let you pass.

Just inside the gate you will find stacked barrels of mezcal, still being produced on the ex-hacienda, and perhaps hinting at its future glory.  A grand staircase is just beyond, but I didn't really discover it until later.  A lonely fountain, tall grass dancing before the arches.  The lower level of the manor was apparently where horse and carriage used to enter, the livery was taken care of, servants came and went, and foods and supplies were stored for the hacienda and its village.  The back stairs beckoned me up to the main level of the house.

A wide veranda connects one half of the house to the other, affording views of the other rooms, while windows frame vistas of the farmland, industry, and parish churches - all part of the hacienda.  Was one church provided for the wealthy family, and the other for those who worked their land?

Who were these generations of Spaniards, and what kind of lords were they?  Were they kind or cruel to their servants?  Were there secret love letters hidden in the leather-bound books that once graced these shelves?  Did cooks and butlers exchange knowing glances between the kitchen pass-through?  Grand ballrooms must have been filled with music, and the whisk of taffeta skirts and petticoats shushed through the halls as young señoritas scurried to peek over the balconies to gaze upon their serenading novios.  Lavishly colored papers and ceiling drapes were imported with care from Europe, only to become faded rags left to time and scavengers.

Some of the decor leads one to ponder the contrasts: skyward churches and pagan faces...  fecund flora...  Moorish archways.  All so lovely, brooding, and fanciful.

One of my favorite spots was up on the roof, where statues mingled with nature taking over once again.  Most favorite of all, a secret passage leading up to a guard tower.  Tiny squares cut into the walls let in light, breezes, and provided a sort of bannister to hold onto as I went up and down.  Our guide told me I was brave to cross the threshold of the tower, with evidence of the floor's imminent collapse upon the first step in.  But the views could not be denied.

Time to leave?  Oh, must I really come down from this lofty dream?

On the way home, a legendary sunset to cap the day.

Hasta la próxima...

xoxo,  lulu