For other uses, see Hacienda (disambiguation).

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 to a smaller scale in the Philippines and Puerto Rico. The hacienda aimed for self-sufficiency 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.


Haciendas originated in land grants, mostly made to conquistadors. It is in Mexico that the hacienda system can be considered to have its origin in 1529, when the Spanish crown granted to Hernán Cortés the title of Marquess of the Valley of Oaxaca, which entailed a tract of land that included all of the present state of Morelos. Significantly, Cortés was also granted an encomienda, which included all the Native Americans then living on the land, and with power of life and death 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, 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 to the patrón. The economy of the eighteenth century was largely a barter system, with little specie circulated on the hacienda. There was no court of appeals governing a hacienda. Stock raising was central to ranching haciendas. Where the hacienda included working mines, as in Mexico, the patrón might be immensely wealthy. 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.

The Catholic Church and its orders, especially the Jesuits, were granted vast hacienda holdings, linking the interests of the church with the rest of the landholding class. In the history of Mexico and other Latin American countries, this resulted in hostility to the church, including confiscations of their haciendas and other restrictions.

In the Caribbean, haciendas, mostly in the forms of sugar plantations, 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

In South America, the hacienda remained after the collapse of the colonial system in the early nineteenth century. In some places, such as Santo Domingo, the end of colonialism meant the fragmentation of 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.

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 Victor Paz Estenssoro which 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


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 especially the Hacienda Luisita that resorted to protests.

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 a museum.[4] Another example is the 1861 Hacienda Mercedita, a sugar plantation hacienda that once produced, packaged and sold sugar in the Snow White brand name.[5] The last of such haciendas decayed considerably starting in the 1950s with the industrialization of Puerto Rico via Operation Bootstrap.[6][7] At the turn of the 20th century, coffee haciendas disappeared and the last few haciendas remaining, sugar-based haciendas, metamorphosed into centrales azucares.[8] Yet by the 1990s, and after significant government fiscal participation, the last 13 Puerto Rican centrales azucares were forced to shut down as well, marking the end of haciendas in Puerto Rico.[9] In the late 19th century Mercedita became the site of production of Don Q rum[10] and the legacy of Hacienda Mercedita can be seen in a profitable rum business today called Destilería Serrallés.[11]

In popular culture

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

Other meanings

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

See also

Home portal


  • Bauer, Arnold. "Modernizing landlords and constructive peasants: In the Mexican countryside," Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos (Winter 1998) 14#1 pp 191-212
  • 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

  • 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

  • Hacienda system described
  • Haciendas in the Yucatan
  • historic Haciendas in Mexico
  • historic Fazendas in Brazil
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