Yucatán Food Recipes: Caballeros Pobres

 

We typically feature this mouthwatering treat as a dessert after Poc Chuc, our favorite tangy pork dish. Caballeros Pobres translates to “poor gentlemen,” but we’ve always thought of it as delightfully rich. Rumor has it that the dessert originated in Spain and was brought to the New World by the conquistadors. Some say it reminds them of French Toast, but it’s better than any French toast we’ve ever had; and Patti here at Hacienda Petac makes this dessert better than anyone we’ve ever met.

 

Ingredients:

Large loaf of day-old baguette, approximately 1-inch think slices.

Eggs

Milk

Sugar

Vanilla

 

Preparation:

Whisk eggs, milk, a bit of vanilla and some sugar in a bowl. Dip the slices of bread into the batter, coating both sides, then place on a hot skillet. Fry on both sides.

 

Also delicious served with the following cinnamon-pecan syrup. Bake the slices of bread with the syrup, until it begins to caramelize.

(from http://www.bhg.com/recipe/caballeros-pobres-bread-pudding-with-cinnamon-pecan-syrup/)

 

Ingredients:

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar (piloncello)

grated lemon peel

4 Mexican cinnamon sticks

2 whole cloves

½ cup pecans or sliced almonds

1 tsp vanilla

 

Preparation:

In a saucepan, combine water, sugar, brown sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon, and cloves. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce and let summer until a thick syrup consistency, stirring throughout. Let cool, remove cinnamon sticks and cloves, stir in raisins and nuts.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

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The Petac Paloma


 

Here at Petac, the Paloma is a favorite cocktail for both lazy afternoons spent poolside and lively dinner parties on the patio. Considered the official drink of Guadalajara, it is preferred by most throughout Mexico to the elsewhere-esteemed margarita. Light and fresh, the cocktail’s tartness cuts right through even the most oppressive summer heat.

Spanish for “the dove,” it is said that the cocktail was named after the “La Paloma,” a popular folk song written in the 1860s. Many credit the legendary Don Javier Delgado Corona, owner of the beloved bar La Capilla (“the chapel”) with the drink’s invention. Running the small cantina in the town of Tequila since the 1950s, Don Javier is likely responsible for many a thirst-quenching cocktail popular in Mexico.

Regardless of its inception, variations on the Paloma have been many over the past sixty years. Its simplicity lends itself to expansion and adaptation and so Palomas are now often made spicy or herbal, fizzy or flat, elaborate or classic. A very common version is made with one of several popular grapefruit sodas available here in the Yucatan.

At Petac, though, as we do with cooking, we like to craft cocktails with the freshest ingredients available, so our recipe includes fresh juices. We also like tradition, so the recipe we use is in the classic Paloma style. An easy drink to make, it is even easier to make a second and third.

¡Salud!

 

Ingredients for the Petac Paloma:

– 2 oz. silver tequila

– 3 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

– 1/2 oz. agave nectar

– 1/2oz. fresh lime

– Club soda float


Steps:

– Combine tequila, grapefruit juice, agave nectar and lime

– Fill shaker halfway with ice

– Shake 10 seconds

– Pour into iced tall glass

– Top with club soda

– Garnish with lime


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Yucatán Food Recipes: Cebollas Curtidas

These pickled onions accompany many traditional Yucatécan dishes and are a staple at Hacienda Petac’s table. Delicious with rice and bean dishes, alongside more complete meals like pescado en tikin-xic or even on a sandwich, the bright flavor of these onions will make you reminisce each time of the luxurious meals we create here at the Hacienda.

 

These pickled red onions enhance almost any Yucatecan dish.

Ingredients:

2 red onions thinly sliced (julienned)

boiling water

juice of 2 limes

salt (to taste)

 

Preparation:

1. Place sliced onion in a heat resistant bowl.

2. Pour boiling water over onion, just enough to cover.

3. Let soften for no more than 5 minutes.

4. Drain completely.

5. Mix juice of lime evenly into onion.

6. Add a pinch of salt.

 

Let stand for at least an hour before serving, but the longer the better.

 

Enjoy!

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Hacienda Petac: A Retrospective, Part V

What follows discusses the period of agrarian reform in the Yucatan, legislation in the first half of the twentieth century, and the process of land redistribution as seen by haciendas such as Petac.
 

PART V. AGRARIAN REFORMATION AND LAND REDISTRIBUTION IN THE YUCATAN

 

The subject of agrarian reform and the redistribution of land continued to occupy most people’s thoughts and actions throughout the first half of the twentieth century. The ruling elite used agrarian legislation as a political tool during the War and although various types of land reform were attempted, it was often for the simple sake of quieting peasant rebellions.

In 1915, the first significant law from the Revolution was passed. The Agrarian Decree, having been championed by Pancho Villa and Álvaro Obregón – who in 1920 was elected president – promised to return village lands to peasant workers. The rural majority, who had been living as essential debt slaves under the thumb of wealthy hacendados (owners of haciendas), was suddenly empowered. Two years later, a clause of the new constitution passed under President Carranza placed Mexico’s natural resources under federal jurisdiction. This allowed the expropriation of once privately owned land for redistribution to rural Mexican citizens.

 After being named President in 1920, General Obregon led the first stable President since the start of the Revolution. His term lasted until 1924.

Throughout the 1920s 53,000 square kilometers of land were redistributed in small parcels to 500,000 peasant workers around the country. During this time, ejidos, or communal land holdings, gained popularity throughout the Yucatan as parcel owners living in free villages banded together to share resources.

 
Even by 1930, though, ejido properties only accounted for 6.3% of the country’s agricultural property. Although foreign investors and domestic hacendados were losing political clout, it wasn’t until the passing of the 1934 Agrarian Code that land reform really gained momentum.

Under President Lázaro Cardenas, the 1934 legislation and following Agrarian Reform Act of 1936 gave even landless rural workers the right to submit ejido petitions. It also established Agrarian Commissions – with both state government officials and representatives from local peasant leagues – to help supervise the redistribution process. 45,000,000 acres of land were awarded after the law’s passage to Mexico’s agricultural underclass – 4,000,000 of which were taken from foreign (largely American) landowners.

A mural of Cardenas signing the agrarian reform act.

Hacienda Petac, of course, wasn’t immune to the land redistribution process. After the passage of the 1934 legislation, Petac was divided into 175,000 parts that were then distributed amongst the Loza family’s descendants. While peasant workers throughout the Yucatan celebrated the land reform, many Hacienda owners, of course, resented it. Throughout the Yucatan efforts both legal and not were made to preserve lands and sidestep the new laws. Petac was further divided up and at one point had over 11 different owners jockeying for control over the estate. In 1934 Señor Rafael Salazar Barrera began purchasing some of these parts of Petac from its various owners and reestablishing the original land plot. His first purchase, for 5,339 parts, cost him $6,000. By the end of the year, he had acquired 31,244 parts and was co-proprietor with the Loza family.

 

After the 1936 Agrarian Reform Act, Hacienda Petac was recategorized as a “Small Property” with “native lands.” More than 40% of Petac’s land, a plot known as the Gran Ejido, was given back to the Mayan villagers of Tzacala with which to begin to grow and sell agricultural products for themselves. Meanwhile, Señor Barrera continued buying property, including the hacienda’s henequen processing plant, even after the Loza family’s interest faded.

 

In 1994, Barrera’s relative Rafael Miguel Salazar Barrera purchased Hacienda Petac, which had been divided into three sections. Two of those plots, which included the portion of the estate with buildings, make up Petac as we know it today.

 

Hacienda Petac in its current iteration covers about 100 hectares. The property has undergone massive changes in its 300-year history, weathered political mayhem and seen far-reaching social transformations. Restorations over the past ten years, though, have been always conscious of this, careful to preserve Petac’s original architecture, to embrace the lovelier parts of its past and, of course, to continue the traditions of the Yucatan as a whole.

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Hacienda Petac: A Retrospective, Part IV

The following presents some of the causes and main characters of the Mexican Revolution, both as they affected the country at large and as they changed Petac.

 

Part IV. REVOLUTION AND THE DISINTEGRATION OF THE HACIENDA SYSTEM

 

The Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910, was precipitated largely by the dictatorial indiscretions of President Porfirio Díaz. The decade-long bloody conflict began as a revolt against his 34-year incumbency, a period known as “El Porfiriato,” but quickly disintegrated into a multi-sided civil war. Land rights and workers’ rights remained at the forefront of the fight, which led to enormous changes in the traditional hacienda system of land ownership for Petac and for haciendas elsewhere in the country.

 

While Díaz’ presidency was marked by Mexico’s industrialization and the growth of an urban working class, it is equally remembered for the unequal distribution of land and wealth, rampant human rights violations, and years of political corruption. Infuriated by these trespasses, a young (and previously exiled) reformer named Francisco I. Madero aligned himself with the rebellious and now-renowned Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. On November 20th, 1910, they called for an official revolt against the dictator, his limitless terms and the cruel, antiquated “encomienda” system that enslaved workers to haciendas and had given millions of hectares of land to foreign companies.

 

 

 

In 1911, Madero forced Díaz’ resignation and won the 1911 presidential election with an overwhelming majority. Buffered by support from the United States, he proved, however, to be a weak leader and lost the support of Zapata, who condemned Madero for empty promises of agrarian reform. Zapata published a manifesto called the “Plan de Ayala,” in which he demanded that lands “usurped” be returned to Mexico’s indigenous and working populations. Revolutionary movements, strengthened by the rural working class, coalesced in response to Zapata’s letter and Zapata found himself leading their rebellion.

 

It was, of course, this polarizing system of autocratic management that had defined Petac and other estates for two hundred years. Although henequen production was actually at its peak during the War, the revolutionaries’ success at ideologically liberating workers and inciting rebellion initiated the decline of the agro-industry throughout the Yucatan.

 

During 1913 and 1914 a series of coup d’états and assassinations saw power switch from Madero to counterrevolutionary Victoriano Huerta and then again – with the secret support of the U.S. Government – to a rural rancher named Venusiano Carranza. Initially allied with Villa and Zapata in the name of a common enemy, Carranza lost their loyalty by the time he was named President. He was, however, publicly acknowledged in Mexico and openly backed by the U.S. factions of revolutionaries continued a series of bloody skirmishes and revenge-driven attacks for the next few years before Carranza’s reelection in 1917.

 

Under Carranza’s administration, a new constitution was assembled. Many people consider its adoption the end of the war, but an official peace deal wasn’t brokered until 1920 between Pancho Villa and Carranza. Completed in 1917, the new constitution addressed many of the land issues that had inspired the war, established an organized labor code, and helped change the legal status of women in the country.

Throughout the Revolution and the growing pains of its institutional reforms, Petac owner Miguel Loza and then Enrique Loza often used the resources of the labor tribunal to help mediate disagreements. From salary disputes to annexation agreements, the tribunal would prove to be a vital support system during the next fifteen years of revolts and land reforms in the Yucatan and the country as a whole.

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Hacienda Petac: A Retrospective, Part III

What follows is a continuation of the history of Petac and an expansion on the Yucatan’s henequen years as the industry affected the Hacienda in particular.

 

Part III. THE HENEQUEN YEARS AT HACIENDA PETAC

 

As Hacienda Petac’s earliest known historical document substantiates, Señor Bernardino C. Loza and his wife Bruna Dominguez owned Petac when the hacienda, with many other Yucatecan estates, transitioned from livestock plantation to henequen hacienda in the mid 19th century. The couple, and then their sons, oversaw Petac throughout the zenith of its agricultural affluence and the Loza family, in fact, retained possession of the Hacienda for almost a century.

In 1875 Hacienda Petac acquired a portion of land called Tombul under the Loza family’s stewardship. The Tombul annex came with a recently built henequen processing plant and a new collection of machinery that greatly increased production. At Petac, as at other henequen haciendas, workers planted the plants in straight rows over hundreds of acres. They had to nurture the plants for seven years before harvesting them for the fibrous content of the leaves to be manufactured as rope. Previously unused plots of land were transformed into acres henequen fields.

Henequen processing equipment, such as this piece photographed by Arnoldo Torres, greatly expanded the industry throughout the Yucatan.

As Petac and the haciendas surrounding it grew and the plots of land expanded, portable railways, known as ferreas portatiles, were built to Mérida to make both personal transit and the transport of henequen easier. Light gauge railways were installed through the fields and horses or mules hauled the “trains” of fiber to Port Sisal to be exported to the U.S. As a result of these better production, manufacturing, and shipping methods, the Yucatan became one of the richest states in Mexico by the 1880s.

When his wife died in 1877, Señor Loza gave Hacienda Petac to his two sons Licenciado Miguel and Francisco to care for. Five years later, Licenciado Miguel – at this point 41 years old and married – bought out his brother Francisco, who had become a doctor, and became Hacienda Petac’s sole owner. By this time the hacienda had grown to ten times its original size, and measured, in 1882, at 11 million veras (Petac’s original footprint measured about 11,452 square veras).

During the height of the henequen years, over 18,000,000 plants were grown in the region.

Political upheaval would soon dethrone the henequen industry as the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century swept through and the agrarian reform movement gained ground. The henequen boom did, though, find its way into the turn of the century. During that time, countless hacendados – the landowners who cultivated the fiber – created vast fortunes and lives of privilege from the Yucatan’s “green gold.”

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Hacienda Petac: A Retrospective, Part II

The following is part two in a five part series about the formation of Hacienda Petac and the historical context surrounding the estate’s evolution.

 

Part II. THE HENEQUEN YEARS

 

By the latter half of the 19th century, Spanish colonization had redefined the Yucatan. An agriculture-based structure of international trade had been built and the hacienda system was expanded to support it. Around 1870, the revival of an ancient Mayan plant – henequen – brought an economic groundswell to the region and redefined Hacienda Petac as a competitive agricultural plantation.

A photochrome of a hacienda in 1884 by William Henry Jackson, from the World Digital Library.

Often confused and used somewhat interchangeably, sisal (Agave Sisalana in Latin) and henequen (Agave Fourcroydes) are two closely related species of agave. Both native fibers of the Yucatan Peninsula, they were harvested for centuries by the Maya for roping, hammocks and rugs. Their resiliency and slight elasticity made for an ideal material, as the fibers didn’t snap under weight or dry out in the heat.

Originally a Maya word, henequen is sometimes used colloquially to describe either fiber. Meanwhile sisal, named for the Yucatecan port from which it was exported, is often used to describe henequen outside of the Yucatan, as the shipping crates for both fibers feature the port city name “Sisal” stamped on the exterior. Henequen plants, with taller trunks and thorns on the edges of their leaves, were cultivated considerably more in the Yucatan.

 

In 1870, a surge of interest in the plant came from America, where the agricultural economy was still in rapid expansion. A cheap and durable substance for making rope and bailing twine – especially one that wouldn’t hurt farm animals if swallowed – was vital.

Hacienda workers, harvesting henequen around 1922.

Due to the increased demand, the traditional Mayan methods of hand scraping, soaking and retting failed to produce the necessary amount of henequen fiber. The Yucatecan government established a competition to encourage the development of a new tool to extract the fiber faster. New large central fiber extraction machines, or decorticators, were developed to remove the skin, water, and pulp of the plants, extracting the fiber, letting it dry, and allowing it to be processed into rope. Conveyor belts fed the leaves into the machine where a series of bladed drums and high-pressure bursts of water scraped the leaves. As henequen was later found to be a good reinforcement agent in concrete, the industry continued to boom, and a trade relationship with the United States flourished.

 

Modern farmers dry henequen out in the sun just as hacienda workers did hundreds of years ago.

Throughout the next several decades, the Yucatan reigned king. For a period of about thirty years, it is believed that the Yucatan’s henequen and sisal were responsible for ninety percent of the rope and burlap bags used worldwide. After a while, though, while henequen remained in the area, sisal was introduced and quickly adopted in other tropical climates. Brazil, Florida, East Africa and China all established competing markets. By the turn of the century the price of the plant began to fall in the region.

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Hacienda Petac: A Retrospective

The tale of Hacienda Petac and its transition from a quaint agricultural estate to a world-renowned historic resort and spa is one that covers hundreds of years and spans the colonization of an entire region, the founding of a country, a string of political upheavals, and an eclectic collection of owners. The following 5-post series speaks to each segment of the Hacienda’s history and examines the major events, trends, and renovations that make Hacienda Petac what it is today.

 
Part I. RISE OF THE HACIENDA SYSTEM IN THE YUCATAN

 

As the Spanish colonization of the New World progressed thro
ughout the 16th and 17th centuries so too did the crown’s interest in the natural resources of the agriculture-rich Yucatan. Efforts to ensure control over these resources quickly gave birth to the hacienda system, a land grant scheme established by the Spanish crown as a reward method for Spanish nobles. As thanks for their loyalty or as a means to lure them to the New World, conquistadors and noblemen were given enormous tracts of land and personal estates in the newly colonized territories.

Historical map of the Yucatan, published in 1671.

These estates were known as haciendas, constructed with a main manor house called the casa principal, and an often fully self-sufficient town surrounding it. Many of these haciendas became villages unto themselves.  The estates, whether plantations or mines or even early factories, and the goods produced on them, were the cornerstones of the colonial economy.

 

It is in this vein that Hacienda Petac was founded. Like some of the immediately surrounding estates, with their uncomplicated and pragmatic constructions, Petac built itself initially upon livestock and simple crops. Cornfields, for example, accounted for a significant portion of Petac’s original footprint, which measured about half a league, or 11,452 square veras. (A vera is an antiquated measurement and, considering it was made from a stick, somewhat arbitrary unit of measurement.)

 
Although Hacienda Petac produced initially only for the local economy, the emergence of a new, far-reaching agro-industry later propelled the entire region into international fame. This allowed Petac to revitalize entirely the hacienda’s infrastructure and layout.

 

NEXT: Part 2, THE HENEQUEN YEARS

Link to: http://www.haciendapetac.com/blog/hacienda/petac-history-part-ii

 

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Have a Calabash

A tree native to Central and South America and one that frequently grows to 30 feet tall, the calabash is often cultivated in modern gardens as far north as Florida for the sake of ornament, but has been valued in the Yucatan for hundreds of years for the fruit it produces.

 

The large, rounded pieces of fruit, which themselves can be as large as 20 inches in diameter, may be plucked and dried out to be used as bowls, cups, scoops or water jugs, while the fruit’s pulp has historically been used medicinally for the treatment of respiratory illnesses. Over time, practicality was displaced by artistry and the tree’s fruit was increasingly carved, dyed and decorated, used for specific occasions, given as gifts and even made into instruments.

 

Here in the Yucatan we still use the resilient shell of the fruit, which resembles a carved piece of wood when fully dried. When not being used as a canteen, we cut the fruit in half, dry the pieces, and use them as serving pieces. Known as jicaras in Mexico and lecs throughout the Yucatan, they are perfect for serving hot food. At Petac, we like to use them for serving tortillas to guests or for displaying the beautiful flowers that grow throughout the Hacienda.

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Yucatán Food Recipes: Pescado en Tikin-Xic

Made with the classic achiote paste – a blend of cumin, pepper, cloves and the orange seeds of the annatto tree – this fish dish is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and baked in the pibil underground oven. The charm of unwrapping banana leaves to reveal a beautiful and delicious dish makes pescado en tikin-xic a particularly exciting meal for large groups and one that we always like to make for guests of Petac.

Hand-wrapped banana leaves and some of the ingredients to make Tikin-Xic.

Ingredients:

4lbs. high quality fish filets, white meat – we often use snapper

Walnut sized amount of achiote paste

½ lb. of white onion sliced in rings

Banana leaves

Salt and pepper

Juice of 3 limes and 5 sour oranges

One head of garlic roasted over flame

 

Preparation:

1. Dissolve the achiote paste in the juice of the sour oranges and limes. If the filets are from one large fish, cut into one person size portions and marinate the fish in the achiote mixture for fifteen minutes.

2. Banana leaves must be ready to use – for each portion you will need a section of banana leaf approximately 12-inches square.  Spread the banana leaf out and place the marinated fish in the center.

3. Place a slice of tomato and a slice of onion on top of the fish, then fold the banana leaf so that it is a compact little package.

4. Place into a large pyrex dish.

5. When everything is laid in the dish pour the remaining marinade into the dish along with the roasted garlic and a little salt and pepper.

6. Cover tightly with tin foil and bake in medium hot oven for 45-minutes.

 

To serve, carefully unwrap the fish, tear a piece of the banana leaf and put on the plate, then arrange the fish on top of the section of leaf.  Serve with rice and refried beans and onion salsa.

We cook our fish in the ground as a “pibil” over the hot rocks completely covered over with earth.  Unless you have a pit in the ground that you can do the same, Pyrex will be a good substitute.

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