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Sunday December 17 2017
Hacienda El Carmen in Jalisco

Jane Ammeson

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The evening shadows start to lengthen along the brick walls of the inner courtyard at the Hacienda El Carmen; the sound of the splashing fountain now competing with the ring as china is set upon the long wooden table that sits under the arched loggia. Besides the rustle of the wind and the screech of parrots, there are very little sounds now as the heat of the day fades into a warm, enveloping sultry night.

It is the 21st century, but these walls and the courtyard have existed for more than 300 years and it is easy to imagine, in the dusky light, that the ghosts of the caballeros, the grandees, their ladies as well as the nuns and the revolutionaries who also at one time stayed here, still walk along the tiled walkway, past the bougainvillea climbing up the sides of the walls and amongst the jaracunda trees.

At first, this Colonial style structure, a long colonnaded porch, a gracious two story entranceway leading into connecting dining, sitting and kitchen areas that front one part of the courtyard and then bedrooms comprising the surrounding three sides, all with views of the flower filled courtyard, was known as the Hacienda de Santa Maria de Miraflores.

Haciendas were once a central part of agricultural life, which included ranching, farming, tequila production and sugar milling, in Mexico Many just disappeared with time, but in 1722, Miraflores became the Convento Del Carmen. But though a convent, Hacienda El Carmen didn’t necessarily guarantee a quiet life. Legend has it that the famed revolutionary, Pancho Villa was welcomed here as Mexico struggled to gain independence.

Now a hotel and seemingly isolated, the hacienda is just a short drive from bustling Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico. Located on the road that connects Guadalajara to the tequila region which has made the Jalisco famous, the hacienda is in historic Ahualulco del Mercado, a pretty place with its early 18th century Church Of San Francisco, the Shrine of Our Lady Of Guadalupe whose sanctuary dates back to 1594 as well as brightly painted houses and stores.

But the feel of being nowhere doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to do. Early morning, horses arrive from nearby stables for those who want to ride. There is golfing, swimming, luxuriating at the spa and classes to learn about cooking. There are even the occasional tequila tasting seminars—one of which I attended.

But that was another night. Tonight, the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and within a short time, a guest feels part of the hacienda family, allowed access into the inner workings of the place including peeks into the old fashioned Mexican styled kitchen with its elaborately decorated tiled floors and counters and its up to date modern appliances. Here Chef Ambrosio Saavedra prepares traditional Mexican dishes such as pollo con mole (chicken in mole sauce), filete a los 7 chiles (filet with seven different kinds of chiles) and chile rellenos (stuffed chiles) accompanied by large pitches of Sangria and ice tea made from hibiscus flowers.

Peacocks traverse the courtyard, disappearing into the darkest recesses as the moon appears overhead. Centuries seem to fade away into years past as the night approaches. It is life at the hacienda as it is today and as it was.

Hacienda El Carmen is one of about 40 or haciendas in Mexico that have been restored and converted into hotels. For more information, visit


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