Haciendas are the new "high life" in Mexico, as some haciendas have reinvented themselves as high-end hotels. Our Valerie D'Elia has more.
The hacienda era of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula enjoyed a heyday between the 18th and early 20th centuries with the exportation of a sisal-like fiber known as Henequen, made from abundant Agave plants.
Known as "green gold," the production of henequen improved the economy of the region at the expense of the workers, who came to be known as peones, or peons.
"The native people that used to work in the haciendas were underpaid during that time, and the conditions of life during that time of labor, they were very hard," says "Yarima," a hacienda tour guide.
Today, many of these stately haciendas are having a second life as hotels or villa rentals that are staffed by people in the local Maya community in a much more equitable fashion.
"It is as dreamy, it's probably better than I imagined," says Debra Aker, a guest at the Hacienda Petac. "The hacienda is really beautiful."
On a media visit, I checked into Hacienda Petac, a half hour from the city of Merida. This beautifully restored 17th-century estate normally rents out its seven rooms at once to groups who take over the entire overgrown property for exclusive stays.
For more information, visit www.haciendapetac.com.
The Starwood Group, on the other hand, is operating a collection of five restored haciendas in the Yucatan region as hotels available for shorter stays.
"We have a lot of wonderful gardens, places to relax," says David Nava, general manager of The Haciendas. "We are located outside of the big cities."
The haciendas that are open to guests customarily include meals with a Mayan flavor. Some even feature cenotes on their properties, sacred sites for swimming inside a cave.
For more information, visit thehaciendas.com.