across Mexico is a network of stately haciendas which once represented
the social fabric that bound Colonial Mexico together. Today, the remaining
haciendas give us a glimpse of the elegant gentility of old Mexico.
All of these haciendas have a story to tell but none has a past so colorful
and a present that is so much a part of modern Mexico as the Hacienda
San Jose del Refugio, the "Hacienda del Cristeros", (Hacienda
of the Christians.)
Hacienda San Jose del Refugio was founded in 1802 as the
Hacienda de Padres (Hacienda of the Priests), a working hacienda that
provided shelter and protection for priests and the 200 laborers that
toiled in the surrounding Želds. The buildings and the small consecrated
chapel were the nucleus of what would later become a holy war refuge
and the foundation of one of the great commercial enterprises of Mexico.
In 1862, The Hacienda was purchased from the Fathers by
Aurelio Lopez Rosales and his sister Maria de Jesús Rosales.
Included in the purchase was an old aguardiente distillery where harsh
distilled spirits were made from sugar cane. In 1870, under the supervision
of his Uncle, Don Ambrosio Rosales, Aurelio reopened the old distillery.
Replacing the clay pot stills with copper, Aurelio began to produce
tequila, using "Herradura" (horseshoe) as the new trade name.
During the Mexican revolution of 1910-20, authors of the
new constitution sought to correct the inequities suffered by the indigenous
people of their struggling country. One of the perceived villains of
the times was the Catholic Church whose activities were drastically
curtailed by the passage of the Articles 3, 5, 24, 27 and 130. Article
130, the most onerous, deprived members of the clergy of their basic
rights; priests and nuns were forbidden to wear clerical robes, to vote,
to criticize government officials or comment on public affairs. Catholic
schools were closed and the church was forbidden to own property. Although
these measures were enacted in 1917, President Venustiano Caranza and
his successor, Alvaro Obregón, with canny political prescience,
chose to enforce the law selectively thus avoiding a confrontation with
the Church. When Obregón was succeeded in 1925 by Plutarcho Elías
Calles, this somewhat tense modus vivendi came to an end. Calles was
a different kind of politician, rigid and unbending; one of his goals
was to eliminate the Church's influence in Mexico. He began to vigorously
enforce the laws and added further sanctions called "Calles Law"
which imposed heavy fines and imprisonment for priests who violated
the anti-clerical Articles. The Church responded by suspending worship
and encouraging a boycott of recreational, commercial, educational and
transportation services. This period of action and reaction between
the two sides finally erupted in violence on August 3, 1926 when 400
armed Catholics barricaded themselves inside the Guadalupe Shrine in
Guadalajara. In the battle that followed, 18 people were killed and
40 wounded. The following day in Sahuayo, Michoacan, the church was
stormed by Federal troops. Amongst those killed were the parish priest
and his vicar.
On the 14th of August, in the state of Zacatecas, federal
agents took over a local Catholic youth organization and executed the
priest who was their advisor. These continued attacks against the Church
were the roots of the Cristeros Rebellion, officially announced in a
Manifesto read on New Years Day, 1927. This Manifesto called Catholics
to battle and thousands of peasants and ranchers answered the call.
The epicenter of this increasing violence was the state of Jalisco where
Aurelio Lopez Rosales found himself and his Hacienda inextricably committed
to the support and protection of the religious fugitives. During this
time Catholic priests, nuns and their sympathizers were ruthlessly hunted
down to be imprisoned or executed. As federal troops ranged across the
countryside in search of members of the clergy and their supporters,
Aurelio began to hide the fugitives beneath the floors of the Hacienda
and in the old distillery. Many people owed their lives to his courageous
However, it was only a matter of time until the federal
authorities became aware of his activities and dispatched troops to
arrest and execute him. Fortunately for Aurelio, a sergeant who was
related to him rode ahead of the detail to warn him and help him escape
to Veracruz and later to Italy where he lived in exile until the end
of hostilities. This bloody conflict raged on until a peace between
the warring parties was brokered by the U.S. Ambassador, Dwight Whitney
Morrow. At the conclusion of this violent period the rebels had over
50,000 volunteers and had left 25,000 dead comrades on the battlefield.
On June 27, 1929, a general amnesty was declared, Žnally marking the
end of this bad situation.
Before leaving Mexico, Aurelio had deeded the ownership
of the Hacienda to David Rosales Cuervo and in 1927 David became the
2nd generation of the family to operate Herradura. Upon the death of
David in 1956, the third generation, represented by Gabriella de la
Pena Rosales and her husband Guillermo Romo took over the operation
of the Hacienda, a date which marks the beginning of an era of expansion
and modernization. In 1995, the death of Gabriella passed the reins
of Tequila Herradura to her sons Guillermo and Pablo Romo de la Pena.
The name Herradura and the horseshoe logo were registered
as the official trademarks of Tequila Herradura in 1923. Today this
company is the largest and most well known producer in the world of
exclusively premium 100% agave tequila and is the only tequila that
is permitted to use the terms "100% Natural" and "Estate
Bottled". Because of the unbroken chain of family ownership over
the past 130 years, a code of excellence has been maintained, undisturbed
by the usual corporate tinkering which has destroyed or degraded so
many great family companies. Their unwritten credo states that they
will make only 100% agave tequilas, adhere to the old style of production
emphasizing quality over cost and will use only the finest, natural
materials. This old school approach is balanced by strict quality controls,
hospital grade sanitary policies and the support of a staff of over
1,300 workers steeped in the Herradura tradition. Under the leadership
of Guillermo "Bill" Romo, this traditional approach continues
today. A favorite saying of Señior Romo is "Think seven
times before changing". This philosophy is reflected in the careful
progress that has marked the growth of the company.
In the early days, all tequilas were made from a 100%
agave sugar base. In 1930, reacting to an agave shortage, the government
relaxed regulations to allow tequila manufacturers to make tequila using
only 51% blue agave as a sugar source. For many years after this Herradura
was the only producer remaining who produced exclusively 100% blue agave
tequila. Prior to 1950, the only tequilas available in the U.S. were
these adulterated, 51% "mixto" tequilas. This all changed
when Bing Crosby and Phil Harris, frequent visitors to Mexico and prodigious
imbibers of tequila, decided to end the shortfall by promoting the importation
of Herradura tequilas. For over 30 years, Herradura was the only 100%
agave tequila available north of the Border.
A visit to Herradura is an absolute must if you are visiting
the Guadalajara area. Above all, this distillery reflects the old country
warmth and traditions linked closely with sparkling examples of the
most modern technology.
A 30-minute drive from Guadalajara north toward the city
of Tequila brings you to the town of Amatitán, a small, sleepy
village just minutes from the town of Tequila. A right turn off the
highway leads to a cobble stone street lined with trees that passes
under the narrow stone arch of an old aqueduct, ending at the outer
gates of the Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Inside the walls, on 2,500
acres, lie the Hacienda and its gardens, the old distillery and far
in the back the new Plant Number Four. Passing through the outer gate
you proceed down another tree lined street and the small houses which
have sheltered families of the distillery workers for Žve generations.
At the next gate you face the Hacienda, the family home from 1862 until
the death of Gabriella in 1995. Still today, the Romo family gathers
most weekends and holidays at the Hacienda.
massive adobe walls and sunny courtyards of the main house are covered
with bougainvillea and roses. Inside resides 13 bedrooms, a billiard
room, a living and dining room, maid's quarters and a room housing an
extensive collection of riding saddles, some the former property of
President Benito Juarez. The spacious traditional kitchen is still managed
by Doña Paula who has prepared meals for the Romo family for
50 years. The two most impressive areas of the Hacienda are the original
Catholic chapel, which is the Žnal resting place of Doña Gabriela.
Adjoining the chapel is the third largest private library in Mexico
containing over 21,000 volumes, some dating back to the 16th century.
As Herradura has grown, they have carefully constructed
all the new buildings to blend harmoniously with the historic parts
of the Hacienda. The new Number Four Cooking Plant, a massive building
and unloading area, is constructed using great stone arches covering
the 15 "hornos" (ovens). These steam heated ovens are constructed
much as they were 100 years ago with Žve foot thick walls of brick.
Each oven holds 45 tons of raw agave, allowing them to cook 675 tons
every 50 hours. Sitting next to the old distillery is another striking
example of old and new; the old ovens next to the long rows of gleaming
stainless steel distillation retorts allow you to move from ancient
to modern times in Žve short steps. Beneath this building is the Herradura
Museum housing the old crushing, fermentation and distillation equipment
which has been restored to its original condition.
controls their operation from start to Žnish, producing all the raw
materials and using only natural products. They are one of the few distilleries
that grow all of their own agave, controlling over 10,000 planted acres
that is home to over eight million plants requiring eight-ten years
to mature. During the growing period the Želds are cleared of weeds
by hand to allow the plants to receive plenty of sun with no competition
from other plant life. No herbicides are used at anytime during the
process. Over 500 Jimadors (agave harvesters) are employed by Herradura
which allows them to harvest the agave at the precise moment that the
plants have achieved their maximum sugar content and most intense flavor.
In the late 1990's, the agave Želds of Jalisco were hit by the twin
scourge of a bacteria (Erwinia carotobora) which caused stem rot and
a fungus (Fusarium oxysporum) which attacked the root system. Herradura
quickly identiŽed the infected Želds and set Žre to them, staving off
an epidemic which ultimately destroyed 25% of the total agave reserves
in the Tequila Region.
To best extract the sugar and the essence of the agave,
Herradura slowly cooks the ripe agave in giant steam ovens (26 hours
cooking, 24 hours cooling). This slow cooking at low temperatures insures
that the maximum amount of plant starches will be converted into the
more desirable fructose and levulose rather than sucrose which is found
in low quality tequilas. Roughly 15 pounds of raw agave are required
to make 1 liter of tequila.
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