Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Honeymoon at the Hacienda

Recently Auntie Estelle was kind enough to share with the whole family, video of her honeymoon with Uncle Guy at the Hacienda in Mexico where my grandfather ,San Tong was working in 1966.
More details and pictures of San Tong's time at the Hacienda can be found here.

The video clip I have selected shows Auntie Estelle and Uncle Guy touring the Hacienda grounds and waterfall . Then there is a segment with Uncle Guy and his father ( my grandfather) San Tong riding horses . Guy is the man in the white pants and San Tong is in the blue shirt and blue jeans . Thanks so much Auntie Estelle for sharing this precious video!

Here is some information on the Hacienda , Uncle Guy , and San Tong and Ping . Thanks so much Auntie Estelle and Auntie Soo-Yin ! :

Auntie Estelle :

"Gung managed the hacienda for Sr. Angel Castro who was the head of the Mexican construction union. Sr. Castro was a "gentleman farmer" who loved this country getaway where he indulged his hobby of raising horses. I really don't know much about the hacienda, nor even where it was other than about a 4 hour drive from Mexico City. The hacienda structure was very old, built some time in the 1800s, resembling a California mission with one foot thick walls and a tile roof. It stood completely by itself with no other structure in sight. The property incorporated many, many acres of farmland and also a large waterfall which we had to drive to. When we were there, Sr. Castro had just purchased a horse that no one could break until Guy, who grew up riding his horse on the Van Nuys ranch, tamed it in one day. By the end of the afternoon Guy would walk holding an apple behind him, and the horse would just meekly follow, nudging Guy's hand for the apple. Sr. Castro named him Veintiseis (26) because he had bucked off 26 riders before Guy finally trained him to accept a rider. On the side of the hacienda were horse and animal stalls and a pond where Gung raised ducks and pigs. The hacienda was one story built around a typical Spanish central courtyard. At the front, there was a second story bell tower with a 360 degree view of miles and miles of the surrounding countryside where the rancheros could stand and shoot at any marauding bandits riding into the hacienda. As the nearest village and church were so far away, there was also a little chapel on one side of the hacienda where all the rancheros would come to worship on Sundays whenever a traveling priest would stop by. When we were there, Uncle Guy and I felt like we had stepped back in time.

I think the footage of Gung riding a horse like a seasoned cowhand would be fun to add to the blog. As you know, he loved taking movies. As this might be the latest footage we have of him, it kind of caps off the earlier footage as his last hurrah in front of the camera. If he were alive to see the blog, he probably would have been thrilled to see himself riding into the hacienda like John Wayne. "

Auntie Soo-Yin

"Estelle, your video re: honeymoon at the Hacienda is a real treasure. It's a wonderful story you told about Guy and horse "26." Animals sure respected him. I recall how Jesus's wild coyotes on Uncle Jack's Saugus Ranch took to Guy and allowed him to pet them.

RE: HACIENDA - The Hacienda is over 500-years old. And the big ranch that the Hacienda sits on is located in Tulancingo, State of Hidalgo, Mexico. It is well over an hour's drive northeast of Mexico City.

For centuries all the villagers in Tulancingo worked for the Hacienda, and the practice was continued during San Tong Jue's stay there. In his bedroom San Tong built a huge stone fireplace for heat during the winter months. And while on the Tulancingo ranch San Tong started his Western Advance Corporation to manufacture a non-alcoholic beverage called, "pulque." a drink loved by the Mexicans. The juice comes from the heart of the maguey cactus that grows wild in the region.
As Estelle said, San Tong also raised Esther White pigs on the ranch, and he built a wooden contraption that weaned piglets at 6-weeks old, instead of the normal 3 months that it takes.
Here is a picture of the piglet weaning stall:
(click on photos to enlarge )

Here is a picture of the piglets being weaned:

On the vastness of the ranch he built a large lake with an island in the middle of the lake. And the size of the lake was enormous, it was not pond-size. Then San Tong placed dozens of ducks on the lake and they laid eggs on the lake's island amid the thick foliage that he had planted there. I think there were about 40 horses on the ranch, though I'm not real sure, but it was a big stable. I do not know how many acres comprised the ranch but you had to drive or ride on horseback in order to cover its entire grounds. The Hacienda, and its grounds, gave you the feel of a great fortress like in a period movie. You felt the whisper of its history. You could imagine the Spanish dons of yesteryear whipping around the ranch, waving their pistols in the air. According to San Tong, a few years before Sr. Castro had purchased this ranch it had been a marijuana farm. And on the far end of this remote land a few shoots popped up now and then. Nevertheless, Sr. Castro loved his Tulancingo ranch. And he appreciated San Tong for his skill, hard work, and honest character. Sr. Castro respected San Tong, who had created for the Castro family a place of peaceful refuge and safety. And Sr. Castro needed a refuge. As head of the most powerful union in Mexico, which had built Mexico City's subway system, Sr. Castro needed a place to hide. He never knew when power struggles in Mexico City would blow up in his face in those days, such as assasinations, kidnappings. And when the heat was on in the Big City, Sr. Castro would steal away to his ranch for safety.

I visited the Hacienda with Baba after I'd graduated from college. I think it was in 1969 or 1970 that I visited. Baba had formed the Western Advance Corp. in Tulancingo, and the ranch's original name was called "Rancho San Antonio." I think Baba might have said that Rancho San Antonio had over 600 acres, but I'm not absolutely sure. It seemed to me that it was at least that many acres. He told me that he had dredged and built the lake with an island standing in its middle and that he had placed, or was going to place, trout in its waters for fishing. With pride he pointed out groups of new ducklings swimming around the lake with their mothers. And as you had said, the lake was located just outside the Hacienda near its side. It's the same lake that you and Guy saw.
Here are a couple of pictures of the lake from my visit there :

It's wonderful that you still have slides, photos, and videos that captured this moment in time. Your description of the Hacienda and its grounds were so vivid and so accurate. I felt myself transported back to that place! One day Baba took me horseback riding--on horses from that stable you described--but I couldn't make my horse turn with reigns in my hands, so he held my reigns in his hands and my horse followed his horse's lead.

Did you meet Dita, the cook? I think that was her name. She was old and her long hair had two braids running down to her waist. For generations her family had worked for the Hacienda, and, now, she did as well. She loved my mother and took care of her when my mother was at the Tulancingo ranch. Baba had told me that on my mother's final visit (she was too ill to travel anymore), Dita gave her a "live chicken" as a gift to take home to California. My mother didn't want to hurt Dita's feelings by telling her that she could not carry a live chicken aboard an airplane, so she accepted the chicken, then gave it to a needy peasant family in Actopan, a town not far from the ranch. When I arrived at the ranch Dita asked me in Spanish how my mother was. Baba told her that Ping had died. Dita cried and cried. She hugged me tightly. I knew, then, how much she had loved Ping. "

Here is a picture of Dita :


  1. CORRECTION: I made a typing error in regard to San Tong Jue's weening of his piglets: He weened his piglets at "6-weeks old," not at 6-months old as I had written above. In this way, He could bring his pigs to market in Mexico City much faster. Auntie Soo-Yin.

  2. Thanks , Auntie Soo-Yin. I made the correction ...
    ps . I like the comment that Bob Yen recently made about San Tong....

    "Watching the videos I was struck by how in our own lives we’re sometimes convinced we can only do small things in the little patches of our lives, but Ah Gung, he seemed to think he could do big things in a big life—and so he did. He built a lake! ...."