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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Suburban sprawl approaches Progreso’s beautiful Hacienda San Ignacio

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
The tiny town of San Ignacio has, for many decades, resembled a bit of a ghost town, but this will likely not be the case for much longer. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Hacienda San Ignacio dates to the 19th century during the days of Yucatán’s grand henequen boom.

Henequen was once nicknamed the “green gold” of Yucatán and was used for many purposes across the world, including industry and material for rope used on large ships. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

One of the hacienda’s most distinct features is its enormous neo-Gothic-inspired chapel dedicated to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. 

The San Ignacio chapel has become a popular location for photo shoots, given its bright colors and convenient location near Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

According to legend, the chapel is protected by Saint Ignacio himself, who is said to have been observed in its tower looking towards the ocean and blessing outgoing ships. 

Detail of a striking arch facing towards the east in San Ignacio, Progreso. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The chapel was restored in the 20th century by the Boy Scouts, who set up a villa on the nearby grounds. 

Though most people assume San Ignacio is a comisaria of Mérida, it is actually within the municipality of Progreso
Though most people assume San Ignacio is a comisaria of Mérida, it is actually within the municipality of Progreso. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Right next to the chapel lay the 200-year-old casona, where the hacendado, or his representative, presumably lived with his family. 

San Ignacio’s casona may not be as impressive as others found in Yucatán, but it certainly is charming and, fortunately, has survived the ravages of time fairly well, at least on its exterior.

The casona in San Ignacio has five arches and about as many rooms, though several of its interior walls are in a state of near collapse. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The largest structure in the hacienda complex is the cuarto de maquina, or machine room, where the processing of the henequen actually took place before export. 

The cuarto de maquina at San Ignacio is large indeed and dominates the landscape in this tiny community. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though it’s hard to pinpoint when exactly the hacienda stopped growing and processing henequen, Don Euan, a local man who is said to be in his 80s, says he still remembers the hacienda functioning when he was a teenager. 

Don Euan circles his small community every morning, now in his wheelchair, much like he has done throughout his entire life. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though San Ignacio is still a very small community with a population of under 800 people, this is set to change in the near future as large-scale residential developments are now popping up all over the place.

“We like our little town. Nobody came and asked us for permission. We don’t want this to turn into another suburb. There are plenty of those already,” said Don Euan.  

Though change seems to be inevitable, for now at least, San Ignacio remains extremely rural, with dogs, horses, sheep, and goats freely making their way through the community. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Like other nearby communities in the region, San Ignacio also has plenty of open-air cenotes and aguadas that serve as a sanctuary for wildlife, especially during the dry season. 

If you plan to make your way through the woods to one of these cenotes or aguadas, do so quietly, and you are likely to spot wildlife. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Given its proximity to the coast (about six miles), San Ignacio usually has a pleasant wind running through the community, which its residents say they really appreciate. 

A flock of cranes darts out of the bush and into the sky above San Ignacio. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

If you go

As San Ignacio is located almost halfway between Mérida’s Periferico and the coast, getting there by car is a breeze.

A map shows the location of San Ignacio relative to Mérida and Progreso. Map: Google

But if you have a good bicycle, it’s possible to make your way to San Ignacio using narrow paths through the vegetation, which is quite enjoyable. Start early to avoid the worst of the sun. 

San Ignacio’s chapel is framed through walls over 200 years old Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine
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