The Hacienda del Parián in Ocoyoacac, a rural village on the outskirts of Mexico City, got its start twenty-six years ago, when the local Ocampo family joined forces with other charro (“cowboy”) families to recreate a traditional estate. The idea was to preserve two very strong Mexican traditions that used to live side by side in haciendas: la charrería, the Mexican equestrian tradition, and rural Mexican cuisine.
The estate they built is big enough to celebrate a wedding or a charreada, Mexican-style rodeo, or even both at the same time! It’s also home to a restaurant, which is managed by Christian Ocampo, who started working in the catering side of the family business before moving over to run the restaurant side of things.
The architecture here is faithful to the hacienda style: red bricks, big arches and porticoes, tall ceilings with exposed wood beams, wood furniture here and there, bronze horse statues, old oil paintings depicting the magnificent charro way of life. Landscaping was an important consideration when building the estate, which is why the views of the Valle de Toluca from the large living area are so spectacular. Other vistas from across the property, of Ocoyoacac, San Mateo Atenco, San Antonio La Isla and the lake, are similarly stunning.
“The type of visitors this restaurant welcomes are many,” Christian says, “factory employees, workers from the Lerma industrial corridor [one of the most important in the country], businessmen closing deals and local families on the weekends.”
Hacienda del Parián is located on the highway between Mexico City and Toluca, the capital of the State of Mexico. Despite its large urban population, a large portion of the state is still dedicated to agriculture, as evidenced by the fields surrounding Ocoyoacac.
However, things were very different here in the late 19th century. Horses were integral to life: They were the most important way to work the land but they also were used to move from one place to the other and perform charro activities, such as taming cattle, roping, horse training, and even falling in love or singing serenades. These bustling haciendas even developed their own culinary tradition, which locals knew as “cocina mexicana.”
These bustling haciendas even developed their own culinary tradition, which locals knew as “cocina mexicana.”
The golden age of haciendas came to an end after the Revolution in the early 20th century, when these estates were subdivided and turned into cooperatives owned by the farmers. The wealthy hacendados and their families left.
Not long after, during the 1940s and 50s, Mexican cinema largely focused on this kind of rural life (a few of our favorite films in this genre are “Out on the Big Ranch,” “Los Tres García,” “The Rock of Souls” and “Pueblerina”). Life on the haciendas was idealized by a society that was swiftly shifting from rural to urban – it invoked nostalgia in those who had left their parents’ way of living behind.
In a similar way, Hacienda del Parián pays homage to the country’s rural roots. This includes classic charro food traditions, which are maintained here by the mayora. It’s an old-fashioned position that, according to tradition, can only be held by women. The analogue in a modern restaurant would be an executive chef, although the mayora has much more responsibility: She is the person in charge of preserving the traditions and the recipes, the techniques and the methods. Highly respected, she directs the kitchen like an orchestra, and always has the last word.
The current mayora at Hacienda del Parián is Silvia Pavón, who recently earned the position after the previous mayora passed away. Like many of the staff members, she was born in Ocoyoacac.
Silvia, who has worked in the hacienda’s kitchen for over 20 years, explains how most of the ingredients used in the kitchen are sourced locally. The best example is the chorizo, which comes from nearby Toluca – a city famous for producing some of the best chorizo in the country.
One of the most requested dishes at Hacienda del Parián is the mole rojo, a dish that Silvia is very proud of. But pecho de ternera (beef brisket), cochinita pibil (pulled pork) escamoles (ant larvae, when in season) and pipián verde (green pumpkin seed sauce) are also popular.
As the restaurant begins to regroup after the pandemic, Christian tells us that they are trying to appeal to old customers and new generations in search of delicious Mexican cuisine in a unique setting. “At first, we tried to keep the staff, then when the pandemic was lasting way longer than everybody had thought, we started rotating personnel. During the worst peak, some decided to leave to try something else,” he explains. But now, they’re getting back into the swing of things.
Mexican food made with love and a warm charro atmosphere – this is what makes Hacienda del Parián a lovely place to reminisce about the past, a time worth remembering.
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