My grandfather said that one should always start at the beginning.
The beginning of this story goes back to the moment when my grandmother’s grandfather came to Puerto Rico from Spain searching for a new home about ten decades ago. I don’t have dates, or details about this but I know that him and his brother founded a huge hacienda* that he called Hacienda Plan Bonito in Lares. My grandmother’s father was born there.
Last weekend I ventured to find this place with a couple of friends, one of whom had the idea that we should do this. We only had the name of the hacienda and the area of the town that it was in. As if by luck we found a guy that collects coins who has some identical to the ones my grandmother has from Hacienda Plan Bonito and by asking someone else, he was able to roughly explain where the hacienda was supposed to be. Basically we had to drive through 435 neighborhoods and find the nest that the devil made and left because it was so far away.
From there on we relayed on finding someone along the road, asking for directions and hoping they wouldn’t send us to the end of the world. At one point, about half an hour into the road trip, the only person we saw was inside his house sheltering from the rain. We drove into his front yard and guess what, HE DIDN’T KILL US. The way people behaved and responded to us in that town was truly amazing. I wanted to hug every single one of the sirs that helped us either with directions or by personally escorting us.
The road trip per se lasted about one hour because we were already staying in a town close by. That’s when we saw what looked like the remains of an estate house on top of a mountain, surrounded by murals and cacti. We drove into it and saw a guy coming out with some four dogs and, to quote one of my friends, the scene was taken directly from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. The mood was eerie but the property was absolutely majestic.
We told the guy our story and he proceeded to explain that the terrains we were looking for were down below, that we had found a hacienda, it just wasn’t Plan Bonito. By mistake, and by fate we reached Hacienda Oliver. The owner of that hacienda was killed by the American army (leaded by General Miles) before my great-grandfather’s brother; those two murders drove my great-grandfather to send his family back to Spain to save them. It turns out my grandmother even met one of Oliver’s granddaughters in one of her visits to Spain.
The guy guarding the hacienda is Luis. He opened up the house for us and briefly told us the story of the family that lived it centuries ago. It turned out this house had all it’s original furniture; bronze and wood beds, bathrooms, desks. The backyard had a view to the lake below and the mountains surrounding it that left me breathless. He pointed at the terrain that was suppose to be Plan Bonito’s and it looked like we had basically crossed it on our way up.
After we picked up our jaws from the beautiful wood floors and I hand-picked a souvenir from one of the pine trees around the backyard we thanked Luis from the bottom of our hearts for opening the house and his knowledge to us and we headed back to take some pictures of what we suspected to be the remains of Hacienda Plan Bonito.
We couldn’t find the road that led to the house that is inside the hacienda, but we are sure we crossed the land that was part of it. We left that place high on pure oxygen, on the bliss of discovering such history and the desire of going back one day to explore the rest of that pure land that conquered our hearts.
*Apparently the translation for hacienda is estate, but I love the word hacienda so I’m using our Spanish.
PS I started packing two days before this trip, but of course, I left my camera. Sorry I don’t have better pictures, my Galaxy was my only recording device.