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A hacienda is a large farming estate found in parts of Central America and Mexico. It is similar to a plantation, but the hacienda is uniquely Spanish in nature. Haciendas and plantations differ in other key aspects as well; plantations are based on the desire for profit and are thus more efficient in land use, while haciendas are based on the desire for social prestige and self-sufficiency. Because of the emphasis on self-sufficiency, haciendas are not closely tied to external markets, unlike the modern plantation.

Hacienda farmers (known as peones) are usually given their own small plots of land for growing subsistence crops, and even then the hacienda can be so large that it would be impossible to farm every acre of land.

The hacienda system was made illegal in Mexico by the Constitution of 1917, which instituted land reform. Remnants of the system still remain in rural Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, as part of the legacy of Spanish colonization.


  • de Blij, Harm, and Peter Muller. Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts. 10th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2002.