There is a special place in Álamos, Sonora, México and its name is
Hacienda de los Santos. It is a charming resort that can only be truly
appreciated by being there and in it’s moment. This cultural oasis has grown
over the years as owners Jim and Nancy Swickard developed three adjoining
colonial mansions and a sugar mill into a resort of taste, craftsmanship,
beauty and grandeur with multiple gardens, pools, two gourmet restaurants,
theater, museum, gym, spa, putting green and 34 guest rooms, suites and villas.
The luxurious resort’s compound covers approximately 3 acres with some
85,000 square feet of buildings under roof including the extensive portales.
Hacienda fountain music – Enjoy listenening while reading
Enjoy walking, looking, listening, relaxing, sharing, reflecting, feeling…
This is a story in two parts, three if you count the videos following Anders’
account of his 2017 Álamos Sonic Expedition’s visit. Anders Tomlinson
first photographed the Hacienda when it was the Swickard’s home and
they had just finished a three year renovation after purcasing Calle Molina 8.
Anders and innkeeper Jim have had a long running email conversation with
Jim updating and sharing his Álamos thoughts and observations with Anders.
One of the foundations of this continuing relationship is that “every day is
history.” The following correspondence, June 4, 2017, answered a request
by Anders for historical background on what is now Hacienda de los Santos…
The Hacienda’s architecture and furnishings are a museum unto themselves.
” It is believed that part of the lodging portion of Hacienda de los Santos
dates to the late 1700’s (remember that Álamos was incorporated in the
1680’s). When Álamos went into decline between 1900 and about 1950,
Mr. Levant Alcorn was solely responsible for revitalizing the village
by selling mansions in ruin to Americans who for the most part were
wealthy with names such as Astor, Pabst, DuPont and others. One
family, Mr. & Mrs. William Walsh (she was a New York socialite and
he was a famous lawyer who participated in the Nuremberg trials)
purchased the home at Calle Molina 8 in 1950.
Christmas 1992 – back in time with an elegant beginning.
Jim and Nancy Swickard purchased Calle Molina 8 in 1989
and it would become the cornerstone of Hacienda de los Santos ten
years later. The resort opened in 1999 after purchasing the
first of five adjacent properties.
The Molina 8 property is 14,000 sq ft under roof ( the Swickards
home for the first eight years), the additional acquisition
(property number 2 which was subdivided in 1870 and a dividing
wall built between the properties which we opened up with large
cast iron Peruvian gates) was 8,000 square feet under roof,
thus restoring the property as it was prior to 1870 at 22,000
square feet. Molina 8 is thought to be the second oldest oldest
building in the compound.
Next to the two restaurants and bars are a museum and theater.
The stone theater, although less than 20 years of age, is a copy
of an Andalucian 18th century structure located in southern Spain.
The brick, boveda, ceiling consistsof more than 10,000 brick
expertly laid by the hands of ‘albaniles’ from Guanajuato.
There is a ‘Cava’ underneath the theater where wine and liquor
are kept naturally cool and also temperature controlled to 50
degrees for ideal conditions, especially for the wine.
Dining outdoors under the Sonoran stars during a musical presentation.
The main portion of the hotel (Molina 8) in the 1800’s was leased to
the various managers of the Mexican Mint. It is believed that an
underground tunnel existed which connected the home to the Mint and
the possible location was recently identified by local ‘diviner’
Señor Figueroa, along with a second tunnel running the length of
the main portal. When acquiring the property, the Swickards
inherited a Witte one cylinder generator which is believed to have
been the only source of electricity in the village in the 1950’s,
as well as have been the source of electricity for the German
military when present during WWI, covertly operating a very tall
radio station/antenna for transmissions to Germany on eavesdropping
of naval ships in the San Diego area. Photos of the German antenna
exist in the local museum and there are remnants of its
construction on Guadalupe Hill in the center of the village.
Spanning Arroyo Escondido and bridging Haciena de los Santos.
The stone arched bridge which connects the two sides of Hacienda
de los Santos was built in 2000 and was designed by Mexican Architect
Felipe Almada. After the ‘Álamos Flood’ of 2008, the city requested
permission from the Swickards to duplicate the style for the village
and five additional graceful bridges were built in the village.
Listen closely and one may hear the past come alive.
What is called the ‘Sugar Mill’ was an actual sugar mill which
was built in the late 1600’s by the Murillo family and it went bankrupt
in 1710. The same Murillo family, many generations later, still live on
two adjacent properties to the former mill. The Cafe Agave was built by
the Swickards, utilizing much of the original foundation of the mill.
The present day large fountain is the actual ‘Mill’ where the sugar cane
was ground with two oxen pulling a large mill stone in a circular fashion.
The original well at the mill is still in use today, providing excellent
water for the Hacienda. The ‘Zapata’s Cantina’ dates also to the late
1600’s and was part of the sugar mill complex.
Wherever you look there is something to see.
Hacienda de los Santos has received numerous awards including:
Alvaro Obregon Humanitarian Award to Jim & Nancy by Governor
Eduardo Bours & Janet Napolitano. 18 Consecutive Years the AAA
Four Diamond Awards (5.9% receive this award of 28,000 rated hotels
worldwide). Historic Hotels Worldwide (Member of this U.S. National
Trust Washington, DC non-profit group). #1 Small Hotel in Mexico
by Trip Advisor. Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Mexico by Trip Advisor.
#1 Hotel in Northern Mexico by U.S. News & World Reports.
A 2014 map is helpful navigating the verdant grounds and beautiful buildings.
With concerns about our environment, the Swickard family continues
to make the resort more ‘Green’ by having converted more than 90% of the
lighting to LED. Also, most of the hot water used by their state of the
art commercial washing machines, which require the least water possible
for perfect cleaning, as well as the kitchens and many of the rooms and
suites are heated by solar collectors which are not visible to those
staying at the resort. For irrigation purposes, there is roof catchment
to harvest rain water which is stored underground including two
“aljibe” or cisterns..
The past, present and future come together – the best of all worlds.
The Hacienda have been converting all air conditioners to heat
pumps to conserve on electricity and offers three types of bicycles
to guests including electric. The Hacienda is one of the very few,
if any, Álamos hotels which have a complete electrical back-up system for
the kitchens, dining areas, water supply and one fourth of our rooms.
This was done primarily so if there was a power outage during a major
event with hundreds of people, the party would continue and there would
not be any accidents or possible hysteria in the dark. Half the cost of
the expensive project was the Caterpillar generator, the balance was dealing
with esthetics so it would not be heard or seen by the guests… in other
words a colonial structure was built to conceal the unit.
The Hacienda’s elegance carries over to its private secure airplane hanger.
As a pilot, Jim Swickard, was instrumental in saving the local airport
from closure in 1999. It is the only resort in Mexico which offers
private, secure hangar space for a dozen single and twin engine aircraft.
Also, the resort has 52 acres adjacent to the runway which includes
a two bedroom ranch house for guests that might want to stay
in Álamos for a month or even long term. It is in a beautiful mesquite
setting, has all city services, an oversized one car garage, large
laundry, two baths, new kitchen, etc. All of this is in a park-like
setting with an 18th century Andalusian style gatehouse and is expected
to be operation by December 1, 2017. The airport is rated for business
jets. The resort boasts the largest private pilot’s club in Mexico
with more than 500 pilot members in ‘Club Pilotos of Mexico.”
Jim Swickard, March 2017.
Anders enjoys a splendid March afternoon at the Hacienda de los Santos.
After months of planning, the Álamos Sonic Expedition 2017 was scheduled
to kick off February 23 with Anders Tomlinson arriving and spending his first
night in Álamos at the Hacienda de los Santos. The expedition’s goal was
to film an epilogue for Anders’ film project, Good Morning Álamos, Sonora,
México, which began in 1983 with his first Alamos visit and concluded
in the summer of 1996. Anders was interested in what had changed over
the past 21 years since 1996. He emailed his Álamos contact list for
changes that they had seen. Everyone mentioned Hacienda de los
Santos’ expansion and the increased number of cars on the streets.
The reception room is entered from Calle Molina. Friendly staff await your arrival.
Anders arrived in Álamos before noon by bus from Tijuana and Navajoa.
On the ride into Álamos he was struck by the new construction west of
the hospital. He walked from the bus station in the Alameda, up
“Kissing Alley” and across Plaza de los Armasto the Museo
Costumbrista de Sonora where he found Tony Estrada,
the director, at his desk. Tony gave Anders a short car ride to
the Hacienda de los Santos. Humberto Enriquez was at
the front desk. Humberto had been in contact with Anders for
over a year and had contributed photos and notes to
alamos-sonora-mexico.com. Jamie (Swickard) Alcantar entered the
reception area, just as she had in 1992 as a teenager while Anders’
film crew was photographing the very same room which at that time
was the living room. She selected Room 3 – Bugambilla
for Anders’ stay. One of the gardening staff carried the big
backpack that had all the cameras and audio gear to the room.
Anders had returned to Álamos.
Seven uniformed goundskeepers were working during Anders’ visit.
On the walk to the room Anders noticed that art and gardens were
everywhere. Room 3 – Bugambilla was well appointed and felt like a
guest room in a friend’s luxurious home that opened a window to another
era back when Alamos was one of the richest towns on earth. Modern
amenities in the bath suite made life comfortable for a traveler who
had spent 22 hours on buses. Anders was relieved to see no television
to connect him back to where he had just come from.
Teatro Alamada is a place to share in style and comfort.
Later that afternoon, Anders and Humberto ran through a soundcheck of the
presentation for the Álamos History Association the next morning.
The theater’s acoustic properties impressed Anders. A ceiling of three
brick semi-domes, walls of different materials and a variety of chairs
including sofas and large upholstered club chairs enhanced the sonically
enchanted Teatro Alamada. The seating capacity is 88.
Mirador lookout can be seen atop the hill behind the Hacienda’s gym roof.
Anders went up to the Mirador before sunrise on February 24th to take
in Álamos 2017 – the big picture. All the mountains were where he last saw
them two decades ago and there were more lights going up into the foothills,
especially on the northern side of Arroyo Aduana. The village had grown as
time and events marched on like they had in his own life. He was thankful
to be back. To the east the Sierra Madre spoke of other eras and Anders
listened lost in memories. Anders heard a familiar voice singing and
turned around to see the distinctive profile of Chaco, who had taken
Anders on a magical walk up Tecolote Hill on Anders’ last day in
Álamos during his first visit in 1993. De ja vu.
The winds of time and change come off the mountains and sweep the valley.
There was a cool biting breeze as Mirador’s shadow retracted across
the valley floor with the rising sun. Anders could see Hacienda de
los Santos’ large footprint spanning Arroyo Escondido. One of the
bridges can be seen in the above photo. In a couple of hours he
would be presenting video clips that promoted his Álamos film project
and supportive websites. Looking back at the Hacienda from atop Mirador.
Notice one of the bridges in the middle of the photo.
Arriving at the Hacienda one is welcomed by the pool patio in all its glory.
Anders walked down the Mirador rock stairs that had been built since
he last visited. He arrived at the Hacienda de los Santos a
half hour before showtime. There was no time to shower and change.
He had a bountiful fruit bowl in the Cafe Agave and a brief conversation
with Jim Swickard who informed him a large crowd was expected and
it might be good to delay the start to make sure everyone had
arrived. As Anders walked across the grounds a woman, also headed
to the theater, asked what was happening. Anders replied that there
were going to be Álamos videos presented by someone from out of town.
The theater did fill up. Once the show was ready to start a college
class from Álamos came in and lined up on both side walls and joined
Anders in standing through the show which started with a video of Álamos
circa March, 1983. When the show ended Anders thanked the crowd as they
left the theater and he went back to “Room 3 – Bugambilla” to take a
shower, rest and prepare for his first afternoon shoot exploring Alamos
2017: walking, listening and looking with camera/audio recorder ready.
A splendid March afternoon at the Hacienda.
Hacienda de los Santos provides guests with a map of the grounds
which Anders found helpful since he was getting lost amongst the buildings
and gardens. He spent a second night at the Hacienda and enjoyed one
of the best sleeps in decades.
Every night is a festival of lights at the Hacienda de los Santos.
The next morning Rigo from Casa Serena Vista picked up Anders at the
Hacienda de los Santos and drove him over to Joan Winderman’s
Casa 6 Toluca where Anders would establish a base camp
for the expedition’s duration. It takes a village to make a film.
Anders would return, in passing, to the Hacienda and photograph,
while audio recording, its grounds at different parts of the day.
He also videotaped two evenings of musical entertainment. Twice he lost the
windscreen to his small audio recorder and both times the groundskeepers found
it. The uniformed full-time staff of 45, and as many as 65 for large events,
were professional and attentive to their guests and represented the best
that Álamos has to offer. Hacienda de los Santos Resort
is truly a place where time stands still – a place where comfort
and elegance reigns in Álamos, Sonora, México.
Conga line at Hacienda de los Santos
Another Álamos moment from early March 2017: 100 seconds with the
Estudiantina de Álamos performing at the Hacienda de los Santos in Álamos,
Sonora, Mexico as a busload of tourists from Arizona join the conga line.
Estudiantina de Álamos is one of many cultural programs under the guidance
of the Museo Costumbrista de Sonora. Rafael de Jesus Figueroa Ju, the
fantastic accordion player, is the current Estudiantina director. On this
evening the group leaders delivered beautiful new acoustic guitars donated
to the Estudiantina by the Desert Museum in Tucson.
Live Music and togetherness! An evening under Sonoran stars.
Yoreme Al-Leiya in Álamos
Februrary 26, 2017 Yoreme Al-Leiya, which means “cheerful Indian,” traveled
from nearby Navajoa, Sonora to perform at the Hacienda de los Santos in Álamos,
Sonora, México. Anders Tomlinson had the privilege of documenting this colorful
evening of dance, music, costumes and theatrical lighting. A wonderful time
was had by all.
A special place in Álamos
Hacienda de los Santos in Álamos, Sonora, México is a special place
in a special town in a special landscape. It was originally built
for a wealthy silver baron in the 17th century. Photos and video
editing by Anders Tomlinson. Music is by Álamos’ own Los Hacendados
led by local Jose Ramón Alcántar Hurtado performing “Chan Chan”
by Compay Segundo.
To see it as it is today visit Hacienda de los Santos Resort and Spa.
Other 2017 Álamos pages:
6 Calle Toluca
Casa Serena Vista
Teresita’s Panadería y Bistro
Anders Álamos youtube channel
Anders in 2017 Álamos
©2017 Anders Tomlinson and Hacienda de los Santos, all rights reserved.
All content by Anders Tomlinson unless noted.