A hacendado was the owner or manager of a hacienda, Spanish for an estate.
Depending on the region, the haciendas could be plantations, mines, mills, distilleries or business factories. Many haciendas combined a number of these activities. The haciendas in the northern regions of Mexico were usually agriculture and livestock based. Hacienda society was structured with the hacendado and his small management circle at the top, and below them the vaqueros (cowboys), peones, and campesinos (peasants). The peones worked land that belonged to the hacendado. The campesinos worked small holdings, and owed a portion to the hacendado.
In Mexico the haciendas were abolished by law in 1917, but remnants of the system continued to affect the country well in to the mid-20th century, as can be seen in the novel.