The ranchers brought with them other Spanish traditions. They organized their landholdings as haciendas. A hacienda engaged in any money-making business: lumber, sheep, mining, farming, etc. However, the further north from central Mexico the haciendas spread, the more they became limited to cattle raising and the larger they grew in order to support the herds. Over time, the hacienda became an enclosed community, a feudal estate, whose workers and their families were answerable only to the hacendado or patron (ranch owner). The landowners provided food, clothing, shelter, and religious instruction to the native Indian or mestizo (mixed Indian and Spaniard), who provided their labor. The hacendado and his family lived in a large house made of sillar blocks quarried on the property. Most early ranch complexes often were surrounded by stone walls for security or had other defensive fortifications. The casa mayor (main house) had troneras (gunports) built into the walls and served as a fort during the frequent attacks from Comanche and Lipan Apache Indians.
The vaqueros and hacienda laborers and their families lived in one-room huts, or jacales. A jacal was made of mesquite poles placed upright, supported by forked horcones (corner posts). Limbs were placed horizontally across the poles, and mud or adobe filled the openings between the limbs. Forked poles centered on the end walls supported the ridgepole beneath the thatched roof. Women cooked in a grass or corn stalk ramada (arbor) near the jacal, and the family ate outdoors. A few goats or chickens lived in a pen; corn, beans, and pumpkins grew in a garden near the house.