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ganado mayor may be considered as the bases of the organization of many of the large haciendas of modern times.

Many influences combined to create large holdings, although the smaller ones were amply provided for by the Ordenanzas de Pobladores mentioned above. The cheapest thing with which to reward faithful subjects was land. There were the large areas not used by towns, Aztec lords, or Indian towns, which were called realengas or terrenos baldíos. There was need to create large estates, the owners of which would serve as guardians of frontiers against savage Indians. The careless, unskillful, or selfish measurement of grants also made for great size of holdings. Instead of pacing off or measuring with proper instruments, grantees adopted the practice of measuring vaguely from conspicuous trees, rocks, or other natural landmarks, and of occupying lands the exact area of which was not determined at all. The legal practice of leaving unoccupied margins between towns, Indian or Spanish, and other grants, naturally promoted a gradual extension to absorb such interstices. Legal tenure of such lands not held under titles was made possible by various laws, the chief of which, in 1754, straightened out the property situation by the process of composition, that is, purchase at a nominal sum of lands held in mere possessory right for a prescriptive period of ten years.

The Indian towns were frequently confirmed to their native inhabitants, as has already been stated, by royal grants. New towns for them were also organized as opportunity offered. In these towns the Indians lived as joint, corporate, communal owners of their lands. Such towns were brought into municipal relations with the government by a law of Charles V, issued March 21, 1551.1

The most effective legislation for protection of Indian lands was that which established for them the fundo legal. This word does not appear in colonial legislation, but is mentioned by Rodríguez de San Miguel to denote lands conceded in communal holdings to Indian towns. The fundo legal measured six hundred varas toward each of the cardinal points, starting from the church, which was at the center of the town.3 The legislation of 1551 was due to agitation begun in 1546 to have Indians settled in towns. On May 26, 1567, the viceroy Falces promulgated his Ordenanzas, which provided originally that Indian towns should have five hundred varas of land, and “as much more as was necessary" for sowing. Orders by Philip II attempted to preserve their lands for all subjugated Indians. After an Indian town should be settled no grant might in future be made to Spaniards within a distance of one


1 S. Moreno Cora, Reseña histórica de la propiedad territorial en la República Mexicana, (Leyes Federales vigentes sobre tierras) 18.

2 Op. cit., 19.

J. N. Rodríguez de San Miguel. Pandectas hispano-mericanas II, 305. González Roa and Co v arrubias, El proctema rural de Mérico, 25.

Galván, Ordenanzas de tierras y aguas, 189; F. F. de la Maza.

colonización y terrenos baldíos. No. 12, p. 12.

De la Maza, No. 17, pp. 17-18.

Código de

thousand varas "away from the towns and houses of the Indians."" But in spite of these Ordenanzas the Spaniards who had farms. near the Indian towns invaded their lands and appropriated them "sometimes by violence and fraud." The Indians thus had to leave their towns, their lands, and their homes, "which was what the Spaniards wanted them to do."2 A remedy for this practice was sought in legislation providing that Indian towns which needed lands should be given not only the five hundred varas provided for by the Ordenanza, but all the land they needed up to six hundred varas on each side, and that the land reserved to them should be measured from the house farthest from the center of the town, instead of from the church. This privilege was extended to all Indian towns, whether recently founded or earlier, but the important towns were to receive from the audiencia and viceroy all the land they needed without limitation whatever. Furthermore, the farms of the Spaniards were to come no nearer to such towns than eleven hundred varas measured from the bounds of the towns.3

This square of land, measuring six hundred or more varas from the center of Indian towns, is what is modernly designated the fundo legal. It contains approximately 250 acres. In the establishment of this plot of communal land for the townsite, the system used in Spain for establishment of new towns was observed. In Spain the plot so designated was called the traza de la población, "trace" of the town. The "traza" was early used for Mexico City. The cédula of 1687 was reversed on July 12, 1695, at request of the Spanish farmers. By the new legislation the traza or fundo legal was measured at six hundred varas from the church and not from the last house. The farmers complained that the Indians habitually encroached upon their farms by building little huts as far from the center of their towns as possible and then demanding that the distance which the Spaniards must observe should be measured from these huts.

Thus the corporate limit of Indian towns was, for most of the colonial epoch, a square measuring six hundred varas in the four cardinal directions from the center of the town. Philip II, on December 1, 1573, issued a cédula on colonization providing that when towns and "reducions" were to be made "they shall have ample supply of water, lands, forests, entries and exits, and an ejido one league long, where the Indians may have their herds without these becoming confused with those of the Spaniards." This ejido "one league long" is considerably larger than that of the Ordenanza of Falces. One league long is five thousand paces or varas of thirtythree inches.

Op. cit., No. 16. p. 17.

2 Galván, Ordenanzas de tierras y aguas, 192.

3 Real Cédula, June 4, 1687, quoted in Galván, Op. cit., 192-5. Recopilación de Indias. Lib. VI, tit. III, ley 8.

The law of June 4, 1687, cited from Galván above, which provided that lands for Indian towns be measured from the last house, said that this would leave "the shell of the town hollow" (quedando siempre de hueco el casco del pueblo), this being the inside square, measured five hundred varas in each direction from the church, hence the fundo legal.

Thus the legislation on Indian lands designated various areas. But actual grants were made by different viceroys and under varying local conditions, hence provision for the Indians could. not have been uniform. But at least it is certain that the colonial laws provided amply for them in theory..

Aside from the fundo legal and the ejido the Indian towns. acquired other lands by grant or by purchase. Some times individual Indians acquired lands as rewards for services to Spaniards. The towns always acquired them collectively, the lands being known as tierras de parcialidades, de comunidad indígena, or terrenos de común repartimiento. They were intended to produce funds for communal uses, usually religious in character, and were, like the fundo legal and the ejido, inalienable.1

The lands of the Indians were made inalienable to prevent advantage being taken of their indigence or lack of knowledge of their rights. Even individual Indian lands could not be sold or leased except after arduous proceedings before the audiencia. If Indians deserted their lands they were to revert to the crown and not to the encomenderos (Spanish feudal proprietors). In short, the Indians had complete possessory rights and usufruct, but not direct dominium, which was retained by the crown.

In spite of this protection it was said in 1787 that the Indian towns were run down and decaying, that they had no care, and the land had been absorbed by large owners. Manuel Abad y Queipo, Bishop of Michoacán, a Spaniard and a conservative of the first water, declared just before the outbreak, of the Wars of Independence, that the towns had been deprived of their lands by the hacendados, who would rent only at caprice; the lessor would "now endure the Indians, now eject them, pursuing their flocks and burning down their huts. ''3 The great estates of the hacendados and the mortmain system of the church had reduced the land to a rigid nonfluidity disastrous to economic development. And yet the system of land holding was no worse than the dependence, irresponsibility, and lack of initiative upon which it depended and which it fostered and accentuated.

Reform of the situation was attempted under the Ordinance of the Intendancies of 1786. That piece of reconstructive legislation provided for subdivision of the public lands into small tracts to be sold to the natives at reasonable prices, so as to increase small

1 Moreno Cora, Reseña histórica, 20.

2 Hipólito Villaroel, Enfermedades políticas. MS. Vol. IV. 112, 120. Manuel Abad y Queipo, Memoria, quoted in G. Torres Quintero, México hacia el fin del virreinato español, 71.

husbandry. The project met with small success, if any, due to the troubled revolutionary times which soon ensued.

Church lands in colonial times were not merely those held by clergymen, but by the various corporate bodies composing the church. Lands were granted by the king or his agents to churches, convents, hospitals, and schools, in quantities sufficient for their maintenance. Such institutions were forbidden to hold more land than necessary; the churches must be placed over six leagues apart. But in early times great indifference was felt toward the avidity of the church for lands, and from the earliest moments pious bequests were frequent and continuous. Much of this generous giving was necessary for the good of society, the government being poor. Yet the laws attempted to limit church holdings by providing that owners of royal grants might not sell them to the church under penalty of loss. Legislation in 1754 forbade any member of a religious order to intervene in drawing up last wills and testaments. In 1775 a royal cédula forbade confessors or their convents to be heirs or legatees. But in 1796 a royal decree allowed friars to inherit estates.

Perhaps the most significant method of getting land under church control was through loans to hacendados. Loans were rarely called in, the interest thus forming a perpetual charge and an additional cause of nonfluidity. The effect is seen when it is recalled that the church at Independence held nearly two thirds of the real estate of the country either in mortmain or in productive estates called capellanías or in pious institutions. Bishop Abad y Queipo in 1807 estimated the entire productive capital of New Spain at fifty-nine millions of pesos, of which the church controlled nearly three-fourths.2

General interference with church property rights did not begin until 1767, however; in that year the temporal possessions of the Jesuits were sequestrated when the Order was expelled. A conservative estimate places the area of the land then confiscated at one and one-half million hectares or three million seven hundred and fifty thousand acres. Perhaps more than twice that area was taken. In 1798 Charles IV laid hands on church property to repay the bonded indebtedness of Charles III. Estates of benevolent institutions were sold to pay the bonds, remaining unsold Jesuit possessions were added, and all landholders who held lands subject to annual landrents or censos, or under emphyteutic canon, were permitted to make their payments in bonds, which were then withdrawn from circulation. Again in 1805 Charles IV ordered sale of sufficient church property to produce an annual revenue of

1 Recopilación de Indias. Lib. IV, tit. XII, ley 10.

2 Bancroft, History of Mexico, III, 697; Alamán, Historia de Méjico, I, 66-68; G. Torres Quintero, México hacia el fin del virreinato español, 66-7, citing Abad y Queipo and Humboldt.


T. Esquivel Obregón, Influencia de España y Estados Unidos sobre México.

two hundred thousand ducats. He also ordered all invested funds of the church to be collected and sent to Spain. About one million two hundred thousand pesos were so collected and sent within a year. The order created consternation; it caused many forced sales, land prices fell, and agriculture and industry were injured. A pernicious feature of the measure gave a percentage of the sales to the officers charged with its execution. This policy of seizure of church property soon became one of the effective causes of the conservative revolt against Spain which closed the Wars of Independence.

After that event, aside from the confiscation of the estates of the hated Inquisition, the attacks on church property did not begin until the rising mestizo class, seeking outlet for its social aspirations, began in 1833 under Gómez Farías a program of disestablishment of the political and economic power of the creole or church party. Had Santa Anna not ousted Gómez Farías the National Congress might have confiscated all church property and divided it among the people. Restored to momentary power as coadjutor with Santa Anna in the War with the United States, Gómez Farías again attacked church property to raise war funds. The state governors and clericals defeated his efforts. He tried again in 1847, but was again ousted by Santa Anna.

These acts were forerunners of the drastic land legislation of 1856. On July 20 of that year, Ignacio Comonfort promulgated the Law of Disentail of ecclesiastical and civil corporations as an attempt at compromise between the church and the rising school of liberal economists. The law was not confiscatory, the lands taken being paid for, but it was strongly opposed by the clergy, largely because no concordat had been celebrated concerning the project. The intent of the law was to produce a small landholding class by converting tenants into owners, but lessees feared the ill-will of the church, and the holdings were absorbed in unbroken lots by

new owners.

There was one fault with the law; it did not afford opportunity for the impecunious mestizo class to acquire the lands for the sake of which its members had participated in the Revolution of Ayutla. That is, it was not at first apparent that the law permitted disentail of the communal lands of Indian towns. But when it was realized that such towns were civil corporations within the meaning of the law, their lands were attacked. The process of alienating these lands was aided by the Circular of October 9, 1856, which eliminated certain costs in the process of sale, and small Indian lands were then subdivided among the former communal holders. Almost at once they were bought up by whites or mestizos at ridiculously low prices. The effect was that the Indians were largely dispossessed of their lands. Practically the same results followed similar action by several of the States. The Indians made a good deal of trouble, and the movement temporarily slackened.

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