The Chargé in Mexico (Hanna) to the Secretary of State

No. 3878

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy and translation of the Agrarian Bill which was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies by the President of the Republic, and reported out of committee in an amended form on the 8th ultimo. The Bill, as an entity, has been approved by the Chamber, and is now being discussed and voted on article by article in accordance with the prescriptions of Mexican law.

Although the first two articles have received an affirmative vote, action on Article 3 has become complicated by the threatened opposition of the Liberal Constitutional Block, which, really on an issue of patronage, but nominally because of the President’s supine toleration of numerous instances of abuse of authority on the part of the radical element throughout the country, has declared its intention to defeat the bill. In any event, the law, if enacted, will probably apply only to the Federal District and Territories, inasmuch as the Peleceano Block had previously announced its opposition to its further extension “in violation of the sovereign rights of the States.”

I have [etc.]

Matthew E. Hanna
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Draft of Mexican Law for the Subdivision of Large Landed Estates

Article 1. The Nation recognizes the natural, inalienable, and imprescriptible right which every individual has to own and cultivate for himself a parcel of land the products of which, upon a moderate application of labor, may be sufficient to satisfy his necessities and those of his family, and permit him to make a saving with which to meet the eventualities of the future.

Article 2. In fulfillment of the written text of article 27 of the Constitution, and for the realization of the right to which the foregoing article refers, the expropriation of the following lands, to the extent which may be necessary and in compliance with the terms of this law, shall be considered of public utility:

Lands which have been kept in a state of idleness during the last 5 years; and
Lands which, in the judgment of the National Agrarian Commission, are cultivated by primitive and antiquated methods.

Article 3. Any rural estate which, due to its extent, subject to qualifications enumerated in the following article, is prejudicial to the social welfare, whether because it creates a monopoly of agricultural products in the region where it is located, or because it contributes to produce a crisis in prices or scarcity of alimentary articles, or because it offers a notably meager yield in proportion to that of neighboring estates, or because it obstructs for any other cause the agricultural development of the country or the exercise of the right consecrated by article 1 of this law, shall be considered a latifundio.

Article 4. The National Agrarian Commission, in the name of the Executive of the Union, and upon previous receipt of the appropriate petition for lands, shall be the authority empowered to make, in each case, the declaration that a rural property is a latifundio This declaration shall be made in accordance with the rules established in the foregoing article and shall take into account the following factors, to the end that its decision may have a technical basis:

The quality of the lands and their state of irrigation;
The elevation above sea level of the land under consideration, and all the details of climate which are accompaniments of said elevation;
The meteorological conditions of the region;
The location of the property in relation to the centers of population, and the means of communication with said centers;
The abundance or scarcity of labor and the average wage rate in the community;
The deficiency in cultivation in whole or in part, and the primitive or modern methods employed; and
The extent of the property in relation to others of the State or region.

Article 5. When the applications for land refer to a property which, in the judgment of the respective Local Agrarian Commission, manifestly cannot be considered as a latifundio, the interested party, who shall have the right to apply to the National Agrarian Commission for a review of the case, shall be so informed.

Article 6. The expropriation to which this law refers can only be made upon the filing of petitions for parcels of land with respect to each individual property.

Article 7. In conformity with this law, those rural properties on which there is an established industry which would be ruined as a consequence of the subdivision, cannot be expropriated to such an extent as, in the judgment of the National Agrarian Commission, would necessarily cause said property to lose its character as an agricultural industrial unit.

Article 8. In making an appropriation of a latifundio on which irrigation works exist, or are being constructed or are projected, the prompt execution of which is sufficiently guaranteed in the judgment of the National Agrarian Commission, the same shall be exempt from expropriation, and not only the irrigation works which are constructed or are to be constructed, but also those areas served by said works shall be exempt from expropriation.

Article 9. The amount of land which may be granted to each individual shall vary in the following form:

Minimum Maximum
Irrigation lands, from 10 to 20 hectares
Rain lands, 1st class, from 20 to 40 hectares
Rain lands, 2d class, from 30 to 60 hectares
Rain lands, 3d class, from 40 to 80 hectares

Provided the right to petition for arable land is not impaired, each individual may be granted up to 200 hectares for the raising of cattle, and all petitioners for arable lands may be granted up to 100 hectares of pasture land for the maintenance of their working animals.

Article 10. The Local Agrarian Commissions are authorized to receive and forward, and the National Agrarian Commission to [Page 483] decide, the petitions made by persons interested in the exercise of the rights granted by this law, as well as to decide definitely in regard to the expropriation of lands necessary for the development of the small landed property.

Article 11. The appointment of the members of the National Agrarian Commission shall be submitted for confirmation to the Chamber of Deputies of the National Congress of the Union, which Chamber shall also have the right to decree its cessation by a vote of two-thirds of the members of said Chamber.

Article 12. In conformity with the provisions of paragraphs 2, 3, and 8 of article 27 of the Constitution, the expropriations decreed by the present law for the formation of small landed property by means of the subdivision of the estates to which this law refers, are considered as of public utility. Therefore, in conformity with the last of the above-mentioned paragraphs, the proceedings for carrying out the expropriations are placed in the hands of the administrative authorities.

Article 13. The rights which are granted by this law may be exercised by Mexicans and naturalized foreigners, provided they are residents of the Republic and are in full exercise of their civil rights.

Article 14. Mexicans and foreigners, owners of areas of land greater than those fixed for each case in article 9 of this present law, shall be excluded from its benefits.

Article 15. All other conditions being equal, the neighbors of a place shall be preferred to those from a distance, and married men to bachelors. As between the neighbors of a place, the preferential right shall be given to tenants, persons cultivating the land as partners, and the peons of the property to be subdivided. Mexican women of legal age and widows shall also have the right to acquire parcels of land, whenever they are for their own benefit and not for that of others.

Article 16. For all juridical purposes, parcels of land shall be considered indivisible, and therefore, in case of hereditary succession they shall be adjudged to one heir only, who shall be designated by all of his co-heirs by mutual agreement. If this designation is not made within a term of 4 months from the date of the probation, the judge in charge of the case shall sell at public auction.

Article 17. Each grantee shall only have the right to acquire one parcel of land in the area which is granted by the terms of article 9 of this law.

Article 18. The grantees shall work their parcels in complete liberty, cultivating thereon the crops which may appear most advantageous to them and by methods which they may consider most appropriate, and only in regard to the exploitation of forests and waters shall they be subject to the respective laws.

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Article 19. The right over the parcels shall be perpetual and inviolable, without any restrictions other than those which, for evident reasons of public interest, may be established by law; but in case of the forfeit of the parcel, to which reference is made in article 21, the grantee may remove the improvements which he may have made and which he can remove without impairment of said property.

Article 20. Parcels which are granted to petitioners cannot be the subject of contracts of sale, mortgage, usufruct, or any other contract which may limit the right of ownership, nor can they be attached. Existing rights of way shall continue, but shall be modified in the terms of the respective law.

The grantee may transfer his parcel when, in the judgment of the Local Agrarian Commission, there is a justified cause, said judgment being subject to revision by the National Agrarian Commission.

The crops may be held as a guarantee for the debts which may be contracted by the proprietor; but as long as the price of the parcel has not been totally paid, the crops can only serve as a guarantee for the debts which may be contracted with agrarian institutions of credit.

Article 21. The rights which this law gives to grantees over their parcels shall be forfeited in the following cases:

Failure to make one of the yearly instalments on the price;
Failure to cultivate the parcel for a period of 1 year, except in case of force majeure or of absolute impossibility, all of which shall be duly proven before the respective Local Agrarian Commission; and
Failure to pay the respective taxes for a period of 2 consecutive years.

The forfeiture to which this article refers shall in each case be determined by the National Agrarian Commission.

Article 22. When, in conformity with this law, the expropriation of lands takes place, the owners shall be summoned in order that within 10 days they may declare whether the decree is acceptable to them. If, upon the expiration of this term, they give no reply to the summons, their approval shall be taken for granted, and the expropriation shall proceed in consequence.

Article 23. In case of opposition, the National Agrarian Commission, after a study of the technical points relative to the expropriation, shall decide as to the legality of the same, taking into account that in no case shall its decision invalidate the rights granted by article 1 of this law.

The intervention of the judicial authorities shall be limited, as is provided by article 27 of the Constitution, to judging and deciding in regard to the excess value which an expropriated property may [Page 485] have over the tax valuation, because of the improvements made on it at a later date.

Article 24. For the purposes of the first paragraph of the foregoing article, the proprietors whose lands are to be studied with a view to expropriation are obliged to furnish topographical maps, levels, and the agronomic, economic, and any other natural data which may be required for the study of the factors which, in conformity with article 4 of this law, must be taken into consideration.

The Department of Agriculture and Fomento is charged with completing the data furnished by the interested parties or with making the compilation complete, and with making the necessary studies for facilitating the decisions of the National Agrarian Commission. It is likewise charged with the making of subdivision maps, based on the condition of the lands, on the provisions of this law, and the decisions of the National Agrarian Commission.

Article 25. Whenever the National Agrarian Commission deems it necessary, because of the special condition of the lands, it may appeal to the Department of Agriculture and Fomento to make the necessary technical study to determine the zones which, in the subdivision of any landed property, must be reserved for forests, pasturage, or industrial uses of a special character.

Article 26. Through the very act of occupation of the lands by the Local Agrarian Commission, in virtue of the consent of the proprietor, or through a decision in regard to expropriation rendered by the National Agrarian Commission in cases of opposition, all claims which the Public Treasury may have against the expropriated lands, whether because of taxes, or which may have their origin in the laws of disentail, idle lands, or for any other cause whatsoever, and which might affect the rural property, shall be void, with the sole exception of the eminent domain which is inherent in the Nation and which can never be renounced.

Article 27. Contracts of any class whatsoever, real or simulated, shall be held to be null and void in that part which may be in opposition to the fulfillment of this law. Nevertheless, those who have contracted in good faith shall be indemnified for the improvements which they may have made and shall have the right to harvest the crops on the land, if they have planted them. The lessees shall have the right to exact a proportional reduction of the rent stipulated in their respective contracts.

Article 28. The person whose parcel is protected by the record to which reference is made in article 35 of this law shall not be disturbed by suits for recovery or enjoinments of possession which may be founded on causes existing prior to the date of said record, and its presentation shall be sufficient to terminate the case.

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Article 29. The delegate of the National Agrarian Commission in each federal entity is charged with the publication and effective circulation of this law in all of the cities, villages, and ranches of his jurisdiction. He is likewise charged, on his own responsibility, with the publication and circulation in all of those places of the instructions which, in brief form and intelligible to all persons, shall be issued by the National Agrarian Commission in regard to the making of applications and the proceedings to be followed by the interested persons. Said instructions shall be accompanied by the text of articles 1 to 4, 7 to 9, 20, 21, 27, and 28 of this law.

Article 30. In establishing regulations to carry out the provisions of this law, the National Agrarian Commission shall take care to give all possible facilities for the presentation and consideration of petitions for lands, by dispensing with useless requirements of form, and by instructing the Local Agrarian Commissions that officially and by means of opportune suggestions to the interested parties, they are to supply the omissions made by the latter, for which purpose, at the end of each petition the Local Agrarian Commissions themselves shall specify the data which they obtain verbally from the petitioners and which the latter through ignorance may not have made a record of in their petitions.

In no case shall a petition be rejected for a deficiency of form; on the contrary, this deficiency shall be corrected by the Local Agrarian Commission, which shall immediately address the interested parties, requesting the data which they may have omitted.

Article 31. The Private Agrarian Committee of each place, or in its stead the Municipal President, shall order billboards to be placed in the accustomed places with the express notice that they refer to “matters concerning the subdivision of lands”, and on which must be posted:

The present law;
The instructions of the National Agrarian Commission in regard to the presentation and proceedings of petitions for parcels;
An extract of the petitions presented before the local Agrarian Commission with regard to the lands within the jurisdiction under reference;
The decisions in regard to expropriation issued by the National Agrarian Commission with relation to these same lands; and
The properties which may be granted by the Local Agrarian Commission.

All of these documents shall be renewed periodically so that they may be kept legible; the understanding being that, with exception of the law and its instructions, the publication of which shall be permanent, [Page 487] the other documents shall remain exposed to the public for a period of 1 month only.

Article 32. The petitions for parcels may be presented to the respective Local Agrarian Commissions or directly to the National Agrarian Commission, if the interested parties so prefer; and they may be delivered in person or sent by registered mail.

Article 33. The Local Agrarian Commission, according to the case, shall issue to each interested person a duly certified receipt for the petition, stating the principal facts contained therein. It must likewise forward to the National Agrarian Commission a complete copy of the petition when this has been presented to the Local Agrarian Commission.

The same procedure must be observed by the National Agrarian Commission in its turn, which after reserving for itself a complete copy of the respective petition, shall send it immediately to the Local Commission to which it pertains for action.

Article 34. When it becomes necessary to proceed to the occupation of the lands, whether by reason of the expressed or tacit consent of the proprietors or of the decision of the National Agrarian Commission, the Local Agrarian Commission shall take possession of the lands and shall proceed to fix the location and boundaries of the parcels according to the following rules:

A map shall be made of each parcel, indicating its exact dimension and boundaries, for registration in the Tax Office, with the understanding that the parcels must be delivered immediately to the interested parties according to the requirements referred to in article 35 of this law, the proper map to be furnished at a later date.
Wherever the topography of the land permits, parcels shall be given a regular and uniform area.
The boundaries shall be fixed with all precision.
An effort shall be made to avoid enclosed parcels by giving parcels access to the public road, in order to avoid as far as possible the need for rights of way.
Also, an effort shall be made to provide that each parcel may have drainage into canals or conduits of common use.
The parcels shall be numbered serially, so that at the time of the issuing of titles to the grantees, the parcels may be designated as follows: Parcel number of the estate known as , Municipality of , Federal District, Territory, or State of

This in no way prejudices the right of the grantees to give whatever names they may desire to their parcels.

Article 35. The proprietor having manifested his approval of the expropriation, or the expropriation having been decided upon by the National Agrarian Commission, the Local Agrarian Commission must give possession of the parcel to the grantee, with an express judicial notice of the location of the adjoining properties. Of this [Page 488] action, which shall have the same effect as a granting of judicial possession, a record must be made which must be signed by all of the persons taking part therein and of which a copy shall be given to the interested party for his protection.

Article 36. The titles granting possession of the parcels must be signed by the Secretary of Agriculture and Fomento in his character as President of the National Agrarian Commission, and by the interested parties. So long as the price of the parcel is not fully paid to the Nation, a title of ownership shall not be issued.

Article 37. The deeds shall bear no tax whatsoever.

Article 38. Owners of expropriated lands have the right to receive indemnification for their value as it appears registered in the Tax Office, plus an increase of 10%.

Article 39. In the absence of data in the Tax Office in regard to the lands under consideration, an appraisement thereof shall be made by the engineers of the respective Local Agrarian Commission, who shall take as a basis the valuation of adjoining or nearby properties, as registered in the Tax Offices.

Article 40. Payment shall be made in bonds of the National Agrarian Debt, payable in 20 years in yearly instalments covering capital and interest. The rate of interest shall not exceed, in any case, 4% per annum.

Article 41. The income to the Government from expropriated lands shall be set aside for the payment of said bonds issued in favor of the proprietors. In no case shall the Federal Government make a different application of the funds which constitute this guarantee.

Article 42. When the taxation value of the parcel subject to expropriation is determined, or when in the absence of taxation data the parcel is appraised under the terms of this law, payment shall be made to the proprietors from what remains after deducting the following preferred charges:

To the National Treasury that which may be owing to it for taxes; and
To the existing mortgaging or financing creditors the proportional share of their claims in the order of their entry in the Register. For this purpose the creditors shall be obliged to divide their credits.

Article 43. In case the owners of the lands refuse to receive the price to which they are entitled, and whenever the mortgaging or financing creditors refuse to accept the payment of their credits, the bonds shall remain at their disposal for the term of 1 year in the General Treasury of the Nation, after which time they shall lose all right to claim them.

Article 44. The price which the grantee pays for his land shall be the same as that which the Nation is obliged to pay to the person [Page 489] from whom it has been expropriated, including capital and interest, plus 5% for expenses of mapmaking and subdivision, and another 4% for the unpaid capital; the grantee must pay the price in 20 yearly instalments, which shall be counted from the day on which he is given possession.

Article 45. Any person who publishes reports, notices, or rumors in opposition to this law and its application, or who, by any means whatsoever, attempts to dissuade applicants from filing their petitions, shall pay a fine of from 50 to 500 pesos, and in case of a repetition of the offense he shall suffer the penalty of from 1 to 3 months’ imprisonment.

Article 46. Owners who endeavor to hinder compliance with this law by means of legal subtleties, sophistry, or manifestly irregular recourse to the courts shall pay a fine equivalent to 10% of the taxable value of the property under consideration. Those who take up arms against the Constitutional Government of the Republic or against the local authorities, or who provoke, aid, or foment the rebellion of others, or who, in any violent manner whatsoever, try to hinder the introduction of the agrarian reform, shall lose their rights of citizenship for 10 years and shall pay a fine to the National Treasury equivalent to 20% of the value of the lands the expropriation of which is under consideration. Those who, with the object indicated, provoke foreign intervention or who in any manner seek the support of foreign governments or of foreign peoples to exercise diplomatic, military, or economic pressure against the people or Government of Mexico, shall be deprived of their rights of citizenship and shall pay a fine equal in value to 40% of their holdings. The Federal Prosecuting Attorney, in conformity with the terms of this article and without prejudice to the continuation of the expropriation proceedings, shall institute the respective suit before the appropriate judicial authorities.

Article 47. Any agrarian authority who, in violation of this law, rejects a petition for lands for a simple defect of form or who delays the completion of the respective records, shall suffer, in addition to his immediate dismissal, the penalty of from 1 to 6 months’ imprisonment.

Article 48. All national lands shall, from the date of the promulgation of this law, be subdivided and transferred in accordance with the provisions thereof. The sale price of said lands shall be determined by taking the value of the neighboring properties as a basis, with the deductions which, in the judgment of the Department of Agriculture and Fomento, should be made, taking into consideration the distance from ways of communication, the scarcity of labor, and the difficulties which must be overcome to place said lands in a state of production.

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First. The present law is issued in organic conformity with paragraph 3 of article 27 of the Constitution, and in exercise of the right which the Nation has to impose upon private property the restrictions which public interest demands. Consequently, since the Legislatures of the States have not yet issued laws regarding the subdivision of latifundios, which they were obliged to do within the Constitutional period subsequent to the promulgation of the supreme code, this law shall be compulsory throughout the Republic, ceasing to be in force in each State when said State shall decree its corresponding agrarian laws.

Second. In conformity with the provisions of section (b) of the eleventh paragraph of article 27 of the Constitution, owners of lands declared to be latifundios, in accordance with the terms of this law, shall enjoy a period of 3 months within which they themselves may carry out the subdivision of the lands decreed expropriable, subject to the provisions of this same law. The National Agrarian Commission shall be empowered to extend the said period for not exceeding 2 months, provided, in each case, it is fully shown that it has been impossible for the owner to complete the subdivision.

Third. Until such time as the operation of cooperative agricultural societies is provided for by law, the Secretary of Agriculture and Fomento, for the purpose of expediting the subdivisions to which the present law refers, shall aid in the formation of agricultural colonies.

Fourth. The provisions of the present law shall in no case be applicable to the restitution and grants of ejidos (commons), which shall be governed exclusively by the law of January 6, 1915, and by the decrees or rulings which regulate it.

Fifth. The present law shall become effective on the day of its promulgation.

Sixth. All laws and regulations which are opposed to the present law are hereby repealed.

Seventh. The National Agrarian Commission shall regulate the precepts of this law by means of circulars.

  1. File translation revised.