The Ambassador in Mexico (Daniels) to the Secretary of State

No. 5586

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch 5588 of October 28, 1937, and to enclose (1) a copy of a strictly informal memorandum of points suggested for adjustment and (2) a translation of the acuerdo which reached the representatives of the landowners of the Yaqui Valley in Mexico City yesterday evening at about half past nine.…

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I expect Licenciado Beteta to advise me today of the outcome of his conversation with President Cárdenas last night. I believe that, as President Cardenas apparently issued his acuerdo before receiving the views for which he had asked me and since the acuerdo was made public here in this morning’s newspapers, there is little likelihood of obtaining the delay for harvesting the crop in June which was requested. It is possible, however, that if we continue to press for other points connected with the transfer of non-irrigated lands in exchange for irrigated lands provided for in the acuerdo, some results helpful to the American landowners may yet be obtained.

Respectfully yours,

Josephus Daniels
[Enclosure 1—Memorandum]

The American Embassy to the Mexican Ministry for Foreign Affairs

1. Acta should contain a list of the Americans and authority for them to own new lands within 50 kilometers of the coast.

2. There are approximately 41 properties in the Yaqui Valley in excess of 100 hectares either owned outright by Americans or by companies which are practically owned by Americans.

[Page 620]

3. These 41 landholders have a total of approximately 18000 hectares of irrigated lands. Deducting from the foregoing 18000 hectares, 4100 as pequeñas propiedades at the rate of 100 hectares for irrigated land, we have approximately 13900 hectares which it is understood the Mexican Government desires to affect.

4. The crop production on this land which the Government desires to affect represents a net income of approximately 26 pesos per hectare per year. Therefore the net income annually for the area to be affected is approximately 361,400 pesos.

5. These properties have certain improvements on them including irrigation systems which alone represent very roughly an investment of 69,500 pesos.

6. In addition to this there are fences, dwellings, other buildings, animals, equipment, and drainage systems. The value of these can not be estimated even approximately without a survey for that specific purpose.

7. Article 54 of the Agrarian Code provides: [Translation]32.

“The following shall not form part of dotations:

Buildings of any kind, provided they are not in ruins, it being understood that they are in such condition when, because of their state of destruction, they are not used for any purpose;
The hydraulic works enumerated below:
  • (a) Dams and reservoirs, with the exception of flooded lands regularly devoted to the planting of crops; (b) diverting works, such as dams, spillways, intakes, limiting works, etc.; (c) conduit works, such as tunnels, canals, aqueducts, pipe-lines, etc.; (d) drainage galleries; (e) works for improvement of springs; (f) pumping stations; (g) wells, provided they are in service on the property affected.”

In view of the above, it would seem that the improvements on the land if and when dotated should be assessed and paid for in accordance with the Code. It may be observed that the irrigated area in which affectations are planned in [is?] approximately 45,000 hectares of irrigated lands, of which the agrarian commissions’ plans call for the affectation of approximately 18000 hectares of irrigated lands.

8. It is understood that the areas now in the possession of the Mexican Government bordering on the irrigated areas westward of the principal irrigation canal can be irrigated by gravity when the Angostura Dam is completed. In that event the blocks in those areas would have to be prepared for irrigation and the irrigation systems installed at the expense of the owners of the land. The region eastward of the main irrigation canal and immediately adjacent to it can be irrigated only by pumping unless an additional main canal should be installed eastward of the present main canal. The cost of installation and the [Page 621] current cost of irrigation by pumping is understood to be considerably higher than the cost of gravity irrigation. The cost of installation alone for irrigation by pumping is understood to be at least 35 pesos per hectare.

9. The above makes it obvious that lands given in exchange for lands dotated should be irrigable by gravity.

10. The landowners observe that plans now drawn by the Agrarian Commissions already indicate pequeñas propiedades although it is understood that the owners are to have a right to select these. As shown on the plans these pequeñas propiedades are in certain cases isolated from the houses of owners. This would obviously make for friction and difficulty of operation and should be rectified, the owner being permitted to select his own pequeña propiedad.

11. It is understood that these owners of pequeñas propiedades are to be assured an equal proportion of water with other owners and that they are not in any way to pay for the water. We understand this to mean that the owners of pequeñas propiedades are not to be called upon to contribute to the maintenance of the general system of irrigating as distinct from irrigation systems located upon their own pequeñas propiedades.

12. It is contended that certain of the petitioners for dotation are not qualified under the Agrarian Code for dotation and that there may be other irregularities. An opportunity should be given the owner, as it is understood is to be done in the Mayo Valley to scrutinize the census lists and other elements of the dotation and to present and discuss evidence regarding these lists and other points in order that dotations may conform to the Agrarian Code.

13. It is understood that special arrangements are contemplated to permit Americans receiving irrigated lands in exchange for lands dotated to hold these unirrigated lands free from the danger of further dotation until they have been irrigated and can be sold fairly.

14. This number has been skipped.

15. It seems obvious from the above considerations that a study of the conditions under which the proposed exchange of lands could be carried out fairly should be made. This would involve estimation of the value of the irrigated lands, and the improvements on them and of the land to be given in exchange, and a study of the cost of conditioning the new land and the amount of loss due to non-production of crops which would fall upon the American landowners. Presumably such a study would be made by a commission composed of representatives of the Government and of the American landowners.

16. It would seem beneficial both to the National economy and to the American landowners that they should be permitted to plant and harvest this year’s crop, pending a determination of these conditions [Page 622] by such a commission, possession of the present irrigation land to be given only after a satisfactory arrangement of the transfer of lands has been concluded.

17. At the same time, a study could be made of the possibilities and time of payment for improvements, and for the conditioning of the new land, where the cost to the Government of conditioning the new land was recovered through sales of that land, such sums would presumably be repaid to the Government at the time of the sale. The compensation for loss of crops to the American landowners pending completion of the dam and general irrigation works could also be studied by the commission.

18. It is suggested that a further meeting of the American landowners and the appropriate representatives of the Government be held now to go over the considerations above outlined.

[Enclosure 2—Translation]

Presidential Acuerdo of October 27, 1937

Resolution of the Federal Executive to solve the agrarian problem of the Yaqui region in the State of Sonora.

After the necessary studies made by the agrarian authorities of the Federal Government and by those of the State Government of Sonora, the Governor of that State issued the orders to grant ejidos to the thirteen nuclei of rural population in the Yaqui region. The respective ejidal possessions will be carried out next Sunday by the corps (brigada) of engineers of the Agrarian Department and of the Mixed Agrarian Commission which is already engaged in field works in the region in question.
In the transaction, resolution and execution of the agrarian cases concerned, the small agricultural property under development which, according to the General Constitution of the Republic and the Agrarian Code, is unaffectable, will be respected; with the understanding that because of the excessive rural population, it is necessary to apply the last part of fractions I and II of Article 51 of the Agrarian Code. In respecting the hundred hectares of irrigated land for each proprietor, the right to the use and better utilization of the water for the irrigation of the hundred hectares is defined and assured, with the obligation on the part of each proprietor to comply with the legal and regulatory dispositions regarding this matter.
The area of eight hectares of cultivable land (Tierras de cultivo) for each individual, plus the area of lands for communal uses, shall serve as the basis for the effects of the amount of the ejidal affectations, in view of the fact that the laws governing waters are [Page 623] different from the laws governing the ownership of lands in that region at present.
The petitions (gestiones) of proprietors presenting themselves before the execution of the orders granting possession of ejidos in the exercise of the right which the law grants regarding the location of their small agricultural property, will receive attention.
In granting the ejidal possessions, there will be allowed the periods for the harvesting of crops which the law orders in the cases of lands already planted; in the case of lands prepared for agricultural cultivation, a just appraisal of such works of preparation will be made through the representatives of the National Bank of Ejidal Credit, with a view to reimbursing those who may have effected them, charging the amount to the ejidatarios benefitted by the dotation of lands.
In the regulation for the use and utilization of the waters, account shall be taken of cases when there may be a scarcity of that liquid, in order that the quotas may be allotted among the irrigated lands of the small agricultural properties under development and the cultivated lands granted to the ejidatarios in proportion to the areas and plantings (cultivos) of each.
The agricultural implements and machinery with which the lands dotated as ejidos may have been worked and which the owners thereof may wish to sell, shall be acquired immediately through the National Bank of Ejidal Credit against the credit of the ejidos which are to use them, after appraisal, in each case.
The petitions which may be presented immediately by agriculturists contributing towards the ejidal dotations in question will be favorably resolved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Development, in order that among the areas of land not yet open to cultivation between the left bank of the Yaqui River and the right bank of the Mayo River, they may be shown the portion where they are to carry out fractioning works subject to the law of colonization, in the extension and location to be duly determined with right to the use and utilization of the waters of the dam under construction in Angostura, and in the quantity likewise to be determined on lands without water for pasturage or collective uses, without cost, to them, for lands and waters.
To the Yaqui Tribe is granted the entire area of workable land located along the right bank of the Yaqui River, with the water necessary for irrigation from the dam under construction at Angostura, as well as the entire sierra known as the “Sierra del Yaqui,” the members of which shall be provided with the resources and elements necessary for the best development of their lands. Accordingly, the [Page 624] Agrarian Department shall proceed immediately to effect the survey (planiflcación) of the entire region mentioned, in order that the Federal Executive may issue definitive titles to the nuclei of population of the Tribe in question; for its part, the Ministry of Agriculture and Development shall dotate to the same nuclei of population of the Tribe broods of cattle, horses and sheep, according to the needs of the region and the uses of the Tribe, and for the proper utilization of the pasture lands within the area granted them; the National Irrigation Commission shall carry out the works that may be required within the lands of the Tribe for the irrigation thereof, as well as the drainage works, road-building and other constructions that may be deemed necessary for the development and progress of the Indian families of the Yaqui population.

In considering all the aspects of compliance with the agrarian program of the Resolution in the important Yaqui region, this Executive under my charge hopes for and expects (reconoce y espera) the cooperation which is required of all the proprietor-agriculturists of the region, who are equally obligated to observe an attitude of patriotism when it is sought to apply the law, as is being done throughout the Republic.

Cause it to be published.

Cause it to be complied with.

Effective Suffrage. No Reelection.

The Constitutional President of the United Mexican States
L. Cardenas
  1. Original in Spanish; translation from Byler N. Simpson, The Ejido, p. 773.