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barter. Illiterate, the villagers lived from generation to generation relatively independent, isolated, and little touched by commerce or by a money economy.

The swelling land conflicts that marked New Mexican history from 1879 to 1930 were perhaps inevitable. They grew out of the quite distinct and conflicting patterns of land ownership and land use. Among the Spanish Americans the habitual use of the land was more important than recorded titles. The vast majority of them were illiterate. Most families made little attempt to preserve whatever written charters or land titles that they might have received. Land ownership was not based primarily upon a written right but upon traditional and recognized rights of occupancy respected by their neighbors. There developed a tacit division of the land based upon land use and prior settlement, kinship, and the belief that everyone should have access to land in order to earn a living. Grant lands were usually immune from taxation, and a tax on land was beyond the remotest conception of the Spanish Americans. The financial needs of the Spanish and Mexican authorities were met by tariffs and by taxes upon harvest and livestock increase. If harvests were poor, taxes were remitted. There did not exist any authoritative system of land survey and land boundaries were vague and imprecise.

Although the government of the United States committed itself through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to protect property and civil rights of the Spanish Americans, they were treated as a conquered and subject people. Even though the number of Anglo-Americans in New Mexico before the Civil War was small, land losses began. A Catholic Sister of Charity resident in the Territory during this period stated that:

"In the early years of Anglo settlement in New Mexico the unsuspicious and naive Spanish Americans were victimized on every hand. When the men from the states came out west to dispossess the poor natives of their lands, they used many subterfuges. One was to offer the owner of the land a handful of silver coins for the small service of making a mark on a paper. The mark was a cross which was accepted as a signature and by which the unsuspecting natives deeded away their lands. By this means many a poor family was

robbed of all its possessions." By the 1880's, the number of Americans in New Mexico had increased considerably. The two groups of Anglos that had the most harmful impact upon the Spanish Americans began entering the Territory of New Mexico in large numbers during this period, the lawyers and the ranchers. One authority estimated that one out of every ten Anglos in New Mexico in this period was a lawyer. Known to some Spanish Americans as black vultures, they managed to thoroughly entrap these people in the subtle legal technicalities and the mysteries of the Anglo law that even today are regarded as a dark and dangerous jungle by the Spanish Americans,20

The lawyers were quick to see what large fortunes could be made from the obscure and unregistered titles of the unsuspecting Spanish Americans. Within a short period after the Civil War, the Territory of New Mexico fell into the hands of groups of unscrupulous lawyers cooperating closely together for mutual profit. Many of these lawyers within a few years became wealthy and could be counted among the largest landholders of the United States. The activities of these rings have remained unstudied and in the dark recesses of New Mexican history. They counted among their numbers, governors, state supreme court justices, land recorders, surveyors, and other political officials in New Mexico and Washington, D.C."

The Anglo-Americans with their system of sharp well defined land boundaries, registered titles, a land system based upon the idea that if there are no records there is no defensible title, and an economic system founded on competition, a ruthless struggle for wealth, and a permissive lawlessness found it impossible to

? Allan G. Harper, Andrew R. Cordova, and Oberg Kalervo, Man and Resources in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, (Albequerque:

The University of New Mexico Press, 1943), pp' 18–21. See also Ernest E. Maes, 'The World and the People of Cundiyo", Land Policy Review, 4 (March, 1941), pp. 8-14.

8 John H. Culley, Horse and Men (Los Angeles : The Ward Ritchie Press, 1940), pp. 21-22. See also George I. Sanchez, Forgotten People (Albuquerque : The University of New Mexico Press. 1940). pp. 3–14; 18-19.

9 Sister Blandina Segale. At the End of the Santa Fe Trail, (Milwaukee : The Bruce Publishing Co. 1958), pp. 194-195.

10 Robert W. Larson, "Statehood for New Mexico. 1888-1912", New Mexico Historical Reviero, 37 (July, 1962), pp. 161–200. 11 Ibid.



either respect the Spanish Americans or their political or economic rights. Furthermore, with the immigration into New Mexico of large number of Texans, the harsh Texan attitude toward Spanish-speaking groups began to spread among all levels of Anglo-American society in New Mexico and in government circles in Washington, D.C.12

The first political shadows cast upon Spanish-American landholdings was the congressional act of July 22, 1854, that reserved for Congress the right to pass upon private land claims in New Mexico by direct legislative enactment. No provisions were made for appeal, adverse proceedings, or for surveying boundaries of claimed tracts. All land claimants under Spanish and Mexican grants had to pay for their own surveys, to undertake and carry forward long and expensive legal procedures and litigation. Government officials both in Santa Fe and in Washington, D.C. usually endeavored to whittle down acreage and to throw out genuine Spanish-American land grants on the fiction that they did not have a legally perfect title." As Ralph E. Twitchell reports:

"No claimant could secure congressional affirmation of his title unless he was able to spend a long period of time in Washington and was abundantly equipped with funds to oragnize a lobby to smooth the passage of a private

act confirming his land claim." A Spanish American knowing little English, possessing no funds, unfamiliar with Washington, D.C. and with American political and moral folkways and mores was almost helpless against Anglo contestants.

The situation was worsened further by the fact that only two federal land offices in early New Mexican history were established in New Mexico; one in Santa Fe and the other in Las Cruces. Their existence was unknown to numbers of Spanish-American landholders. Because of distance, Indian raids, and difficulties in transportation and communication, they were inaccessible to much of the Spanish-American territory. Moreover, the Anglo lawyers resident in urban centers and in communication with each other hovered over the land offices, quick to bribe officials and to take advantage of any unregistered land.

In a case in San Miguel County known to the speaker, several Anglo lawyers active in politics around the turn of the century agreed to bring suit challenging the legality of a large community land grant. The villagers in panic requested one of the lawyers to defend their rights. As they had no money, they agreed to pay in land. The case wended its slow way through the courts until eventually the state supreme court decided in favor of the village. The lawyer took most of the better grazing land as fee and divided it up among the lawyers in the plot. Enormous amounts of land were alienated from Spanish-American ownership as payment for legal services. Many prominent Anglo lawyers refused to accept money for their services demanding that they be paid in land.

Because of violence and increasing land conflicts, a Court of Private Land Claims was established on July 1, 1891, and continued until June 30, 1904. The purpose of the court was to adjudicate land titles in New Mexico and Colorado originating in Spanish and Mexican land grants. The court consisted of five judges from other parts of the nation, a United States Attorney, and other officials. All were Anglos and made their decisions upon the basis of Anglo law. The court rejected all land grant claims unless they measured up to the most rigorous requirements of Anglo procedures and conceptions of land ownership. Thus in this period, two-thirds of all Spanish-American land claims were rejected on the pretext of imperfect titles.


Many Spanish Americans, caught in the web of a political and a judicial system that they found impossible to understand, frequently surrendered their lands without a struggle when their rights were challenged. Bitter, resentful, and unable to defend themselves, they shrank from all Anglo contacts. To them the entire legal process seemed like a giant Anglo conspiracy to steal their property without possibility of escape or redress.

Another aspect of the American political system imposed upon the Spanish American that cost them staggering land losses—was the American county system financed through property taxes. Ignorant of American political customs

19 Garey McWilliams, North from Merico, (J. B. Lippincott Co., 1949). pp. 119–120. 13 William A. Keleher, The Fabulous Frontier, (Santa Fe : The Rydal Press) pp. 86-87. 14 Ralph E. Twitchell, The Leading Facts of New Mexican History, Vol. 2. 15 Keleher, op. cit. pp. 87.

18 Carolyn' Zeleny. Relations Betuneen Spanish Americans and Anglo Americans in Nero Merico: A Study of Conflict and Accommodation in this Dual Ethnic Relationship, (Un. published doctoral dissertation. Yale University, 1944).

and unfamiliar with the land tax, the Spanish Americans fell victim to the Anglo lawyers and businessmen and their Spanish-American allies who hovered over land tax records eagerly paying taxes on tax delinquent land. At times land taxes were juggled to sharply increase taxes until considerable land passed into Anglo ownership and then the taxes were reduced. In many counties the small irrigated parcels of the Spanish Americans pay a much higher tax per acre than the large ranches of the Anglos even though the financial return is lower. Also in many counties, Spanish Americans who did pay their land taxes were given fraudulent receipts or else the payments were not recorded in the tax records of the county. The situation became even more vicious in 1926 when the New Mexican state legislature passed a law that any land remaining tax delinquent for three years could be sold by the county. If a man paid up the delinquent taxes, the land became his."?

With the coming of Anglo ranchers from Texas in the 1880's and 1890's, violence erupted all over New Mexico and southern Colorado. The unarmed Spanish Americans with their traditions of peaceful community life came to regard the American cowboys as worse than the Comanches or Apaches. These ranchers treated the Spanish Americans as though they were not human beings and had no rights that needed to be respected. They refused to accept them socially, dispossessed them of their lands, scattered their sheep, and drove off their cattle. The Spanish Americans could only take refuge in a futile hate that has made the word Texan a hiss and a byword throughout northern New Mexico.15

For example, in 1884, cow hands destroyed the home and ranch headquarters of Teofilo Trujillo, one of the earliest settlers of San Luis Valley, Colorado. Eventually they killed him.' Lawless bands of Texans in Lincoln County, New Mexico in 1864 rode through the county killing Spanish Americans, driving many off their lands with the threat, sometimes fulfilled, of killing their wives and children. They also warned other Anglos against hiring Spanish Americans. William A. Keleher states as follows:

“Many Texans will not allow a Mexican to be employed on any of the ranches in this part of the country; where by threat of violence they can prevent it; and that they will go to all lengths and stop at nothing in the shape of perjury or misrepresentation to invalidate or to upset titles of

Mexicans in the area.” Another technique used by Anglo ranchers and businessmen to obtain control and ownership of grant lands was to buy up land rights in a grant from a number of Spanish American residents and then graze large herds of livestock on the grazing lands. When they became overgrazed and relatively useless to the small herds of the Spanish Americans, the Anglo offered to buy up the grazing lands at a low price. If the Spanish Americans refused to sell, the Anglo took the case to court and usually the judge ordered that the grant be dissolved, the lands sold, and proceeds distributed to the claimants. Many times, there was but one Anglo, by agreement, there to bid on the land. Many banks in Albuquerque financed such Anglo activities in the area."1

There is evidence to indicate that one of the largest land grants in north central New Mexico and southern Colorado was lost through aonther interesting device. A very prominent Anglo lawyer and political figure in New Mexico noticed that no claim to the land grant had been filed in the Santa Fe land office. He promptly filed claim and published intent in an English-speaking newspaper several hundred miles away on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. The local inhabitants knew nothing about it until many years later when Anglo ranchers began to fence in their lands. Then violence erupted that has continued until the present day. 22

The use of the fence has also been costly to the Spanish Americans. Many Anglo ranchers fenced in large tracts of land. In eastern New Mexico entire


17 William A. Keleher, "The Law of the New Mexico Land Grant" The New Merico Historical Review, 4 October, 1929), pp. 350-371.

18 Keleher, The Fabulous Frontier, op. cit., pp. 81 : 86-87.

19 Wayne Gard, Frontier Justice,* (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949) pp. 90-91.

* Keleher, op. cit., p. 81.

21 Data derived from interviews with Spanish Americans in San Miguel and Mora Counties, Yew Mexico.

2 Data derived from interviews in Rio Arriba, Mora and San Miguel Counties, New Mexico.

villages were apt to be enclosed. Once the land was enclosed, intent of claim was also filed in English-speaking newspapers, seldom read by the Spanish Americans. As the claims were not apt to be contested, the rancher obtained the land. The sheriff evicted the Spanish Americans.23

The various land activities of the Federal Government in New Mexico have caused the Spanish Americans enormous land losses. Millions of acres of land traditionally used for grazing purposes in the valleys and mountains of northern New Mexico for many generations were lost when forest reserves were established and land granted to the railroads. The impact of this land loss is still felt in the northern villages in New Mexico.24

Present forest administrators and forest rangers are apt to be Anglos and subconsciously or consciously biased against the Spanish American and his numerous small herds of sheep and cattle in favor of the large Anglo commercial operator. The rangers even today are trying to persuade or to force the Spanish Americans to leave the northern counties.?

The homestead laws also caused tremendous land loss to the Spanish Americans. Under these laws thousands of immigrants poured into New Mexico from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, and other states in the 1890's and 1900's. They settled on millions of acres used by the Spanish Americans who had never registered title. As drought slowly squeezed out the homesteaders, the land passed into the hands of local Anglo merchants in payment of accounts or for cash. The merchants established large ranches or sold the land to incoming ranchers. Either way, the Spanish Americans lost access to the land.24

Anglo merchants also exploited the Spanish Americans directly through their control of the local economy. They bought the Spanish-American products such as wool, lambs, and cattle at prices by themselves. They encouraged the Spanish Americans to use unlimited credit. At the end of a varying period of time, the merchant called for payment of the account. The Spanish Americans, unable to pay, lost their land. This process is still at work in many northern New Mexican communities. 27

The construction of expensive reclamation, irrigation, and flood control proj. ects in New Mexico brought about the introduction of a highly commercialized and partially subsidized agriculture that cost additional thousands of Spanish Americans their land and water rights up and down the Rio Grande Valley. The imposition of heavy water or conservation charges upon land used for subsistence agriculture has brought about the replacement of Spanish American by Anglo farmer around Albuquerque and in the Mesilla Valley around Las Cruces. This land loss still continues at the present time.”

Oddly enough, the modern requirements of the New Mexico Department of Public Health is eroding away the limited land basis of many Spanish American villages at the present time. Unable to secure public assistance if land is owned, many Spanish Americans either abandon their land or sell it at whatever they can get and move to town and onto the public welfare roles.

Since 1854, the Spanish Americans have lost over 2,000,000 acres of private lands, 1,700,000 acres of communal land, 1,800,000 acres taken by the state, and vast areas lost to the federal government.20 The impact of this enormous and continued land loss has been the collapse of the village economy, the growing sense of apathy and futility among the Spanish-American farmers, and an accelerated cultural breakdown. Juvenile delinquency, increase in family disor. ganization, continued and rapid rise of welfare roles, and an economic decline of the Spanish American counties. Many of these counties are becoming depopulated as large numbers move to cities in Colorado, California, and Arizona, transferring a complex social and economic problem from one state or county to another.

23 Ibid. 24 Alla G. Harper, et al, op. cit., pp. 62-64. 25 Data derived from interviews in Taos, Mora, and San Miguel Counties, New Mexico.

23 Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, We Fed Them Cactus, (Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, 1954*, pp. 152–153. William A. Keleher, op. cit., p. 81.

27 Data Derived from interviews with Spanish Americans in San Miguel, Mora, and Guadalupe Counties.

23 Sigurd A. Johansen, Rural Social Organization in a Spanish American Culture Area, (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1941) pp. 45; 141-144; 184-191.

22 Allan G. Harper, et al., op. cit., pp. 61-62.



Madam Chairman, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemenI consider it an honor to have this opportunity of speaking before an audience that contains so many persons who have struggled with the economic and social problems of New Mexico. During the past four years, I have come to know and to deeply respect many of you. Although, I am not a permanent resident of New Mexico at the moment, the state, especially the northern counties, still occupies a major position in my heart and in my research interests.

I know of no other state that offers such magnificent opportunities in all aspects of social, cultural, economic, and demographic research. I also know of few states where so little research is going on in these areas. It is a misfortune for the people of New Mexico that the colleges and universities in the state have given so little encouragement or support for research into the causes and characteristics of the serious social, economic and cultural problems that plague the state. Winning athletic teams may glorify momentarily an institution and gladden the heart of the alumni. Magnificent programs of research in the physical sciences may increase our military potential and improve the health and conditions of human existence in general. Neither, however, is directly concerned nor can be of immediate assitance in improving the daily life of New Mexican citizens.

If the state is to resolve these problems it will need long term, well planned, adequately financed programs of research into the economic, social, and cultural characteristics and problems of the state in order to secure the basic data needed for the development of adequate programs of solution. If a few of the many state dollars now going into athletics or into the physical sciences in the colleges and universities were diverted into research into urban and demographic phenomena, the processes of social and cultural change, culture contacts, the causes and characteristics of chronically distressed areas, and the types of industry that might flourish best in the state, the people of New Mexico would reap a rich harvest.

From 1950 to 1960 the population of New Mexico increased 39 percent. This increase was concentrated for the most part in a few counties. Sixteen counties during this period showed decreases ranging from 3.2 percent in Rio Arriba to a 38.8 percent in Harding County. From 1940 to 1960, Mora County lost slightly over 60 percent of its total population.

A similar situation existed in terms of economic growth. In 1959 the per capita income of New Mexico was $1,810 compared to a national capital income of $2,166. The high county in New Mexico was Los Alamos whose inhabitants enjoyed a per capita income of $3,491. Sandoval County suffered the lowest per capita income of $456. The lowest per capita incomes were found in the northern counties. Thus, Rio Arriba had a per capita income of $890, Taos $799, Mora $607, and San Miguel $825. There is indeed poverty in the north.

New Mexico is becoming a state with islands of prosperity surrounded by seas of stagnation and decline. The economic future of the state and of the more fortunate areas is endangered by the formation of these distressed areas. Enormous and increasing amounts of tax revenue must pour from the economically more developed areas to the areas of distress. These underdeveloped sections of the state in time will slow down and perhaps eventually throttle the economic progress of the state. One of the most serious problems facing New Mexico, a problem that the state has not faced up to, is what programs can be formulated so that the level of the poorer segments of the state can be brought up to the level of the more economically advanced counties.

In the past few years New Mexico has reached a position comparable to many underdeveloped countries in the world. The population of New Mexico is rapidly increasing, the state is organizing, and a faltering industrialization is in process. The very nature of these changes have made the state more dependent than ever upon outside economic and government forces. The expanding prosperity of the state is restricted to the more favorable sections, while other sections of the state are either stagnating or declining. Rapid social and cultural changes are bringing with them rising rates of welfare and dependency, family breakdown, juvenile delinquency, the creation of chronically distressed areas, large scale population movements, and cultural breakdown among minority groups. It is possible

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