With All Due Respect: Popular Resistance to the Privatization of Communal Lands in Nineteenth-Century Michoacan

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1999
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"The article explores popular opposition to the nineteenth-century liberal laws that mandated privatization of the communal lands held by Indian communities in Mexico. It argues that peasants in Michoacan responded to the reparto with a complex mixture of resistance, negotiation, and accommodation in attempts to retain local control over the definition and distribution of property rights and to defend local religious and political institutions. The first section provides a brief overview of liberal thinking and legislation on the privatization of communal lands, highlighting the legal and ideological ambiguities and contradictions that provided opportunities for resistance and negotiation. The second section explores how and why peasants so often opposed the reparto in Michoacan, stressing the complex nature of popular resistance and state responses to it. The third section offers a brief overview of nineteenth-century agrarian development in Michoacan as background for the two case studies of the politics of privatization at the local level. Zacapu peasants managed to delay the reparto for thirty-five years but ended up losing much of their land to state tax officials and neighboring landowners. San Juan Parangaricutiro successfully retained its substantial woodlands as communal property, even as local mestizo elites appropriated the best of cultivated land as private property. The article concludes with a comparative analysis of the liberal reparto in the two communities, linking the different outcomes to peasant partisanship in the agrarian and political struggles of the Mexican Revolution."
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land tenure and use, privatization, history, social movements
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