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Explaning New Mexico’s Land Grants
Explanation of Types of Land Grants in New Mexico
by Malcolm Ebright and Robin Collier
Congressional grants were made after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo by Congress when there was no basis for the grant under Spanish or Mexican law. For example, the Benjamin E. Edwards grant or the Baca float grants.
These grants were either never made or not properly made by the Spanish or Mexican Governments. These were later claimed either on the basis of forged documents, or by asserting that conditions had not been met, or approvals that had not been made.
Community grants made to a group of Hispanos that included common lands at the outset. Settlers would receive small tracts of private land for their houses and garden plots with the right to use the remaining common lands for pasturing their cattle, gathering firewood and logs for building, hunting wild game, and gathering other resources, such as herbs and stone. Settlers owned their private tracts outright after four years and could sell them. The sale of a private tract by an individual carried with it the right to use the common lands, but the common lands could not be sold because the community owned them.
Hispano individuals who owned the entire grant and could sell it after the four-year possession requirement was met. Unlike Hispano/private grants however, Hispano/quasi-community grants included an explicit or implied promise by the grantee to bring other settlers on the grant, and when those settlers arrived, the grant would be operated like a community grant. The new settlers would receive tracts of private land with the implied right to use the unallotted land for grazing, wood gathering, and other traditional uses. In US courts these rights have been not enforceable by the users of the "common lands" unless they were expressed in writing. See Lobato v. Taylor opinion re the Taylor Ranch in the San Luis Valley.
These grants were made to Mexican citizens who wished to remain Mexicans and not become US citizens after the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. These grants were made by the Commissioners of Emigration in Northern Mexico to citizens who left New Mexico to settle in Mexico in these grants. Ironically, some of these grants later become part of the US when the US purchased additional land in the Gadsden Purchase. Some of these grants were disallowed by the US on the basis that they were made to person not residing in New Mexico at the time of the grant.
These were grants made by the Mexican government to encourage settlement or "colonization." The "empresario" was required to recruit a certain number of settlers in a four-year period and in return, was allowed a grant of four square leagues for themselves.
This was a grant to individual Hispanos for the purposes of grazing their livestock. Settlement on the land was not required by law, for example the Cochiti Pasture Grant.
These were grants made for mining only, which only required a Douncement of a mining claim. The Spanish and Mexican government retained certain rights over these claims including levies on proceeds.
Grants made to Hispano individuals who owned the entire grant and could sell it after the four-year possession requirement was met. These grants did not include common lands, either at the outset or after.
These grants made to protect the rights of an existing grant, for example up stream water rights. They may not have required settlement. For example, the Rancho del Río Grande in Taos.
Community grants were made to Native American Pueblos. Since the majority of Native American land holdings in New Mexico were of a communal nature, there were no private Native American grants.
These are grants to New Mexico Pueblos by Governor Domingo Jironza Petriz de Cruzate (1683-1686, and 1689-1691). The grants are not in the usual form of land grants, but rather purport to be the testimony of a Zia Native American named Bartolomé Ojeda, who was captured in 1689 after the Pueblo Revolt. Ojeda is asked as to each Pueblo whether he thought that pueblo would revolt again and he answers "no, that [Picuris] would not fail to render obedience [to the Spaniards]." Accordingly, Governor Cruzate makes a grant of four square leagues of land (about 17,700 acres) to each pueblo. Under Hispanic law and custom, the pueblos were considered to be entitled to four square leagues even without a grant. The Cruzate grants submitted to Surveyor General William Pelham were all confirmed by Congress, though they were later determined to be spurious. Since the pueblos were entitled to four square leagues of land in any case, the spurious character of the Cruzate grants is of little consequence from a legal standpoint.
These are grants made to a Native American Pueblo for the purpose of grazing Native American-owned livestock with no legal requirement to settle the land. An example of this type of grant is the grazing grant made to the pueblo of Cochiti by Governor Vélez Cachupín in 1766.
These were grants made to protect the rights of an existing Pueblo grant, in addition to their four square leagues, for example upstream water rights. See the Cañada de Santa Clara.
These grants began as Hispano grants and were purchased by Pueblos to increase the common lands of the Pueblo. For example, the Laguna Pueblo Tracts.