The Mexican Land & Colonization Law of 1883: Historiography without Humans

Jose Angel Hernandez, University of Houston

The Mexican Chamber of Deputies debated and eventually passed one of the most controversial, if not monumental, laws in that nations’ history: Ley de 15 de Díciembre de 1883. Millions of hectares were eventually surveyed, allotted, and transferred from the public domain into the private, with Mexicans in the US receiving preferential treatment if they opted to return to the country and populate the northern frontier regions of the Republic. Although little ink has been spilled over this particular human aspect of the legislation, the deliberation, and publication of this particularly contentious piece of national legislation constitutes what could be termed the collective legal consciousness of a society at large, and as such, serves as an interesting nineteenth-century window into the philosophical, economic, political, and scientific modalities of Mexican society during this era, particularly as it related to the growing diaspora north of the international boundary. historiographically speaking, the law is sometimes referred to interchangeably as the “Ley de Colonización y Compañías Deslindadoras de 15 de Diciembre de 1883,” and when discussed is usually in relation to the number of acres that eventually went into the hands of foreigners, particularly American investors. What is quite telling about these particular perspectives is that although they differ on the impact and the number of lands either transferred or contested during the Porfiriato, they also overlook the very people that are mentioned within the law itself, namely the Mexican American populations residing in the United States during this particular period. This is to say, in other words, that although much of the discussion around this law discusses the local populations impacted by the Law, none of the authors consider analyzing the very population that is provided with a kind of preferential treatment not accorded to foreigners, and as such, constitutes historiography without humans.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 135. Laws, Rights, Policies: Migrants in the Americas