Property Rights

Steven W. Bender

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Property Rights

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  • History of the Americas
  • US Cultural History


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The Latina/o experience of property ownership in the United States during the last 150 years is one marked by loss and exclusion. Once beneficiaries of huge landholdings in the Southwest, conferred by Spanish and then Mexican governments, Latinas/Latinos were divested of those rancheros after the Mexican-American War through the perils of property law, greedy lawyers, squatters, climate, and other factors. Following this monumental loss of land and ongoing immigration, Latinas/Latinos were largely reconstituted in the United States as a migratory, land-poor working class. In rural settings, whether in colonia settlements along the Texas-Mexico border, or in farm worker housing, Latina/o workers face miserable housing conditions consistent with the low wages paid in these regions. In urban geographies, Latinas/Latinos are frequent victims of discrimination in rentals and are residents of similarly dilapidated and overcrowded housing. Whether as renters or homeowners, public zoning laws and private discriminatory covenants (since outlawed when based on racial exclusions) long constrained and segregated the housing choices of Latina/o residents, particularly the impoverished. For those Latinas/Latinos fortunate enough to attain homeownership, the recent subprime mortgage crisis delivered a crushing blow of foreclosure to many, as it became apparent that subprime loan originators had targeted Latina/o markets for their often-abusive home loan programs. Most of the scholarly work on Latina/o property focuses on the divestment of expansive rancho landholdings in the Southwest. Overall, much of the literature focuses on a specific geography and on the above Latina/o experience of property loss and exclusion. There is much scholarly work left to be conducted, particularly on the topic of how to ensure safe, affordable, and uncrowded housing to Latina/o working-class populations.

Article.  6602 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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