Post-independence politics and land: from the community to agrarian servitude

Sarah Washbrook

in Producing Modernity in Mexico

Published by British Academy

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780197264973
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754128 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

Post-independence politics and land: from the community to agrarian servitude

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When Mexico declared independence in September 1821, Chiapas, along with the rest of Central America, joined the new nation. Then, in 1823, precipitated by the collapse of Iturbide's Mexican Empire, the other former Central American provinces broke away to form the Central American Union. Chiapas, though, chose permanent annexation to the Mexican republic the following year. This chapter is organized as follows. The first section reviews the historiography of other regions of Mexico and Central America during these years in order better to understand the way that history and geography may have influenced political and agrarian relations in Chiapas during the half-century after independence. The second section looks at politics and state-building in Chiapas between 1824 and 1855, focusing on the relationship between regional elites in the central valley and the central highlands, national governments, and Indian communities. The third section provides an overview of commercial agriculture, population, and labour, and analyzes the agrarian laws which were passed in the state in the post-independence period. The fourth section examines the process of land privatization in different regions of Chiapas and the relationship between the alienation of public and communal lands and the spread of agrarian servitude — both labour tenancy (known as baldiaje) and debt peonage. The fifth section addresses the question of why, despite the growing dispossession of communal land, no peasant rebellion emerged in Chiapas during these years, while the next section examines the Labour Tenancy Law of 1849, a short-lived attempt to regulate baldiaje and limit the role of servile labour in commercial agriculture. Finally, the last section looks at the impact in Chiapas of the laws of the Reform and civil conflict between liberals and conservatives in the period 1855–67, and highlights the way in which local political factionalism contributed to Chiapas's Caste War of 1869–70.

Keywords: Central America; state-building; agrarian laws; land privatization; public lands; labour tenancy; debt peonage; baldiaje; Labour Tenancy Law of 1849; Caste War

Chapter.  18578 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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