Land Grants and Land Loss
This chapter examines the role of law, lawyers, squatters, and nature in the monumental loss of millions of acres of southwestern land, which displaced the once land-rich Latino/as and reconstituted them as a migratory, land-poor working class. Although historians dispute the cause of the divestment, no doubt it was aided by confirmation laws adopted by Congress that required holders of Mexican and Spanish land grants in what became the U.S. Southwest in the mid-1800s after the U.S.-Mexican War to initiate legal proceedings to confirm their land titles, with disastrous results as titles were rejected for a variety of reasons, and lawyers took a healthy share of the land that was successfully confirmed. Other forces, ranging from outright theft to high-interest loans, a new U.S. system of land taxation, and the effects of nature, all played a role in the mass divestment.
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