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In Mexican system of government, an ejido (Spanish pronunciation: [eˈxiðo], from latin exitum) is an area of communal land used for agriculture, on which community members individually possess and farm a specific parcel. Ejidos are registered with Mexico's National Agrarian Registry (Registro Agrario Nacional). The system of ejidos was based on an understanding of the Aztec calpulli and the medieval Spanish ejido.
During the colonial era and the nineteenth-century Liberal Reforma and expansion of haciendas in the late nineteenth century under Porfirio Díaz, landlessness was a serious issue in Mexico. It was one of the core problems that contributed to the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, notably Morelos where Emiliano Zapata led revolutionary peasants seeking return of their lands. Tierra y libertad (land and liberty) was one of the slogans of the Revolution. Distribution of large amounts of land did not begin until Lázaro Cárdenas became president in 1934. The ejido system was introduced as an important component of the agrarian land reform in Mexico.
The typical procedure for the establishment of an ejido involved the following steps:
- landless farmers who leased lands from wealthy landlords would petition the federal government for the creation of an ejido in their general area;
- the federal government would consult with the landlord;
- the land would be expropriated from the landlords if the government approved the ejido; and
- an ejido would be established and the original petitioners would be designated as ejidatarios with certain cultivation/use rights.
Ejidatarios do not actually own the land, but are allowed to use their allotted parcels indefinitely as long as they do not fail to use the land for more than two years. They can even pass their rights on to their children.
Reform and decline
As the country had experienced extremely fast population growth since the 1960s, governments found increasingly difficult to find land to allot to poor peasants. In time, this led to progressively smaller ejidos being parcelled out. The problem was compounded by the poor peasants' lack of access to credit (for example, ejidos could not be legally used as collateral for loans). All this and the fact that there was no encouragement for farmers to improve the conditions of the land on their own initiative, meant that ejidos were very often yielding well below their potential. Starting in the late 1960s, Mexico ceased being self-sufficient in food production.
In 1991, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari eliminated the constitutional right to ejidos, citing the low productivity of communally owned land. Existing ejidos were not disbanded, however, and much of Mexico's rural land (especially in the south) is still part of the ejido system. The change came about largely as a result of the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into operation in 1994.
- Common land
- Communal land
- Chiapas conflict
- México Indígena: controversial geography research project studying the future of the ejido and the comunidad agraria
- Well-field system: communal lands
- Rural Development Institute: Ejidos and Communidades in Oaxaca, Mexico (pdf)
- Centro de Investigacion y Documentacion de la Casa and Sociedad Hipotecaria: Current Housing Situation in Mexico 2005 (pdf)
- David W. Connell at mexicolaw.com: CAN I BUY "EJIDO" LAND?