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Properties of Violence

Law and Land-Grant Struggle in Northern New Mexico

David Correia

Publication Year: 2013

Through the compelling story of the Tierra Amarilla conflict, David Correia examines how law and property, in general, and a Mexican-period land grant in northern New Mexico, in particular, have been constituted through violence and social struggle.

Spain and Mexico populated what is today New Mexico through large common property land grants to sheepherders and agriculturalists. After the U.S.-Mexican War the area saw rampant land speculation and dubious property adjudication with nearly all the grants being rejected by U.S. courts or acquired by land speculators. Of all the land grant conflicts in New Mexico's history, Tierra Amarilla is one of the most sensational, with numerous nineteenth-century speculators ranking among the state's political and economic elite and a remarkable pattern of resistance to land loss by heirs in the twentieth century.

Correia narrates a long and largely unknown history of property conflict in Tierra Amarilla characterized by nearly constant violence—night riding and fence cutting, pitched gun battles, and tanks rumbling along the rutted dirt roads of northern New Mexico. The legal geography he constructs is one that includes a remarkable cast of characters: millionaire sheep barons, Spanish anarchists, hooded Klansmen, Puerto Rican freedom fighters—or as J. Edgar Hoover, another of the characters in Correia's story would have called them, "terrorists." By placing property and law at the center of his study, Properties of Violence first reveals and then examines a central irony: violence is not the opposite of law but rather is essential to its operation.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-11


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pp. xi-xiii

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Introduction: Property and the Legal Geographies of Violence in Northern New Mexico

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pp. 1-14

When Spain in the seventeenth century and later Mexico in the early nineteenth century pushed colonial settlements north into lands controlled by powerful Indian nations in what is today northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, they did so by distributing millions of acres in scores of large common property land grants to landless sheepherders and agriculturalists. Over the course of more than two hundred years, Spain and Mexico launched thousands of settlers into a remote territory dominated by the Utes, the Navajo, the Comanches, and the Apaches. Colonial administrators did this because they viewed these borderland settlements as human shields that could guard valuable mining regions south of Santa Fe from powerful Indian nations...

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Prologue: Yellow Earth

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pp. 15-27

When the Spanish Missionary-Explorers Fray Atanasio Dominguez and Fray Francisco Silvestre Vélez de Escalante left Santa Fe on July 29, 1776, they and a small detail of military and civil aides labored north on familiar trade routes up dry mesas and through piñon- juniper forests alongside the Rio Grande’s dense cottonwood bosque, or forest. Th e pair had been charged with opening a direct trading route that would link Spanish colonial New Mexico to new Spanish settlements in California. Th e route was crucial to the survival of Spanish New Mexico, where “powerful Indian societies controlled most of the territory New Spain claimed with its northern boundary.”1

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1. Colonizing the Lands of War

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pp. 28-46

In February 1848 representatives of Mexico and the United States negotiated an end to the U.S.- Mexican War. Th e subsequent Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo proved costly for Mexico. Th e terms transferred more than five hundred thousand square miles to the United States, an amount that comprised nearly all of what is today the U.S. Southwest, including all of what would become the state of New Mexico. In the decades aft er the treaty was signed, a western migration of political appointees, bureaucrats, and technocrats flooded New Mexico, transforming political institutions in the new U.S. territory. The clubby territorial politics of U.S.- controlled New Mexico opened up the region to enterprising...

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2. “Under the Malign Influence of Land-Stealing Experts”

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pp. 47-68

In the summer of 1866, a twenty- two- year- old Irish immigrant named Thomas Burns rode a mule from Colorado to Abiquiú and then north to Tierra Amarilla. It was the end of a long journey for Burns, who had come to the United States as a child with his family and settled initially in Wisconsin. He left Wisconsin at sixteen and slowly worked his way west to Colorado peddling pamphlets and begging rides; he arrived in 1860 at the beginning of the gold rush. Though the southern San Juan Mountains were in a frenzy of gold fever, Burns was an immediate and total failure as a gold miner, lasting less than a day. One failed scheme followed another, and without the money to return to Wisconsin, Burns spent the early 1860s bouncing around Colorado working in trading houses...

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3. The Night Riders of Tierra Amarilla

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pp. 69-83

In August 1919 Tierra Amarilla’s Spanish- language newspaper, El Nuevo Estado, reported that clandestine bands of night riders had destroyed the fences of two Anglo ranchers on the Tierra Amarilla land grant. Th e ranchers, according to the report, found threatening notes identifying the fence cutters as La Mano Negra (Th e Black Hand). Th e attack marked the beginning of a string of late- night raids on local ranchers. Th roughout the summer of 1919 and into the spring of 1920, stories of fence cutting and arson fi lled newspapers in Tierra Amarilla and Santa Fe. Frightened ranchers, desperate for help, fl ooded Governor Octaviano Larrazolo with letters that chronicled a summer and fall of threats, arson, and...

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4. An Unquiet Title

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pp. 84-119

medardo Abeyta must have been a strange sight to his neighbors in the spring and summer of 1937. Nearly every day he could be seen walking the rutted, dusty roads on the Tierra Amarilla land grant in a stiff black suit, carrying an overstuff ed briefcase. Each morning the fifty-year- old tenant farmer left his small adobe home in the village of Los Ojos and walked northeast past small corrals and planted fields into the village of Brazos, or sometimes south along walking paths that skirted tributaries of the Rio de Chama that led into the small settlement of La Puente. He stopped at every small adobe house he found to sit at kitchen tables or under shady portales and talk to his neighbors about the...

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5. The New Mexico Land Grant War

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pp. 120-145

Payne Land and Livestock Company filed a lawsuit in federal court in June 1958 to quiet the title to its seven-thousand-acre ranch on the Tierra Amarilla grant.1 Among scholars of New Mexico land grant legal history, Payne is generally considered the last of five significant legal conflicts over Tierra Amarilla common property.2 Th e case is oft en described as the exclamation point at the end of a long legal transformation in which the courts finally and “unjustly deprived [land grant heirs] of their common ownership of the Grant’s common, unallotted lands.”3 At the heart of the dispute was a counterclaim by scores of land grant residents, all of whom irrigated small farms with water drawn from the Brazos and Nutrias Creeks, that they owned seventy of the seven thousand acres...

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6. Terrorists and Tourists in Tierra Amarilla

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pp. 146-166

The explosions that detonated simultaneously in Manhattan on October 26, 1974, destroyed four banks and announced the start of a bombing campaign by a group called Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN), a clandestine paramilitary group that advocated Puerto Rican independence from the United States. Born the same year as the beginning of the bombing campaign, the FALN was formed when the Comandos Armados de Liberación (Armed Commandos of Liberation) joined forces with the Movimiento de Independencia Revolucionario (Revolutionary Independence Movement). As the names suggest, the merger created a group committed to an armed struggle to evict the United States from Puerto Rico and...

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Epilogue: Rare Earth

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pp. 167-180

It's August 2011, and I’m in the backseat of a four-wheel-drive Ranger, a gas-powered, off-road “golf ” cart with huge tires and plenty of cup holders. We’re tearing along a rutted gravel road that leads to the land at the heart of the Martínez v. Mundy dispute. Mike Plant is driving, drinking a Tecate and smoking a Cuban cigar. Nagging knee injuries have turned the former Olympic speed skater into a pudgy fifty-two-year-old land developer. Actually, land development in Tierra Amarilla is just his hobby. He spends most of his time in Atlanta, where he serves as the executive vice president of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves. His route into sports management dates to just aft er the 1980 Olympics, when he was a teammate of six-time gold-medal speed skater Eric...


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pp. 181-206


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pp. 207-214


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pp. 215-220

Further Reading

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pp. 238-239

E-ISBN-13: 9780820345826
E-ISBN-10: 0820332844
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820332840
Print-ISBN-10: 0820332844

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 14 b&w photos, 4 maps
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation
Series Editor Byline: Nik Heynen, Deborah Cowen, and Melissa W. Wright, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 827556324
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Properties of Violence

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Subject Headings

  • Land grants -- Law and legislation -- New Mexico -- Tierra Amarilla -- History.
  • Alianza Federal de las Mercedes.
  • Tierra Amarilla (N.M.) -- History.
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