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In the conquest of New Spain it was considered useful to provide for development of the conquered land by distributing portions thereof to worthy vassals of the crown. Rural areas were gradually reduced to private ownership by means of land concessions granted in the name of the crown by various officers. These concessions took several forms but all bore a positive relationship to the basic resources, the existing occupation pattern, and the economic system already established in pre-Hispanic Mexico.

Whether the system of economic exploitation of colonial New Spain was one of direct Indian control or of mere dominion over the land, the end result tended toward the creation of estancias, haciendas, ranchos and other rustic properties. with the passage of time some land gravitated to the hands of large individual land owners, whereas other lands became property of the church. In either case the tendency was toward creation of larger and larger estates rather than toward the breakdown of land into smaller parcels.

Despite the passage of centuries since the original documents were issued, a rather surprisingly large number of original documents continue to exist in manuscript form which shed light on the development of these systems of land tenure. The names of the granting official, the names of the recipients of the prants, and the placenames involved give the ancient documentation a familiar ring. Some of these documents are presently in public record depositories while others are in private hands.

A detailed account of the filling in of the hitherto unclaimed areas of the provinces of Nueva Galicia and of Avalos, both now embraced within the state of Jalisco, illustrates in microcosm the process which was in effect throughout New Spain, while at the same time providing background for the modern system of land ownership in Mexico. In brief, the early patterns of land tenure, established by the conquistadores as just reward for their efforts, underwent a series of readjustments. In the story of these changes the historian is led to a greater understanding of regional and national history.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Donald Colgett Cutter

Second Committee Member

Edwin Lieuwen

Third Committee Member




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