Rancho San Pedro

 Life on a Rancho
Mexican Period 2, Mexican Law

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Mexican Period

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Photo credit: Dominguez Adobe
The adobe of Rancho San Pedro as can be seen today.
How did Californio's get land grants after Mexico won its independence? 

Between 1810 and 1824, Mexico was involved in a war with Spain and emerged as an independent nation. This opened up trade with other countries.

The Mexican Congress passed a Law of Colonization in 1824. Mexico wanted get to more people to live in Alta California. This law encouraged foreigners and Mexicans to settle in sparsely populated areas, giving preference to Mexicans, especially, those who had served their country. Land grants were limited in size. The law stated that no one could have more than one square league (about 4,400 areas) of farmland with irrigation, four leagues of land depended upon seasonal rainfall, and six leagues for cattle grazing.

The Law of 1828 established a procedure to get a land grant. This began with a letter addressed to the governor, asking for title to a specific tract of land, described verbally and by a map, called a diseno. The letter would state his Mexican citizenship, his military or civil service to the nation, and other eligibility, and would point out that the land was vacant and part of the public domain. A local official gave the report to the governor. The information given in the letter was the basis of governor’s decision unless he personally knew the land or the people requesting the land.

If the report was favorable, then the governor issued a decree known as a concedo, which was an official order for preparation of the title paper. The United States courts established later, that the date of the concedo marked the official and permanent separation of the tract of land from the public domain. It was required that the governor submit each grant to the territorial legislature for approval.

The certificate of title, generally had several conditions that had to be completed within one (1) year:

1. A structure must be built and lived in.

2. The land was to be fenced or enclosed leaving access to public roads, crossings, and easements.

3. That the rights of previous inhabitants, Indians, be reserved and protected.

4. That the Act of Juridical (legal) Possession define and measure the boundaries. This was done by a local magistrate. Often, it was required that boundaries be planted with “fruit trees or forest trees”.

The Act of Juridical Possession was the nearest that California came to an official survey, and was the means of formally designating the boundaries satisfactory to the owner and to his neighbors.

The measurement was carried out by a team of cordeleros, two mounted men each carrying a pole. The poles were connected by a measuring cord generally of 50 varas in length. After the magistrate had established the proper compass direction to begin, the first codelero rode forward the length of the cord, where he stopped and placed the tip of his pole on the ground. The second cordeleros then rode past the first the length of the cord. Thus alternating, they proceeded along the designated line, moving as instructed by the magistrate until they had gone around the rancho and returned to the place where they started.

Legal possession of the land was given after the measurements were complete. In celebration of ownership, a new ranchero might pull up grass, break the branches of trees or shrubs, and throw stones in the four cardinal directions.

Activities

Teacher Notes