Ejido / Ejido

The Ejido [eˈxiðo] (from latin exitum) system is a process whereby the government promotes the use of communal land shared by the people of the community. This use of community land was a common practice during the time of Aztec rule in Mexico. They are registered with the National Agrarian Registry (Registro Agrario National).

It was not until the colonization of Mexico by the Spanish and other European settlers that this practice seemed to disappear and be replaced by the encomienda system. The encomienda system was abolished by the Constitution of 1917, with the promise of restoring the ejido system. The system was reinitiated after the Mexican Revolution in some states, notably Morelos but the repartition of land in most of Mexico did not begin until Lázaro Cárdenas became president in 1934. The ejido system was introduced as an important component of the land reform program. The typical procedure for the establishment of an ejido involved the following steps: (1) landless farmers who leased lands from wealthy landlords would petition the federal government for the creation of an ejido in their general area; (2) the federal government would consult with the landlord; (3) the land would be expropriated from the landlords if the government approved the ejido; and (4) an ejido would be established and the original petitioners would be designated as ejidatarios with certain cultivation/use rights. Ejidatarios did not actually own the land, but were allowed to use their alloted parcels indefinitely as long as they did not fail to use the land for more than two years. They could even pass their rights on to their children.

In 1991, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari eliminated the constitutional right to ejidos, citing the "low productivity" of communally owned land.

The change was largely a result of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement:

"Entry into a free trade agreement with the United States and Canada required intense preparation for Mexico. To quell U.S. investors' fears of political upheaval (and thus, possible confiscation of foreign property), the authors of NAFTA included an extensive section on expropriation and confiscation. Mexico was also pressured by the World Bank and the United States to re-write Article 27 of its Constitution - a pillar of the new government that grew out of the 1910 Mexican Revolution - effectively doing away with the ejido system of collective land ownership. This opened up traditional Mexican territory for sale to foreign investors eager to buy up land. The ejido system had been a cornerstone of indigenous and peasant rights in the Mexican agricultural system. Eliminating ejido protections and privatizing traditional landholdings left the most marginalized populations even more vulnerable."

Since then some of the ejido land has been sold to corporations, although most of it is still in the hands of farmers. Some ejido cooperatives, like the ejido that runs the Tolantongo resort, have found alternative uses for their land other than farming.
www.wikpedia.org, Glossary entry, June 2011