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Don Andrés Molina Enríquez 1865-1940

Don Andrés Molina Enríquez

Born: November 30, 1868 at Jilatepec, Toluca, Mexico Mexico

Died:  August 2 , 1940 at Toluca, Mexico, Mexico

Compiled by Lucy Brown Archer

Don Andrés Molina Enríquez was an ideologist of agrarianism and a precursor of the Mexican Revolution, author of important studies on the national reality, editor of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution. Don Andrés Molina Enríquez was a masterful student of the Scientific and Literary Institute of the State of Mexico.

In his youth, he belonged to that generation that was present at the apogee and collapses of the Porfiriato {Porfirio Diaz regime]. He promulgated a revolutionary plan denouncing the government of Francisco Leon of Barra and went to the jail for that reason. But, later, he lived a calm life until the age of 72 years and wrote the history of the Mexican agrarianism.

Andrés is the son of lawyer, notary, and deputy Anastacio Molina [c.1815 to c.1892], and Francisca Enríquez (1823-1900). Anastacio was the younger brother of Dr. Everardo Molina Enríquez. Andrés Molina Enríquez was born in Jilotepec, Toluca, State of Mexico, Mexico, on the 30 of November of 1868. The family is believed to be descendant of Spanish immigrants who may have been Sephardic Jews or conversos in Europe, who ran to Mexico from the Spanish Inquisition, according to Andrés's son Napoleón Molina. Francisca Enriquez's family owned the hacienda Doxihó outside of Jilotepec. The family acquired Doxihó and other properties during the implementaion of the Liberal land law, Ley Lerdo, which focused on dividing the lands of the Catholic church in Mexico in the mid-1850's. Doxihó was listed as the largest property of the Jilotepec region in 1894 making the family the elite founding family of the Jilotepec region during Andrés childhood.

Enríquez family members held positions of leadership in the state of Mexico in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Gumersindo Enríquez, Andrés uncle, was elected governor of the state in March 1876. Another uncle, Silviano Enríquez was the mayor of Toluca and a teacher and director of the Instituto de Toluca. The elite standing of the Enríquez family in the state of Mexico contrasted with the status of Andrés father, Anastasio Molina, the unknown newcomer.

Anastasio Molina was originally from Yucatan. His parents reportedly had died in a carriage accident in Veracruz when he was a child. The family owned a mine in Taxco, and upon the death of his parents, Anastasio was taken to Taxco to live with his grandmother. Anastasio's grandmother later sent him to Mexico City to law school. After two or three years of law school, Anastasio qualified to work as a notary. He was on his way to a notary job when he was delayed permanently in Jilotepec by his fascination with Francisca Enriquez.

The Enriquezes tended to look down on Anastasio. His modest, though middle-class job of notary did not assure Francisca Enriquez of continued elite status. Furthermore, Anastasio tended toward liberal - even radical - politics, a sore point for the conservative Enriquez family. Undoubtedly this family conflict affected Andrés as a child. The tension between the hacienda-owning Enriquez family and Anastasio might have contributed to Andrés later denunciation of Mexican hacendados as inherently evil. Andrés claimed to have an Otomi grandmother on his mother's side, therefore having mestizo status. --See Stanley Frank Shadle in "Andres Molina Enriquez" Mexican Land Reformer" Pages 10 and 11.

At the age of 12 years, after receiving primary education in his native town, he entered the Literary Institute of Toluca with an average pension that was granted to him by the government of the state of Mexico, to study to receive his baccalaureate.

It was time of the positivista education in the Institute, because the curriculum was applied elaborated by Gabino Barreda for the National School Preparatory and adopted here by disposition of governor Mariano Riva Palace. Molina Enríquez had remarkable professors, like Don Anselmo Camacho, doctor Santiago Zambrana, the poet Juan B. Garza, Don Felipe N. Villarello, doctor Juan Rodriguez and the painter Luis Boundary. The director of the school was doctor Manuel M. Villada, founder of the Normal School of Professors and the Weather station.

In 1855, Andrés was transferred to the city of Mexico to study the practice of notary public in the National University. With that title, he decided to study the lawyer profession, but in 1892, due to the sudden death of his father [c. 1892], he had to return to Jilotepec to assume his father's position at the notary's office.

He was notary to other populations of the state. On June 16, 1894 he married Eloida Rodea. During 1894 to 1898 he functioned in the mining town of Sultepec, where he got the idea to publish a small newspaper named La Hormiga ( The Ant).

In 1899, when returning to Toluca, professor Molina Enríquez was named head of Right for Notaries of the Literary Institute where he remained until 1903. The 14 of January of 1901, Andrés pronounced an important speech at the ceremony of inauguration of courses, in which he made a pronouncement of positivism against the ruling government and he analyzed with objectivity the fundamental facts of century XIX. In that same year, he obtained the title of lawyer, in Toluca.

In 1908, Don Andrés entered the university as professor of Ethnography at the National Museum of History, and a year later published his more important book, The Great National Problems, that somehow got by the censor, was published in 1909. This book is considered the precursor of the Revolution, and was prior to La sucesión presidencial published by Francisco I. Madero in 1910. Molina's book was a terrifying exposure of the whole hypocritical, stifling miasma of Porfirian despotism. published on the hundredth anniversary of Miguel Hidalgo's Grito de Dolores and the birth of Mexican Independence from Spain. [The Grito de Dolores was the call for the independence of Mexico given by Miguel Hidalgo on September 16, 1810 in the town of Dolores, near Guanajuato. Hidalgo rang the church bell to gather his congregation, then called for Mexican independence and the exile or arrest of all Spaniards in Mexico.]

Just before the 1910 Mexican Revolution, Andres pointed out that one of the great national problems was the extraordinary concentraion of wealth, especially wealth derived from land possession, 1.5 % of the population owned 90.5 % of the wealth/land. It is necessary, said Molina, to create a middle class to serve as a bridge between the two desparate sections of Mexican society. The Revolution favored the growth of the middle class and was one its great achievements.

An important wing of the initial Maderista front, represented by Emilio and Francisco Vazquez Gomez, decided to establish a new front in order to demand the adoption of the Plan de San Luis. With the support of several revolutionary leaders, the Vazquistas began an open conspiracy to dissolve the interim government, put Madero himself in the presidency, and pave the way to the "full renovation" that the political circumstances of the country demanded.

That conflict began at the end of June 1911, reached a new level on August 2nd, with the resignation of Emilio Vazquez Gomez as secretary of the Interior and the arrest of four generals. On August 23rd, the Vazquita insurrectional plan was presented as the Plan at Texcoco, drafted by Andrés Molina Enríquez. The plan denounced the government of Francisco Leon De La Barra, handed the command of the revolution to Emilio Vazquez Gomez, reserved the right to legislate on the breaking up of the large landholdings (latifundios) greater than two thousand hectares, or almost five thousand acres (the claimant could select the part that he wanted) and distribution to landless peasants, and demanded that ranches be declared corporations of social and political interest for the nation.

Molina Enríquez was imprisoned a year in penitenciary of Lecumberri for his part at Texcoco, but it laid the foundations for the Plan of Ayala of the zapatismo. "Los grandes problemas nacionales, published in 1909, written by this scholar, Andrés Molina Enríquez, became to the Mexican Revolution what Rousseau's Contrat Social was to the French, and more. It became the gospel of thousands and thousands of people who never heard of it, could not have read its simplest words. The book was read by scholars, professional men, students. It created a kind of intellectual climate, and provided a sympathetic grasp of the things that were exciting rancheros and Indian "bad men" and labor agitators. Thus it bridged separated worlds. It lined up on the same side wealthy liberals who had no want but political freedom, and organizers of the revolutionary labor unions, such as the Flores Magon brothers, Enrique and Ricardo...

"Three occupations, Molino Enriques had observed tartly, were open to educated mestizos: government employment, the professions, and revolution. Men of tougher political constitutions and better brains than Madero grouped themselves around Molina, the first man of substantial name to make an open rebellious move." Pages 27-28 Winds That Swept Mexico

In 1915, Andrés was invited by president Venustiano Carranza to integrate the Agrarian National Commission, in which constitutionalism promoted the project of Article 27, in which the ownership of property/farmland was settled down to the ejido (villages).

In 1917, Don Andrés was invited to collaborate as Secretary General of government in the regime of general Agustín Millán, and in that position he took part in the promulgation of the Political Constitution of 1917.

The rest of his life, Molina Enríquez dedicated himself as chair of Ethnography and to write the work of the agrarian revolution in Mexico, in five volumes, that finally was published in 1936.

Don Andrés lived his last years in Toluca, toiling as a magistrate of the Superior Court of Justice. He died on the 1st of August of 1940.

From: "Interpreting the Expropriation of Indian Pueblo Lands in Porfirian Mexico: The Unexamined Legacies of Andrés Molina Enríquez" by Emilio H. Kourí in the Hispanic American Historical Review, 2002 Duke University. Pages 69-117. Beginning here on Page 90:

Andrés Molina Enríquez

Page 90

Andrés Molina Enríquez was born on 30 November 1868 in the Villa of Jilotepec (Mexico State), the creole and mestizo-dominated cabecera of an old farming and ranching district heavily populated by Otomí Indians, one hundred miles northwest of Mexico City and not far from the border with the nascent state of Hidalgo. He was the son of Francisca Enríquez, scioness (descendant) of a once-wealthy local family, and Anastasio Molina, the town’s notary public. His father was active in local Liberal circles, and even served as diputado (1872–73) from Jilotepec in the state legislature.

When Andrés was eleven years old, he joined an older brother as a student at the prestigious Instituto Literario del Estado de México in Toluca; he had to be given a scholarship, since the family, it seems, could not afford to pay his tuition. Thanks in good measure to Ignacio Ramírez, who had once taught there, the Instituto boasted a high academic reputation, as well as solid Liberal credentials.

Just as Molina was beginning his studies, a new curriculum inspired by the doctrines of positivism was introduced. He spent the next five years there, taking courses in Mathematics, French, Latin, Morals and Civics, Universal Geography and Cosmography, English, Greek Civilization, Spanish, Physics, Chemistry, World and Mexican History, German, Logic, and Literature.

Hoping to become a lawyer, he attended the Escuela Nacional de Jurisprudencia in Mexico City, since the Instituto—renamed Científico y Literario in 1886—had eliminated law degrees as part of its recent curricular reform.

By the time he left Toluca in 1885, young Andrés Molina had acquired a broad “scientific” education, probably as rigorous and modern an intellectual training as could then be obtained in Mexico.32

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Between 1885 and 1891, Molina studied for three years at the National Law School, which he left without obtaining a degree. It is not clear why he did not finish, or what he did for the remaining three years, though some have suggested that he was perhaps forced to work full-time for a living.

In April 1891, back in Toluca, Molina was licensed as a notary public; soon thereafter, he returned to Jilotepec, where—in early 1892—he took over his ailing father’s legal business.33 The next six years Molina would spend working as a notario, initially in Jilotepec, then briefly in Toluca, and finally in the southern district of Sultepec, a mountainous mining zone surrounded by agricultural pueblos, where he resided for most of this period. As it turns out, the communal lands of many of these villages had recently been privatized, and the new individual lot titles that had been issued to pueblo members (often just the kind of document that Orozco was denouncing as spurious) were already being bought and sold. As a notary public, Molina was expected to bear legal witness to and maintain a public record of these transactions through which Indians (in most cases) were selling away their lands. Alfonso Sánchez Arteche has gone over a number of the protocolos that Molina Enríquez wrote during those years, showing that these ex-communal land title transfers came before him on a regular basis.34 The experience clearly made a deep impression on him.

A decade later, he would reconstruct these events in Los grandes problemas nacionales: "I can personally testify to this, based on what I witnessed during nine years in various small towns. . . . Many of the Indians who received lands did not get to own their lots even for a single day, and if one were to look into the question of sale prices, one would find that a certain lot was acquired for a few pieces of bread, another for a few quarts of corn,and most of the rest for a few pitchers of pulque or a few quarts of aguardiente."35

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In July 1898, Molina left Sultepec for a post in the administration of Governor Villada. By then, he had been writing newspaper articles for several years, and had even briefly published his own paper, Sultepec’s La Hormiga ["The Ant"].36

While in Toluca, he resumed his legal studies at the Instituto, where law was once again being taught. After passing all the required courses and professional exams, he finally received his law degree on 14 September 1901.37 A year later, he was appointed interim district judge in Tlalnepantla, and immediately had to rule on a dispute over the ownership of some farmlands, in which an individual was suing various vecinos of the pueblo of San Miguel Chiconautla. The plaintiff’s lawyer argued that the defendants’ title to the lands in question—given to the pueblo as part of a settlement negotiated in back in 1897—was simply not valid, since the law clearly stated that pueblos had no personalidad jurídica and hence were not allowed to possess such lands. The plaintiff, moreover, had his own individual property title, issued to him by the jefe político as part of a reparto. Judge Molina Enríquez nevertheless sided with the pueblo, using his ruling to call into question both the original logic and the subsequent interpretation of Article 25 of the Lerdo Law (25 June 1856), which denied pueblos any legal standing. In due course, the State Superior Court overturned his decision, and the Supreme Court ratified the reversal.38

Molina’s stint as a judge in Tlalnepantla lasted no more than a year; he went on to serve for a few months as district judge and notary public in El Oro de Hidalgo, a mining town on the western edge of the state, but by mid-1904 he had abandoned the bench and settled in Mexico City, where he would practice law in association with Luis Cabrera, whom he had apparently met back in Tlalnepantla. By then his unusual ideas and influential friendships had started to earn him recognition in some intellectual circles, and he had become an honorary member of the Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía y Estadística.

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At this point, his story becomes better known. In 1906 Molina Enríquez published La reforma y Juárez: Estudio histórico-sociológico, an essay propounding a distinctively original interpretation of Mexico’s nineteenth-century history; afterwards, he began serializing his Estudios de Sociología Mexicana in the newspaper El Tiempo. These were preliminary drafts of what eventually became Los grandes problemas nacionales, published—auspiciously, in retrospect—in 1909.39

This biographical outline helps to explain the origin of Molina Enríquez’s interest in the plight of the pueblos, and it also gives some indication of the kinds of practical remedies that his writings would propose. The divided racial world of his native Jilotepec, his father’s social liberalism, bearing witness to the injustices—legal and otherwise—engendered in the process of pueblo land divisions—all of these experiences would deeply influence his understanding of Mexico’s rural ills. In and of themselves, however, they do not explain his peculiar conceptualization of the problems that lay before him, and in particular how—against the grain of Mexico’s prevailing intellectual trends —he came to see the preservation of pueblos (in the old juridical sense) as essential for social peace and progress.

In order to do that, it is also necessary to examine Molina’s diverse intellectual influences, the lenses through which he filtered both what he saw in his native Mexico state and what he thought about the larger historical context within which these recent events had to be interpreted. This is a task made difficult not only by the inherent complexity of the subject but also by the paucity of research on these questions.

What follows now is therefore only a preliminary attempt to map out—though not, for the most part, to detail or disentangle—the main sources of Molina’s analysis (in addition, of course, to his own first-hand observations).
For the sake of simplicity, they may be divided into four clusters:
-the positivism of sociologists Auguste Compte and Herbert Spencer;
-the biological evolutionism of Charles Darwin and Ernst Haeckel;
-the historical school of jurisprudence;
-and the literature on Mexican history and ethnology.

Each will be briefly described in turn. Like most educated Mexicans of his time, Molina Enríquez was heavily influenced by the theories of Compte and Spencer. He learned his positivism at the Instituto in Toluca, where a belief in the scientific basis of knowledge, in

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the inexorable march of progress, and in the structure of society as a natural organism had become the foundation of all learning; in this sense, Molina was a positivist even before he knew it. It appears that he eventually read everything that he could find by—or about—both Compte and Spencer, but his aversion to citations makes it hard to know exactly what that was. Still, Compte’s imprint is clearly visible.

A little known text called Clasificación de las ciencias fundamentales (1920) was Molina’s attempt to grapple with—and improve upon—Compte’s theories and classification of knowledge, and La reforma y Juárez—echoing Compte’s “three stages”—divided Mexican history into three successive developmental periods.40 Of all the new sciences, sociology— which he described as the study of “the formation of human collectivities”— attracted him the most, and he came to consider himself primarily a sociologist, much in the way that Compte had defined it. Molina’s methodological emphasis on social groups as units of analysis, his conception of the state as an important agent of social development, his insistence on the social character of property, and his barely disguised social paternalism, all bear a distinctively Comptean influence.

Indeed, as Charles Hale has observed, “the positivism of Molina Enríquez, like that of Sierra, was in some respects more Comptean than Spencerian, particularly in its conception of state and society.”41

At the same time, Molina was wholly taken with Spencer’s notion of the universality of evolution and its application to the understanding of the history of human societies. Moreover, in Hale’s words, “Spencer’s thought had a descriptive ethnographical dimension that was lacking in Compte, and he helped Mexicans focus attention on the peculiarities of their society within the universal scheme of evolution.” This appealed to Molina Enríquez; on those rare occasions in which his main pre-1910 works refer directly to Spencer’s writings, they do so specifically in this ethnological context.42

A fascination with evolution also drew Molina to Darwin, whose theory of natural selection he readily embraced, using it to explain the evolution of certain

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physiological traits among Mexico’s native peoples. In Los grandes problemas nacionales, he cites a good number of Darwin’s works, including The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man.43 A more direct and pervasive influence, however, would come from the works of Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919), a German zoologist and philosopher who publicized and defended the theory of organic evolution in Germany. Haeckel’s interpretations of—and elaborations on—Darwin’s ideas shaped Molina’s thought in significant ways.

In particular, two of Haeckel’s formulations seem to have struck Molina as insightful. One was the “fundamental biogenetic law,” which stated, that “ontogenesis is a brief and rapid recapitulation of phylogenesis, determined by the physiological functions of heredity (generation) and adaptation (maintenance).”44 In other words, the development patterns of individual organisms, Haeckel explained, essentially replicate those in the historic evolution of the species to which they belong.

Viewing both societies at large and the social groups within them as evolutionary organisms, Molina would employ the biogenetic law to make sense of the long-term historical development of Mexico as a nation and of the various socio-ethnic collectivities that formed a part of it. Molina also adopted Haeckel’s philosophical monism, the belief that all matter—organic and inorganic— was ultimately one and the same. To show this, Haeckel early on elaborated a controversial “carbon theory,” which sought to explain how inorganic carbon compounds could have spontaneously generated movement, thus becoming the organic basis of all life in the universe. The variegated development of these organic forces in the context of specific ambient conditions would then set in motion the evolution of species. In Los grandes problemas nacionales, Molina would borrow (and adapt) this theory to explain the origin of those “large [human] groups that are generally called razas,” including the various

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native peoples of Mexico. In the end, Haeckel’s intricate biological arguments would provide the foundation—or so Molina thought—for one of Los grandes problemas nacionales most important analytic claims; namely, that “the mutual affinities and attractions that give rise among those individuals who form a particular group to what is called social cohesion” have an “organic origin.”45

While Molina Enríquez’s reliance on positivist social theories and on Darwin’s and Haeckel’s biological evolutionism has long been recognized, the enormous influence that the ideas of the historical school of jurisprudence (knowingly or otherwise) appear to have exerted upon his work has been universally ignored.46

The term “historical jurisprudence” refers to a method of analysis and criticism made prominent by the studies on the history of Roman law published by the German scholar Friedrich Karl von Savigny during the first half of the nineteenth century. In the aftermath of the wars against Napoleon, jurist Anton Thibaut had urged the enactment of a single civil code for all the German states. Savigny vigorously opposed the idea of a codification based on the abstract principles of natural law, arguing that a nation’s law reflects both its history and its particular state of civilization, and thus should not be modified arbitrarily. Closely paraphrasing Savigny’s famous reply to Thibaut in On the Vocation of Our Age for Legislation and Jurisprudence (1814), legal scholar Hermann Kantorowicz wrote:
"The historical school teaches that the contents of the law are necessarily determined by the whole past of the nation, and therefore cannot be changed arbitrarily. Thus, like the language, the manners, and the constitution of a nation, all law is exclusively determined by the nation’s peculiar character, by what was later called the Volksgeist. Like language, manners, and constitution, law has no separate existence, but is a simple function or facet of the whole life of the nation. . . . Thus, law is always organically connected with the development of social life. . . . The real remedy for the deficiencies of German law was to apply strictly historical methods, and thus to purify the original Roman law from its defilement through modern ignorance and indifference. History alone, Savigny declared, is the road to the understanding of our own conditions."47

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In this view, both law and society were the subjects of parallel processes of evolution (in a nonbiological sense), and rigorous historical analysis was the means through which the true meaning of existing laws could be ascertained.

Savigny himself applied these ideas to the study of Roman law; his works of scholarship, in particular Das Recht des Besitzes (1803) and the massive Geschichte des römischen Rechts im Mittelalter (1815–31), revolutionized the field of jurisprudence.

It is unlikely that Molina ever read Savigny directly, although most of his studies of Roman law were available in French and English translations, as well as—to a lesser extent—in Spanish. There is no doubt, however, that Molina’s understanding of the relationship between law and social development ( particularly, as will be seen, in the case of the pueblos) bears a remarkable resemblance to what was propounded by the historical school, especially with respect to its underlying philosophy.

Indeed, Kantorowicz’s description of Savigny’s ideas could be applied to Molina’s just as well, replacing Germany with Mexico and Roman with Spanish law.48 But exactly how and when the historical approach to jurisprudential analysis found its way into Mexico is a question that has yet to be answered. It is quite possible that Molina became engaged with some of these ideas through the writings of Edouard Laboulaye, Heinrich Ahrens, Johann Caspar Bluntschli, or Emile de Laveleye, which were well known in Mexican legal circles.49

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Another likely conduit would be Spanish legal historiography—the studies of Eduardo de Hinojosa, Rafael Altamira y Crevea, and other scholars similarly influenced by Savigny. Molina Enríquez may have come across these works in law school, on his own or perhaps through his friends at the Escuela Nacional de Jurisprudencia. Regardless, it seems clear that Savigny’s analytical approach became an important—albeit unacknowledged—part of Molina’s thinking.50

Finally, it is also worth noting that Molina was familiar with the long historiography and with the budding ethnography of Mexico. He had read Zavala, Mora, Otero, Ocampo, Pimentel, Orozco y Berra, Riva Palacio, Sierra, and Bulnes. In addition, he had studied the writings of Jovellanos and Orozco, as well as diverse works on native peoples, from Hubert Bancroft’s The Native Races to Elie Reclus’s Les primitifs.51

Despite his small-town origins and occupations, Molina was evidently a very learned man. Weaving together his experiences, his observations, his readings, and his convictions, Molina Enríquez went on to produce a new interpretation of Mexican history in which the pueblo, as a sociolegal institution, would play a central role, and where the Reforma, despite its many other virtues, would be portrayed as a “clumsy” and ultimately “disastrous” legal effort to strip Indian pueblos of a juridical status that befitted their evolutionary needs. But the story that Molina wanted to tell begins much earlier, with an account of the rise of humans and the development of agriculture in the high central plateaus of Mexico.

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Following Haeckel, Molina believed that carbonic exchanges were the key to understanding organismic evolution; in the case of humans, this meant nutrition. Thus, the possibilities of agriculture would determine the ability of a given people to evolve in the direction of complexity, both in terms of individual physiology and with respect to their social arrangements. In short, agriculture was the key to civilization. Agriculture, in turn, depended on the conditions imposed by the environment, and hence the latter would define the kind of social evolution that could take place within any given zone. In general, different territories would allow for different degrees of group evolution.

In Mexico, Molina argued, the lay of the land had severely restricted the potential for agricultural development, except in the central highland plateaus, which he baptized la zona fundamental de los cereales. It was therefore in this area that human societies would evolve the furthest.52 Surveying the extraordinary variety of “tribes or pueblos” that Orozco y Berra had documented as existing at the time of the conquest, Molina observed:
"These tribes occupied their own areas, spoke mostly different languages, and were in very diverse stages of evolutive development. Each evolved in relation to the conditions of the terrain in which they lived, and some among them who occupied the privileged spaces of la zona fundamental de los cereales had managed to reach a relatively advanced stage of evolution. 53

Molina also believed that just as different terrains would produce different evolutive results, cohabitation under similar environmental circumstances would yield social cohesion. In his own words, “social forces of a completely organic origin . . . establish the mutual affinities and attractions that give rise among all of the units in one particular zone to what we have called social cohesion; this, in turn, gives rise to the formation of a group within which harmonious relations are born and established, making the whole into an organism.” 54

Collectivities, like individuals, were organic beings shaped by the forces of evolution. This, he concluded, was not only the origin of races, but also—beyond that—of tribal (or ethnic) identity. For these reasons, Molina would conceive of Indian pueblos (which he considered the colonial embodiments of

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these human units) as being essentially cohesive and harmonious social formations, largely devoid of serious internal conflicts or fractures. The character of a social group’s property relations, Molina went on to explain, was the clearest expression of the level of evolution that it had reached. Since this idea lies at the heart of Molina’s understanding of Indian pueblos, his argument is worth quoting at length: "
Given the close link that is found among groups of people everywhere between the conditions of production of the elements that provide the necessary carbon that is vital for combustion to all the units of those groups of people, on the one hand, and the stage of development that such groups manage to attain, on the other . . . it is clear that as these groups become more advanced, they develop a firmer, more precise, and more complex relationship with the lands they occupy: they grow, let’s put it that way, wider and deeper roots in that territory, and it becomes for that reason harder to cut off those roots and to evict them.. . . All of the juridical ties that are called property rights emanate from that relationship between a territory and the population that occupies it.55
In short, the territorial context of agricultural production, the pace of social evolution, and the character of property rights were all thus perfectly correlated.
It is worth noting that in this view the content of property rights was determined by historical conditions, and as such, Molina would later argue, it should only be modified in accordance with the evolution of said conditions. There was, moreover, an ascending scale of progress regarding the evolution of property rights, “from the absolute lack of any notion of such rights, to individual property based on securities, which in our judgment represents the highest form of territorial domain.”

It was therefore possible, Molina thought, to classify degrees of social evolution in terms of the prevailing forms of rights over landed property. To illustrate his argument, Molina prepared a chart (see Table 1) showing the various historical phases of territorial possession alongside the stages of evolution to which each corresponded.

Table 1: Historical Phases of Territorial Possession and Corresponding Stages of Evolution by Andrés Molina Enríquez

“As can be seen,” Molina concluded, “simply by placing any peoples in one of the ten stages of social development identified in the preceding table, one can learn right away their approximate evolutive age.”56 This he regarded as an important scientific advance. He then proceeded to catalogue pre-Hispanic

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indigenous societies in this fashion; most of the “tribes” occupying the zona fundamental were in stage three ( possession), with some beginning to reach the fourth (property), while those on the fringes of this zone tended to be in the second (occupation), and northern peoples generally remained in the first (no notion whatsoever of property rights). However, he cautioned, precise classifications were hard to do, since in many cases one stage coexisted with another. Nevertheless, Molina continued, it was clear that not even the most advanced among these peoples had acquired a full sense of property (that is, written titles). Spaniards, by contrast, had already reached that stage.

After the conquest, Spanish authorities failed to recognize any of these developmental distinctions, and instead grouped all indigenous people into a single category, namely, Indians. This was understandable, Molina thought, given the enormous “evolutive distance” that separated Spaniards from indigenous peoples, which made it hard for the new arrivals to discern many local differences. Beyond that, the Spanish government had wisely understood the significance of this atraso evolutivo; it was cause for admiration, Molina wrote, that Spaniards had managed “to give the Indians a treatment adequate for their evolutive age.” Therein, moreover, lay the root of their success, for in recognizing that “differences in stages of evolution reflect differences in organization."

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the Spanish authorities were able, in effect, to devise social institutions well suited to the Indians’ organizational capacities.57 Chief among them, of course, was the pueblo. Molina understood well the juridical structure of colonial “pueblo communities,” as he called them, and the reasons that underlay it. In his view, the uniform legal regime of communal property on which pueblos were based had represented something new for some of the peoples on whom it had been imposed, used as they had been to mere possession, occupation, or even less.

Hence, it was not always a perfect fit, but in such cases the Spaniards had shown some flexibility in its application.58 On the whole, however, and especially for the indigenous peoples of the zona fundamental, Molina was convinced that the establishment of pueblos (in both legal senses) had been a felicitous policy. Given the Indians’ “evolutive backwardness,” no other form of organization could have better served their interests. As he put it, "Far from having been prejudicial, the communal regime has been beneficial for the Indians." Communal property, consisting of the Indian village fundos, the ejidos, and the terrenos de repartimiento—despite being continually invaded and diminished by the Spaniards, and despite being composed of poor lands—has nevertheless sustained the life of the Indians in an admirable way. Communal property has had two indisputable advantages: it preserved forever the land that the Indian cultivates, and it motivated every Indian in a community to defend the common land, which was the only effective means of defense that the Indians could deploy against the Spaniards. If the land had been divided individually, fairly or not, among Spaniards and Indians, and if the latter had been freed from the tutelage that forbade them to sell their lands, there is absolutely no doubt that there would no longer be a single square centimeter of land in the hands of Indians, and not a single Indian left in the republic.59

In this way, Molina Enríquez turned on its head a long and deeply entrenched line of argumentation—from Zavala and Mora to Pimentel and Sierra— which blamed the paternalistic logic behind the institution of the colonial pueblo for much of the “ignorance” and “backwardness” that was said to pervade Indian life. The pueblo, Molina asserted, had not been the problem, but rather the solution.60

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The coming of independence, Molina continued, had not altered this state of affairs. “Independent Mexico,” he wrote, “has not managed to find a more efficacious means of assisting the Indian race than that of the community.” Predictably, therefore, he regarded Liberal efforts to abolish the legal standing of Indian polities and to break up their communal landholdings as being profoundly misguided, this despite the fact that he revered Juárez and considered the expropriation of church holdings a gigantic step in the direction of national progress. Like his own father, Molina embraced the general aims of the Reforma, but on the question of the Indian pueblos he had decidedly forged his own separate path. For him, it was inevitable that the implementation of the ley Lerdo would have “disastrous consequences,” since the Indians who received land lots from the repartos were bound to lose them. Their “evolutive age” precluded any other outcome. “No podía ser de otro modo,” he wrote, because community offered the Indians notable advantages . . . [giving them] a way to make a living regardless of their stage of evolution, from that of a savage horde to that of a politic incorporated to civilization.

These lands yielded many resources, which the Indians could enjoy without much effort, without capital, and—what is more important—without any appreciable detriment to the land. Once the land had been divided, however, those who were not ready, lacked the means, or did not know how to take advantage of their new private patrimony (which, incidentally, carried with it a host of fiscal obligations) saw no option but to sell, since they still had to make a living, and the free resources that had been available in community were no longer theirs to be had. Most Indians, Molina explained, irremediably found themselves in this situation, and sooner or later their fracciones ended up in the hands of the mestizos.

At that point, bereft of land and livelihood—he ominously concluded—these Indians “ceased to be peaceful men, turning into mercenary soldiers ready to follow any old agitator.”61

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To put an end to this grievous process, the pueblos would have to be reconstituted. And only a strong central government in full possession of the vast powers of territorial domain that had been legally inherited from the Spanish Crown could accomplish this pressing social task.

Herein, in sum, lies the source of the generic explanation of disentailment and its consequences, as well as the buried ideological inspiration for a program of agrarian reform that would bring back some of the core juridical features of the colonial Spanish pueblos (now renamed ejidos), just when the old Liberals and new Porfirians who fought against them imagined that they would have at last been rooted out.

Influence of Molina Enríquez’s Ideas

Molina Enríquez’s sui generis rendering of pueblo history and identity would eventually be adopted by a host of revolutionary ideologues, politicians, and pioneer scholars of the countryside, including—most notably—Frank Tannenbaum, whose classic studies of the Mexican revolution came to reflect many important aspects of Molina’s peculiar thought.

By the early 1930s, this conceptualization of the history of post-Reforma pueblos had quietly found its way not only into the official account of the grievances that led to (and justified) the popular, agrarian revolution, but also—significantly—into the new agrarian reform legislation. Among scholars, too, it would acquire a new lease on life. Embedded in Tannenbaum’s profoundly influential oeuvre (works), Molina Enríquez’s reductionist tenets about the character of the old pueblos would inadvertently find their way—obliquely and overtly—into the work of successive generations of rural historians.

These twin processes of ideological diffusion—in law and in historical interpretation—are both complex and extensive; tracing them in full detail would require another essay altogether.62 What follows now is therefore only a brief outline of these developments, sketching the manner in which Molina’s ideas influenced agrarian legislation and historical interpretation about the pueblos during and after the revolution.

Molina’s sociohistorical analysis found its way into land reform legislation thanks largely to the work of his friend Luis Cabrera, a professor and dean of the national law school who went on to serve as diputado during Madero’s presidency and then became an influential advisor and cabinet minister under Carranza.

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As Cabrera openly acknowledged on a number of occasions, Molina was the principal source of his agrarian ideas; in his estimation, Los grandes problemas nacionales was the single most important analysis of rural Mexico’s social and economic problems produced prior to the revolution.63

Cabrera first brought Molina’s interpretation of pueblo history and character into the legislative process as part of his now famous speech introducing a land reform bill before the House of Representatives on 3 December 1912, the text of which was published soon thereafter as La reconstitución de los ejidos de los pueblos.

At the time, one of the legislature’s most pressing concerns was dealing with the land issues raised by the Zapatista rebellion in nearby Morelos. Cabrera’s solution was to propose the reconstitution of pueblo communal landholdings, a measure he thought would effectively bring an end to those rural upheavals. In so doing, Cabrera explicitly endorsed and embraced several key aspects of Molina’s historical and sociological arguments. At least five deserve to be mentioned: first, that “it was necessary to give lands not to individuals, but to social groups”;
second, that the pueblos had to be given back their juridical standing;
third, that communal landholdings, once reconstituted, had to be made legally inalienable;
fourth, that the origin of village land loss could be traced back to (and ultimately explained by) the disentailment laws of 1856, which were a “very serious and very big mistake” that had led inevitably to “the absolute impoverishment of the pueblos”; and
fifth, that the federal government had the authority (and the duty) to grant communal lands to those pueblos that were in need of it.64

Although Cabrera’s proyecto de ley diverged somewhat in practical and procedural terms from the comprehensive agrarian reforms that Molina was himself then advocating, Cabrera’s law was nevertheless unmistakably the conceptual offspring of Los grandes problemas nacionales.65

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This bill’s prospects died with Madero, but Cabrera went on to become Carranza’s trusted advisor, “the intellectual engine of Carrancismo.”66 In that capacity, it was Cabrera who drafted the constitutionalist decree of 6 January 1915, which became the foundation of Mexico’s postrevolutionary agrarian legislation.67 This text, too, bore clearly the distinctive imprint of Molina’s thought. The law’s preamble portrayed village and villagers’ landlessness as a direct result of the implementation (legal and otherwise) of the ley Lerdo, a ruinous process facilitated by the denial of juridical standing to pueblos mandated by Article 27 of the 1857 Constitution.

To remedy this situation and “as the only effective way to ensure peace” in the countryside (in the context of powerful Zapatista and Villista challenges to Carranza’s rule), the decree established a mechanism for the expropriation of lands to be restituted or simply granted (in all cases inalienably) to pueblos currently in need of them. Both as a matter of belated justice and for the expedient sake of rural pacification, the pueblos would now be legally enabled to reconstitute their holdings.68

The specific historical interpretation of village land expropriation that framed this fundamental decree has since become very familiar, even commonplace, but it was certainly not well known or widely accepted at the time. It was altogether absent, for instance, from the Zapatistas’ rival Plan de Ayala (1911), which, quite to the contrary, paid homage to “the immortal code of 1857, written with the revolutionary blood of Ayutla.”69

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Years later, Molina wrote that the decree of 1915’s exposition of motives “reflect[ed] the principal arguments made in my book Los grandes problemas nacionales. . . concerning the problem of property with respect to Indians.” In this he was right; the law’s diagnosis of the land problem was evidently derived from his sociohistorical ideas, even if the remedies it prescribed did not follow all of his recommendations.70

In this regard, it is telling that Luis Cabrera had Molina Enríquez appointed to the National Agrarian Commission set up by the decree of 1915 to carry out the redistribution of land to the pueblos.71

Through his work in the C. N. A., and thanks to Cabrera’s continued support, Molina Enríquez became a well-known figure in Carrancista agrarian circles. Thus, in early 1917, he was asked to join a small commission charged with drafting a new Article 27 for the Constitutional Convention assembled in Queretaro. An initial proposal put forth by Carranza had been deemed unacceptable, because it remained too close to the strict precepts regarding private property espoused back in 1857 and did not address the social demands for substantial land tenure reform forthrightly enough. Since time was very short, Molina Enríquez was asked to come up with a whole new text for Article 27, which he quickly composed.

By all accounts (including Molina’s), the other members of this working group found the logic and formulation of his draft too abstruse, and hence it was set aside. The commission then worked feverishly to put together yet another draft of the article, for which Molina alone wrote the preamble (in essence, a concise statement of his own theories).

When it was finished, just ten days after the group had first convened, it was submitted for consideration by the Congress. After a congressional committee hurriedly made a number of changes, for the most part minor ones, the diputados constituyentes quickly discussed and then approved the new Article 27. 72

There has been some debate concerning the role that Molina played in drafting Article 27. Admirers such as Frank Tannenbaum—no doubt encouraged by Molina’s own bold claims—came to consider him “the author of Article 27”, while other participants in the process—in particular Pastor Rouaix

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and José Natividad Macías—have sought to minimize the importance of his contribution.73 It is clear that the constitutional decision to recognize and reconstruct communal landholdings was above all a pragmatic response to the unyielding demands of popular insurrectionary movements, and not—at least not primarily—the product of deeply considered intellectual arguments.

Whereas the old Article 27 (1857) had denied all corporate bodies the right to own property, the new one stated that property could take a variety of forms (modalidades), in accordance with the public interest. In this way, communal landholding became legal once again, and the pueblos regained their juridical standing, a status now also extended to other similar corporations, such as rancherías, condueñazgos, and congregaciones. The Zapatistas had long insisted— as had Molina—on the legalization of pueblo land rights, and it was ultimately their persistent armed struggle—and not Molina’s writings—that made this a reality. When the constituyentes of 1917 endorsed these sections of Article 27, they did so as a means of resolving an immediate sociopolitical problem, and not because they knew or cared about Molina’s elaborate social analysis.74

Nonetheless, Molina’s intellectual influence on the text of Article 27 is not hard to detect; both the historical justification and the sociojuridical basis for the restoration of communal land rights provided therein can be traced back directly to his ideas. First, Article 27 ratified the provisions and rationale of Luis Cabrera’s decree of 6 January 1915, granting them the status of constitutional law. In so doing, the constitution effectively validated Molina’s historical explanation of the consequences of disentailment. Second, Article 27 legalized communal landholding not simply by saying—as the Zapatistas had done— that this was what villagers demanded, but rather on the basis of an abstract notion of modalidades that reflected Molina’s sociojuridical arguments.75

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Molina outlined the logic behind this concept in the preamble he wrote for the proyecto de ley his commission presented to the Congress, saying that since there were in fact different “classes of territorial rights” in existence throughout Mexico, this was a reality that the law could no longer ignore.76 This was precisely what Los grandes problemas nacionales had endeavored to demonstrate. An even clearer expression of this underlying rationale can be found in an insightful little essay entitled “El espíritu de la constitución de Querétaro,” which Molina published in 1922 along with a series of other texts (mostly his) intended to explain the origin and meaning of Article 27.77 There Molina wrote that the constitution had effectively recognized that “different kinds of private territorial rights” were necessary for “the various groups in the national population which in fact represent differences in stages of evolution.” In this way, he went on to explain, Article 27 had acknowledged the reality that those “communities generically called pueblos” were still a part of the national life, and had thus “established the bases upon which these communities could continue their progressive evolution.” In short, given the existence of varying “degrees of legal capacity” among social groups, the state had a right (and an obligation) to regulate the form of private property, to impose modalidades on private property, all for the public good.78 This is what the new constitution aimed to do.

Thus it is evident that Molina’s formative ideas regarding pueblos (their history, character, and needs) were by and large incorporated into the agrarian legislation of the victorious constitutionalists. Lodged therein, these tenets would help to define some of the basic features of ejido land reform for decades to come—government tutelage, the inalienability of land grants, and a bureaucratic adherence to the idea that these communities—old or new— constituted inherently cohesive and harmonious social bodies, to name a few.

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With regard to pueblos, the decree of 1915 and the new Article 27 contained not only prospective solutions to an urgent social problem, but also— for those who cared to look—an implicit (and unsubstantiated) historical and sociocultural definition of the problem itself. It consisted of a generic account of post-Reforma disentailment and its disastrous consequences, itself based on a series of assumptions about the “cultural” characteristics of pueblo inhabitants. Molina’s work was the principal source of this conceptualization. For many intellectuals and scholars trying to make sense of the roots and meaning of Mexico’s land tenure reforms, these prominent laws offered not just a guide to the present, but also a compelling representation of the recent past. Legitimated in this way, Molina’s historical interpretation of village land loss would become widely accepted among intellectuals sympathetic to the revolution; after all, given that this legislation was crafted largely to address the grievances of rebellious villagers, how could its description of the cause of those grievances be anything but accurate?79

Some writers (mostly Mexican) endorsed the account in question simply by reference to the new agrarian laws, while others (largely American) traced the source of these insights back to Molina Enríquez’s obscure writings, which—read in this context—appeared profoundly incisive and foresightful. In either case, the outcome was more or less the same: Molina’s sui generis views regarding the plight of the pueblos were consistently adopted and disseminated—knowingly or not—by a wide array of writers and scholars, so much so that in time they would become nearly a truism.

A few notable examples will suffice to make this pattern evident. The special case of Luis Cabrera has already been discussed, but it bears mentioning once more, because it was Cabrera who effectively translated Molina’s sociohistorical arguments into an authoritative rationale for legal action, thus enabling this process of ideological diffusion to get underway.

Absent Cabrera, the fate of Molina’s historical analysis might well have been a very different one. Another early example of the adoption of Molina’s ideas regarding pueblos can be found in Fernando González Roa’s El problema rural de México (with José Covarrubias, 1917) and Aspecto agrario de la revolución mexicana (1919).

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Although his proposals regarding agrarian reform were in many ways quite different from those championed by Molina, he readily accepted the latter’s characterization of the post-Reforma pueblos. The Indians, he wrote, “were not prepared, socially or historically,” for private property, and were thus “incapable of holding on to it.” Village disentailment was a “mistaken policy” with a “predictable result”; it was—he added, citing Spencer— “like taking a fish out of the water to force it to breathe the air just because lungs are more perfect organs than gills.”

In Mexico, communal landholding remained “an absolute necessity,” given “the stage of civilization in which many peoples find themselves.” Accordingly, he praised Cabrera’s 1912 speech (which the 1919 book quoted at length), the decree of 1915, and the new Article 27 for identifying the appropriate solution to this particular problem, since “it is evident that land can only be given to those who are capable of holding on to it, and backward peoples can only do this through communal property, under protective legislation.”80 Molina himself could not have said it better.

A few years later, Lucio Mendieta published El problema agrario de México (1923), a chronological analysis of the evolution of land tenure laws and practices in the course of Mexican history; continually updated, expanded, and reprinted well into the 1970s, it remains still a very influential text on such questions. In it, Mendieta essentially repeated the generic explanation of pueblo land loss and decay. Borrowing Molina’s language and concepts, he alluded to the “disastrous consequences” of village land disentailment, explaining that the Reforma laws had disregarded “the evolutive state of Indians” by placing individual private property “in the hands of the inferior peoples of this country (the Indians), who were culturally and economically incapable of holding on to it, let alone developing it.”81 The result was landlessness. The agrarian laws of the revolution were now attempting to rectify that unjust situation, ensuring at the same time that it would not occur again. “ Unlike his counterpart under the laws of the Reforma,” Mendieta concluded, “today’s Indian can not alienate the lands given to him, because the Constitution forbids him to do so.”82

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That same year, the American Geographical Society published GeorgeMcBride’s The Land Systems of Mexico (1923), based on the author’s dissertation. This was the first detailed study in English of Mexico’s modern landholding institutions and tenure patterns, emphasizing both their historical development and the revolutionary efforts to transform them currently underway.

McBride must have read Los grandes problemas nacionales with some care and interest, since he cited it on a variety of subjects. Not surprisingly, his analysis of what happened to villages, villagers, and their lands in the aftermath of the Reforma coincided almost entirely with Molina Enríquez’s, though he did not say so explicitly. “[The landholding pueblo’s] death knell was sounded by the Reforma,” he wrote. “Unaccustomed to any other system than their ancient communalism and unable to understand the significance of the attempted measures,” most of the Indian pueblos “made every effort to oppose or evade the execution of the law.” Where the reform measures were carried out, the results were predictable: “failing to understand the significance of the change or unable to rise to the plane of individual proprietorship, the inhabitants of many towns lost their holdings almost as soon as they received them.” The government was now “attempting to undo some of this harm” by restoring collective landholding through the ejido program.

Although McBride regarded communal tenure as being “somewhat at variance with modern conceptions of property” and “generally considered unsatisfactory from an economic viewpoint,” he nevertheless concluded that it was an appropriate solution in the Mexican case, arguing that “it is, however, the system most easily understood by the agricultural Indians . . . who, however unfortunate it may seem, are still in a primitive stage of social advancement and are consequently unable to stand on the same footing as the whites and the more enlightened of the mestizos.”83

Another American dissertation, Helen Phipps’s “Some Aspects of the Agrarian Question in Mexico: A Historical Study” (1925), told in some ways a very similar story. Although Phipps—unlike her predecessors—did not make the socio-cultural character of Indians explicitly a centerpiece of her historical explanation, her reliance on Molina’s work was nevertheless extensive, and it clearly influenced her account of pueblo disentailment. “The great defect of the Reform Laws,” she wrote, “was their inclusion of the property of civil communities in the process of expropriation, thus . . . depriving Indian villages and others of communal lands.” Communal landholding, she quoted Molina as saying, “had notable advantages for the Indians; although the communal lands

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were usually sterile and of poor quality, yet they offered the natives a means of livelihood at all stages of their development, from savage horde to village incorporated into civilized life.” Disentailment had thus “dealt a mortal blow to the villages,” for while “some of the villages that were so fortunate as to possess clear-sighted leaders, saved themselves from ruin by depositing their individual titles in the care of a trusted cacique and resuming communal life . . . by far the greater number, when presented with titles which meant nothing to them, bartered them for a dollar or two, a sack of corn, or a quantity of liquor.” And “even the Indian who was sufficiently advanced to grasp the ideas of private property and written title, and who tried to cling to his lot, had great difficulty in doing so, especially if the land was good,” since others would covet it and he lacked the capital to make it pay off.84

There were also echoes of Molina’s distinctive views in Phipps’s interpretation of the new agrarian laws; regarding the deeper meaning of these land reforms, she wrote, "As Spain attempted to conserve and adapt the civilization that she found, so now, after a long parenthesis of pitiless exploitation, the reawakened conscience of Mexico has striven to conserve, to reconcile and to adapt; to turn the hands of the clock back one hundred years, and to repair in some measure the injustice that a century had heaped upon the Indian masses.85

While all of these early studies effectively propagated various key aspects of Molina’s ideas about pueblos and their history, none did so as openly, as completely, or as successfully as did the works of Frank Tannenbaum. Unlike Mendieta, McBride, and Phipps, Tannenbaum had had a chance to read Molina Enríquez’s exegetical (urgent) commentaries on the “spirit” of Article 27 (in the 1922 Boletín), and they evidently cast a deep spell on him, in part perhaps because he sympathized with the corporatist social philosophy—of Comptean origin, Molina would argue—on which they were inspired.86 As a result, Tannenbaum wholeheartedly embraced—and championed—Molina’s reading of Article 27, and thereby also his interpretation of pueblo history and character.87

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Both The Mexican Agrarian Revolution (1929) and Peace by Revolution (1933) became showcases for these ideas; in their pages, Los grandes problemas nacionales acquired an intellectual prominence it had never enjoyed before.

“Until the breakup of the common lands [of the pueblos] as a result of the legislation of 1857 and as a result of the activities of the Díaz regime,” Tannenbaum wrote in The Mexican Agrarian Revolution, “[communal] land ownership and land use was probably . . . predominant,” but these policies inevitably “proved disastrous to the villages,” since “in fact, the survival of the villages up to the Díaz regime was due to their communal character.” Without it, “the individual Indian proved himself a helpless child and transferred his title to his little plot of land for a good drink of aguardiente, not knowing the import of the transaction.”88 As in Los grandes problemas nacionales, the logic of this argument was essentially cultural. Prior to the Reforma, the pueblos were cohesive, even harmonious social institutions, with traditional rules and practices everyone could understand; outside of this adaptive cultural context, Indians simply did not know how to operate. That is why disentailment was bound to be so devastating.

As Tannenbaum explained in Peace by Revolution, "The destruction of common land ownership really resulted not merely in serious interference with the internal unity of the village community, with its internal discipline and traditions, but in effect reduced the standard of well-being of the villagers. The common ownership of land provided wood for fire, for the making of charcoal. . . . It provided pasture for animals both large and small. . . . Possession and use of the land was easy and natural. If one had tools and some capital, he tilled. If misfortune deprived him of these he earned his income by making charcoal or pottery, or finding other uses for the natural resources within the village boundaries. The division of the lands automatically reduced each individual to the limits of his own little parcel, made for the development of social and economic classes within the village, for facility of sale or transfer to the easier enhancement of the surrounding estates. . . . Instead of having to confront a community jealous and on watch for its lands the hacienda now had an individual who was a prey to all sorts of influences that could not be exercised against a community. The centuries of communal tradition and communal usufruct made the individual Indian an easy prey."89 (usufruct means the right of using and enjoying all the advantages and profits of the property of another without altering or damaging the structure.)

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It was on the basis of these assumptions about pueblos that Tannenbaum was able to conclude (without needing to do much additional research) that “the denial to corporate bodies of the right to own property became the legal basis for the despoliation of the lands of Indian villages which in their turn became a source of discontent leading towards the revolution of 1910.”90

In Tannenbaum’s estimation, Molina had managed not only to identify one of the main sources of Mexico’s agrarian malaise, but also to formulate a remedy for it. As he put it, Los grandes problemas nacionales was “up to the present, the most important single study of Mexican social problems,” whose author had “played an important role in the writing of Article 27 of the new Constitution of 1917 which, in a large measure, is an application of his ideas to the land problem of Mexico.”91

Accordingly, his explanation—and defense—of the juridical principles underlying Article 27 relied almost exclusively on the writings of Molina, both in the Boletín of 1922 and in the preamble to the original proyecto de ley. Endorsing Molina’s stated rationale, he wrote, "Article 27, it is obvious, has created a variety of new legal forms of landholding. . . . It seems true that the formula was developed to meet the special social and legal needs of the multifarious groups of different cultural levels that make up the Mexican community. They needed a property concept that would be broad enough to include the primitive notion of ownership characteristic of a wandering Indian group, knowing temporary possession, but having no notion of legal ownership, as well as one that could cover the needs of modern corporate and private ownership."92

As Molina had explained, these modalidades represented in effect a legal recognition of “the age-old Indian corporate groups that lie embedded in the body politic of Mexico.”93 For Tannenbaum, this was the revolution’s mandate, and it was a just and reasonable one. Thanks in good measure to the broad influence of Frank Tannenbaum’s writings, Molina’s interpretation of pueblo disentailment would become canonical, in U.S. academic circles and beyond.

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Over time, Molina’s foundational role would fade from view, largely as a paradoxical consequence of the fact that his ideas about the old pueblos had managed to gain such wide acceptance.

When Eyler Simpson published The Ejido: Mexico’s Way Out (1937), Molina’s arguments had already attained the status of a well-established historical truth, which Simpson summarized with the terse phrase “the cold rape of the pueblos.” By way of explanation, Simpson asserted that “by and large, the effect of the Reform on the vast majority of the landholding villages was little short of disastrous,” due to “the deliberate inclusion in the Constitution of 1857 of civil communities in the list of corporate bodies forbidden to hold lands,” which “led inevitably to the break-up of hundreds of communal groups and the loss of their property to the ever greedy land monopolists.”94

More than six decades later, this is—in essence—the story that continues to be told.


Widely acknowledged as one of the most significant social developments in the decades leading up to the Revolution of 1910, the process of Porfirian village land disentailment and expropriation has nevertheless failed to generate much scholarly research. This essay has sought to explain how this paradoxical state of affairs came into being and why it needs to be modified. A generic account of how, why, and to whom the pueblos had lost their lands had already been formulated by the late Porfiriato. Its main source was Andrés Molina Enríquez, whose ideas about Indian pueblos and their history would become predominant. Given the special cultural characteristics of pueblo inhabitants, Molina concluded, it was inevitable that village disentailment would result in widespread landlessness. The victorious revolutionaries adopted this interpretation, wrote it into their laws, made it official; students of Porfirian rural history also accepted it, and for the most part looked no further. Theirs was a powerful story of ruthless despoliation and systematic injustice, with Indians as the (mostly) helpless victims and rapacious outsiders as the insatiable landgrabbers.

It was not hard to find scattered evidence of such abuses, as there were indeed plenty, and the agrarian grievances voiced by many of the country people who fought in the revolution could be construed as giving additional credence to that clear-cut version of the past. The revolution’s land reform laws, moreover, invested this story with great authority. As a consequence, few scholars, then or since, have felt the need to document or refine—let alone challenge—this well-entrenched interpretation of Porfirian village history as written in the enduring ideological legacies of Andrés Molina Enríquez.


32. A detailed biography of Andrés Molina Enríquez has yet to be written. For details of his life, see Stanley F. Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez: Mexican Land Reformer of the Revolutionary Era (Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press, 1994);
Alvaro Molina Enríquez, foreword to Antología de Andrés Molina Enríquez (Mexico City: Ed. Oasis, 1969);
Renato Molina Enríquez, “Andrés Molina Enríquez: Conciencia de México,” Boletín Bibliográfico de la Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público, 15 Aug. 1955;
Antonio Huitrón Huitrón, ed., Andrés Molina Enríquez: La propiedad agraria en México (Toluca: Gobierno del Estado de México, 1987), esp. appendix of documents; Andrés Molina Enríquez (Toluca: Gobierno del Estado de México, Colección Testimonios del Estado de México, 1979);
María del Carmen Reyes, “Detalles de la vida y obra de Andrés Molina Enríquez,” Boletín del Archivo General del Estado de México 9, no. 3 (1981); and Alfonso Sánchez Arteche, Molina Enríquez: La herencia de un reformador (Toluca: Instituto Mexiquense de Cultura, 1990).
For an extensive bibliography of works by and about Molina, see Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez, 143–54.
On the Instituto de Toluca, see Aurelio J. Venegas, El Instituto Científico y Literario del Estado de México (1927; reprint, Mexico City: Biblioteca Enciclopédica del Estado de México, 1979);
Elizabeth Buchanan Martín del Campo, El Instituto de Toluca bajo el signo del positivismo, 1870–1910 (Toluca: Univ. Autónoma del Estado de México, 1981); and
Margarita García Luna, El Instituto Literario de Toluca: Una aproximación histórica (Toluca: Gobierno del Estado de México, 1987).

33. Sánchez Arteche, Molina Enríquez, 154; and Huitrón Huitrón, Andrés Molina Enríquez, appendix doc. 4.

34. Sánchez Arteche suggests that Molina resigned his first post (in Jilotepec) after refusing to legalize a land transaction orchestrated by a town merchant because he regarded it as being egregiously abusive, and even usurpatory. See his Molina Enríquez, 154–68; and Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez, 15–20. On Sultepec, see Frank Schenk “La desamortización de las tierras comunales en el estado de México (1856–1911): El caso del distrito de Sultepec,” Historia Mexicana 45, no. 1 (1995).

35. Andrés Molina Enríquez, Los grandes problemas nacionales (Mexico City: Imp. de A. Carranza e Hijos, 1909), 58.

36. Renato Molina Enríquez, “Andrés Molina Enríquez: Conciencia de México”; and Reyes, “Detalles de la vida y obra de Andrés Molina Enríquez,” 65–6.

37. Huitrón Huitrón, Andrés Molina Enríquez, appendix, doc. 5.

38. For a discussion of this case, see Sánchez Arteche, Molina Enríquez, 181– 88. The conflict was probably far more complex than it might seem at first, since it apparently featured members of the same family on both sides of the legal argument.

39. Renato Molina Enríquez, “Andrés Molina Enríquez: Conciencia de México”; Sánchez Arteche, Molina Enríquez, 189, 203– 4, 211–12; Alvaro Molina Enríquez, foreword to Antología de Andrés Molina Enríquez, 12–13. See also Andrés Molina Enríquez, La cuestión del día: La agricultura nacional (Mexico City: Imp. La Española, 1902); and idem, La reforma y Juárez: Estudio histórico-sociológico (Mexico City: Tip. de la Viuda de Francisco Díaz de León, 1906).

40. Andrés Molina Enríquez, Clasificación de las ciencias fundamentales (Mexico City: Antigua Imp. de Murguía, 1920).

41. Hale, The Transformation of Liberalism, 260. Hale’s book provides the best analysis yet of the reception of positivism in Mexico, and it succeeds in clarifying the main differences between Comptean and Spencerian ideas as these were interpreted in a Mexican context, esp. chaps. 7–8. But, see also Leopoldo Zea, El positivismo en México, 2 vols. (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1943).

42. Hale, The Transformation of Liberalism, 213; Molina Enríquez, La reforma y Juárez, 18–19, 31. Molina Enríquez’s Los grandes problemas nacionales mentions neither Spencer nor Compte by name.

43. Molina Enríquez, Los grandes problemas nacionales, 35, 249–52, 255–58. Molina read Darwin in French and English, as well as in Spanish. On Darwinism in Mexico, see Roberto Moreno, “La introducción del darwinismo en México,” Anuario de Historia 8 (1975); idem, La polémica del darwinismo en México, siglo XIX: Testimonios (Mexico City: Univ. Nacional Autónoma de México, 1984); Rosaura Ruiz Gutiérrez, Positivismo y evolución: Introducción del darwinismo en México (Mexico City: Univ. Nacional Autónoma de México, 1987), esp. 164–64; and Thomas F. Glick, “Science and Society in Twentieth-Century Latin America,” in The Cambridge History of Latin America, ed. Leslie Bethell (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994), vol. 6, bk. 1:470–72.

44. Ernst Haeckel, The Riddle of the Universe, trans. Joseph McCabe (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1900), 81. These ideas were first expounded in Haeckel, Generelle Morphologie der Organismen, 2 vols. (Berlin: Reimer, 1866); and idem, Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte (Berlin: Reimer, 1868).

45. Molina Enríquez, Los grandes problemas nacionales, 8, 34–6, 272–84; and Ernst Haeckel, The History of Creation (New York: D. Appleton, 1976). On Haeckel, see Wilhelm Bölsche, Haeckel: His Life and Work (London: T. F. Unwin, 1906); Rollo Handy, “Haeckel, Ernst Heinrich,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 3:399– 402; and John T. Merz, A History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1896–1914).

46. See Arnaldo Córdova, “El pensamiento social y político de Andrés Molina Enríquez,” prologue to Molina Enríquez, Los grandes problemas nacionales (Mexico City: Era, 1978); Agustín Basave Benítez, México mestizo: Análisis del nacionalismo mexicano en torno a la mestizofilia de Andrés Molina Enríquez (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1992); James L. Hamon and Stephen R. Niblo, Precursores de la revolución agraria en México: Las obras de Wistano Luis Orozco y Andrés Molina Enríquez (Mexico City: Secretaría de Educación Pública, 1975); and Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez.

47. Hermann Kantorowicz, “Savigny and the Historical School of Law” , Law Quarterly Review 53 (1937). See also Friedrich Karl Savigny, Vom Beruf unserer Zeit fur Gesetzgebung und Rechtswissenschaft (Heidelberg: Mohr, 1828).

48. In Los grandes problemas, 29, Molina Enríquez began his discussion of the history of Spanish land legislation in Mexico with the following remark: “El instinto jurídico español, tan desarrollado a nuestro entender, que sólo el romano le superó.”

49. See Edouard Laboulaye, Essai sur la vie et les doctrines de Frederic Charles de Savigny (Paris: A. Durand, 1842); idem, Histoire du droit de proprieté fonciere en occident (Paris: A. Durand, 1839); Heinrich Ahrens, Curso de derecho natural, ó de filosofía del derecho, 6th ed. (Paris: A. Bouret, 1876); idem, Enciclopedia juridica, 3 vols. (Madrid: Lib. de V. Suárez, 1878); Johann Caspar Bluntschli, Derecho público universal, 3 vols. (Madrid: F. Góngora y Co., 1880); and Emile de Laveleye, De la proprieté et de ses formes primitives (Paris: Lib. G. Bailliere, 1874).

50. Charles Hale has briefly alluded to the influence of the historical school of law in Mexico, but only in the specific context of Laboulaye’s constitutionalism; see his The Transformation of Liberalism, 8, 82, 94, 205, 214, 251. Molina Enríquez was familiar with the recent historical works of Mexican jurists such as Manuel Ortiz de Montellano, Jacinto Pallares, Isidro Rojas, and Miguel Macedo. See Manuel Ortiz de Montellano, Génesis del derecho mexicano (Mexico City: Tip. de T. González, Sucs., 1899), which was written in the 1870s; Jacinto Pallares, ed., Legislación federal complementaria del derecho civil mexicano (Mexico City: Tip. Artística de R. Riveroll, 1897); idem, Curso completo de derecho mexicano, o exposición filosófica, histórica y doctrinal de toda la legislación mexicana (Mexico City: I. Paz, 1901); and Isidro Rojas, Evolución del derecho en México (Mexico City: Imp. Mellado & Pardo, 1900). As examples of Spain’s late-nineteenth-century legal historiography, see Eduardo de Hinojosa, Historia general del derecho español (Madrid: Tip. de los Huérfanos, 1887); and Rafael Altamira, Historia de la propiedad comunal (Madrid: J. López Camacho, 1890).

51. Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Native Races at the Pacific States of North America (San Francisco: History Co., 1886); and Elie Reclus, Les primitifs: Etudes d’ethnologie comparée (Paris: Schleicher Frères et Cie., 1885). Students of Molina’s work have sometimes confused Elie with his well-known brother, the famous geographer and anarchist activist Elisée Reclus.

52. Molina Enríquez, Los grandes problemas, 7–11.

53. Ibid., 16–25.

54. Ibid., 35. Sociology, Molina would go on to explain, is precisely the study of these “harmonious relations.”

55. Ibid., 25.

56. Ibid., 26–7.

57. Molina Enríquez, La reforma y Juárez, 24–5.

58. Molina Enríquez, Los grandes problemas, 116–17.

59. Molina Enríquez, La reforma y Juárez, 30.

60. Ibid., 25. In the same vein, Molina Enríquez dismissed Sierra’s view of education as the solution to the “Indian problem,” stating that it made no sense “to try to traverse, in a period of ten or fifteen years, two or three thousand years of evolutionary backwardness.”

61. All quotations in this paragraph are from Molina Enríquez, Los grandes problemas, 57–8.

62. This article is part of a longer work in progress, a study of the evolution of the idea of the “Indian pueblo” in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Mexican thought, law, and political discourse.

63. See Luis Cabrera, “El balance de la revolución,” in Luis Cabrera: Teórico y crítico de la Revolución, ed. Eugenia Meyer (Mexico City: Secretaría de Educación Pública, 1972), 106, 113; idem, La reconstitución de los ejidos de los pueblos (Mexico City: Tip. de Fidencio S. Soria, 1913), reprinted in La cuestión de la tierra, ed. Jesús Silva Herzog, 4 vols. (Mexico City: Instituto Mexicano de Investigaciones Económicas, 1960–1962), 2:284.

64. Cabrera, La reconstitución de los ejidos de los pueblos, 2:286, 306, 281, 289–90, 302–10.

65. For Molina Enríquez’s own proposals around that time, see his Plan de Texcoco (1911), reproduced in Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez; and idem, “Filosofía de mis ideas sobre reformas agrarias; see also Wistano Orozco, “La cuestión agraria,” in Herzog, La cuestión de la tierra; Andrés Molina Enríquez, Esbozo de la historia de los primeros diez años de la revolución agraria de México, 5 vols. (Mexico City: Talleres Gráficos del Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Historia y Etnografía, 1937), 5:85–95, 112–18; and Luis Cabrera, “El balance de la revolución,” 112–14.

66. Meyer, Luis Cabrera, 42.

67. Ever since, January 6th has been considered a “holy day” of official agrarismo. On Cabrera’s authorship, see Pastor Rouaix, Génesis de los artículos 27 y 123 de la constitución política de 1917, 2d ed. (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Estudios Históricos de la Revolución Mexicana, 1959), 57–58.

68. For the text of this decree, see Manuel Fabila, Cinco siglos de legislación agraria en México (Mexico City: Banco Nacional de Crédito Agrícola, 1941), 270–74.

69. See the Plan de Ayala, especially Articles 1, 6, 7, and 9, in Fabila, Cinco siglos de legislación agraria en México, 214–17. By the time the Zapatistas issued their own agrarian law (26 October 1915), however, the notion that 1856 was a watershed year (in a disastrous sense) for the history of communal landholding had become a part of their rhetoric. See Article 1 of their ley agraria, in Womack, Zapata and the Mexican Revolution, 405–11. It should be noted that there are other significant philosophical differences between the Law of 1915 and Zapatista land laws (for example, on the role of government in the management of pueblo land affairs), but these cannot be explored here. Molina’s historical interpretation of disentailment was also absent from the Proyecto de ley agraria prepared for Carranza by Pastor Rouaix and José Novelo in December of 1914, which was in many ways significantly different from Cabrera’s. See Rouaix and Novelo, “Estudio sobre la cuestión agraria, proyecto de ley,” in Herzog, La cuestión de la tierra, 3:357–93.

70. Molina Enríquez, Esbozo de la historia de los primeros diez años de la revolución agraria, 5:158–61. For a discussion of the decree of 1915, see Simpson, The Ejido, 58–62; and Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez, 67–69.

71. He remained a member of the C. N. A. until mid-1918. For details, see Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez, 76–87.

72. For details, see Rouaix, Génesis, 143–215; Molina Enríquez, Esbozo de los primeros diez años de la revolución agraria, 5:167–77; and E. Victor Niemeyer, Revolution at Queretaro: The Mexican Constitutional Convention of 1916–1917 (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1974).

73. See Tannenbaum, The Mexican Agrarian Revolution, 180; Anita Brenner, The Wind that Swept Mexico (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1943), 55; Rouaix, Génesis, 148–64; Molina Enríquez, Esbozo de los primeros diez años de la revolución agraria, 5:171–77; Lucio Mendieta, “Los antecedentes del artículo 27 constitucional,” El Universal, 2 Oct. 1946; José N. Macías, “Quién fue el autor del artículo 27 constitucional,” El Universal, 20 Sept. 1937; Molina Enríquez, “El Lic. Macías y el artículo 27 de la Constitución,” El Universal, 23 Sept. 1937; José N. Macías, “La paternidad del artículo 27 de la Constitución,” El Universal, 27 Sept. 1937; and Shadle, Andrés Molina Enríquez, 69–75.

74. For the text of Article 27, as approved, see Fabila, Cinco siglos de legislación agraria en México, 307–11. Earlier versions can be found in Rouaix, Génesis, 164– 84. See also Diario de los debates del Congreso Constituyente (Mexico City: Secretaría de Gobernación, 1917).

75. The term modalidades was not Molina Enríquez’s. It was added by the congressional committee that revised the original proyecto de ley as a way of clarifying and highlighting a fundamental idea already contained therein, namely, the regulation of forms of private property. See Rouaix, Génesis, 184– 85, 176–77.

76. For the full text of Molina Enríquez’ Exposición de motivos, see Rouaix, Génesis, 164–69.

77. See Boletín de la Secretaría de Gobernación 1, no. 4 (1922). This issue of the Boletín was edited by Molina Enríquez, and was entirely devoted to Article 27.

78. Molina Enríquez, “El espíritu de la Constitución de Querétaro,” Boletín de la Secretaría de Gobernación 1, no. 4 (1922):8–9; in the same issue of the Boletín, see “Introducción,” 2–3, and “Memorandum” (22 Mar. 1918), 92. See also Tannenbaum, The Mexican Agrarian Revolution, 189–203; Simpson, The Ejido, 62–72; and Whetten, Rural Mexico, 116–23.

79. A related matter concerns the extent to which Molina’s views on the history of pueblos reflected, coincided with, contradicted, or influenced the ideas that villagers themselves had (or came to have, particularly after the revolution) about the history of their own pueblos’ lands. In other words, did Molina’s formulations have any impact beyond intellectual circles? What were the connections between evolving popular conceptions of village history, on the one hand, and the story of disentailment and despoliation that became embedded in the new agrarian laws, on the other? These important questions, while beyond the scope of this essay, merit a study in their own right.

80. González Roa and Covarrubias, El problema rural de México, 60, 75–76, 142– 48;
and González Roa, El aspecto agrario de la revolución mexicana, 216–23, 235–39, 310–13.

81. Mendieta y Nuñez, El problema agrario de México, 86–8, 126, 140. “Disastrous” is exactly how Molina had described the effects of the Reforma laws on Indian pueblos. See Molina Enríquez, Los grandes problemas, 56.

82. Mendieta y Nuñez, El problema agrario de México, 141.

83. McBride, The Land Systems of Mexico, 129–36, 175–76.

84. Phipps, “Some Aspects of the Agrarian Question in Mexico,” 28–9, 91–2, 112–28. For comparison, see Molina Enríquez, Los grandes problemas nacionales, 57–8.

85. Phipps, “Some Aspects of the Agrarian Question,” 148.

86. For a discussion, see Charles A. Hale, “Frank Tannenbaum and the Mexican Revolution,” HAHR 75, no. 2 (1995); Tannenbaum, The Mexican Agrarian Revolution, 178–81; and Molina Enríquez, “El espíritu de la constitución,” 6.

87. In so doing, he relied as well on the works on McBride, Mendieta, González Roa, and Covarrubias, all of whom had already adopted Molina’s account.

88. Tannenbaum, The Mexican Agrarian Revolution, 14, 68.

89. Frank Tannenbaum, Peace by Revolution: An Interpretation of Mexico (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1933), 140. On pages 139–41 the author does little more than paraphrase or quote Molina.

90. Tannenbaum, The Mexican Agrarian Revolution, 177.

91. Tannenbaum, Peace by Revolution, 118. Earlier, Tannenbaum had called Molina “the author of Article 27.” See also Frank Tannenbaum, Mexico: The Struggle for Peace and Bread (New York: Knopf, 1950), esp. chaps. 6, 9.

92. Tannenbaum, The Mexican Agrarian Revolution, 177–203 (emphasis mine); and idem, Peace by Revolution, 168–70.

93. Tannenbaum, The Mexican Agrarian Revolution, 176–7.

94. Simpson, The Ejido, 24–5, 29 (emphasis mine). His discussion is based almost entirely on the works of McBride and Phipps. Not surprisingly, Simpson’s analysis of Article 27 is taken straight from Tannenbaum and Molina (62–74). For comparison, see also Nathan Whetten, Rural Mexico, 85–86, 114–23.


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