Explanation of Types of Land Grants in New Mexico

by Malcolm Ebright


Hispano Private

Grants made to Hispano individuals who owned the entire grant and could sell it after the four year possession requirement was met. These grants did not include common lands, either at the outset or later.


Hispano Community

Grants made to a group of Hispanos that, from the outset, included common lands. Settlers would receive small tracts of private land for their houses and garden plots with the right to use the remaining common lands for pasturing their cattle, gathering firewood and logs for building, hunting wild game, and gathering other resources, such as herbs and stone. Settlers owned their private tracts outright after four years and could sell them. The sale of a private tract by an individual carried with it the right to use the common lands, but the common lands could not be sold because they were owned by the community.


Pueblo Community

Community grants made to an Native American Pueblo. Since the majority of Native American land holdings in New Mexico were of a communal nature, there were no private Native American grants.


Pueblo Grazing

A grant to an Native American Pueblo for the purpose of grazing Native American-owned livestock. There was no legal requirement to settle the land. An example of this type of grant is the grazing grant made to the pueblo of Cochiti by Governor Vélez Cachupín in 1766.


Pueblo Cruzate

Grants to New Mexico Pueblos by Governor Domingo Jironza Petriz de Cruzate (1683-1686 and 1689-1691). The grants are not in the usual form of land grants, but rather purport to be the testimony of a Zia Native American named Bartolomé Ojeda, who was captured in 1689 after the Pueblo Revolt. When asked whether he thought that each pueblo would revolt again, he answered “no, that [Picuris] would not fail to render obedience [to the Spaniards].” Accordingly, Governor Cruzate makes a grant of four square leagues of land (about 17,700 acres) to each pueblo. Under Hispanic law and custom, the pueblos were considered to be entitled to four square leagues even without a grant. The Cruzate grants submitted to Surveyor General William Pelham were all confirmed by Congress, though they were later determined to be spurious. Since the pueblos were entitled to four square leagues of land in any case, the spurious character of the Cruzate grants is of little consequence from a legal standpoint.

Historically, however, questions over the genesis of these documents and whether they may have been based on legitimate documents, have not been fully answered. See Sandra Matthews-Lamb, ‘Designing and Mischievous Individuals’: The Cruzate Grants and the Office of the Surveyor General, New Mexico Historical Review 71 (October 1996): 341-359 (available on website).