What are Ejido Lands

2010 April 2010 Freda Rumford Living in Mexico

By Freda Rumford from the April 2010 Edition

There is really no easy way to describe Ejido land. Usually we have said that for simplicity sake consider it more or less along the lines of an Indian reservation but in actual fact it is really more of a commune with the entire community making decisions rather than the individual concerning property (true communism).

With the Agrarian land reform, which started at the end of the 19th century and continued until mid 1930’s, many well known revolutionists such as Pancho Villa & Emilio Zapata became highly involved. The transfer of lands from the original elite ruling class owners and the Church caused much strife and Mexico was in an upheaval for many decades. After Porfirio Diaz was over-thrown at the beginning of the 20th century the very slow and gradual change in land ownership which was promised to all Mexicans who “needed it” finally commenced. Previously, all Mexicans not in the elite group, although not slaves or serfs as known in other countries, owed everything to the land owners who kept them both uneducated and in extreme poverty in order to totally subjugate them.

Presidents Alvaro Obregon (the initiator of the reform) and Lazaro Cardenas (who forced the release of much land into the hands of Ejidos in 1934) are some of the most well known names of that era. Cities are named after them as are streets in most cities throughout Mexico. This subject cannot possibly be covered in a short article but Wikipedia.com has extensive information available to those interested in more information.

According to an excellent article written and well worth reading by David W. Connell at http://www.mexicolaw.com.mx/ejido.html, no foreigner may legally purchase ejido land unless it has been converted to private land by the ejido. There are various loopholes which refer to possessing the land in good faith for 5 years (knowing the original owners and being given some sort of entitlement to live there), or in possessing the land in bad faith for 10 years (meaning that the owner is unknown and the individual is in fact a “Squatter”). Many nationals and foreigners (who have obtained Mexican citizenship) will offer to hold the entitlement to ejido property on behalf of a non citizen but in very many instances the holder has then seized the property for themselves leaving the purchaser little or no recourse to regain it. Whatever the conditions, it is very hazy and no-one should enter into purchasing any land from any individual without considerable investigation and without a good and reputable lawyer and notary in control.

There have many instances in Mexico of people selling land or properties that did not belong to them resulting in murder and mayhem. (In recent years this actually occurred in the Chapala area.) All land and property purchases have to go through a “Notario” (notary public), who then investigates land titles in great depth but will not necessarily be held responsible in the eventuality that the purchaser be left with nothing. The land titles office in Mexican towns bears no resemblance to those in other countries we have become familiar with and extreme caution should be taken by foreign “would be” owners. Land ownership is very possible but be wary.

Local real estate agents do not necessarily have all the information to hand as they only have their client’s information and “say so” to go by, in such cases hopefully the notary can catch anything untoward. There have been many real estate agents appearing on the scene in recent years as land and property in Mexico becomes more desirable and is comparatively reasonable for retirement for those from colder climes. More people see this as a good income opportunity in the country where they wish to live. Because there are no regulations regarding agents it is advisable to ask around both the foreign and national community to find good and knowledgeable representation.

The moral of this story: Avoid attempting to buy ejido land. There was an instance within the last ten years when an entire block of condominiums was seized in Cabot St Lucas to many screams of protest. Like most legality in Mexico, everything depends upon whom you ask and what they actually know. This writer is sure to receive many floods of protest for inaccuracies stated above. Please be assured that this is only written as a warning to be careful what you do and with whom you deal, and not to be taken verbatim.

Download the full edition or view it online