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Abstract

This dissertation examines the experiences of twentieth century ranchero farmers in their struggle to become landowners and to farm in peace across an analysis of land tenure, politics, agriculture, and violence in the Caxcana region of Jalisco. It focuses on the period from 1939 to 1959, years that reflected the culmination of that struggle, which resulted in a deep transformation characterized by the generalization of rancho land ownership and unprecedented agricultural productivity. These years span the administrations of J. Jesús González Gallo and Agustín Yáñez, Jalisco governors with strong family ties in the Caxcana who played central roles in the state’s infrastructural development and modernization. At the national level, this period also marked the end of countryside’s basic unit of socioeconomic life: the hacienda. The historiography has understandably spent countless pages examining its history and subsequent demise but surprisingly little on what rural form substituted the hacienda since 1940, when war, agrarian reform, power politics, and emboldened farmers forced its eradication. This dissertation is an original study that explores the form of land tenure that took the hacienda’s place as the key engine of rural society throughout Mexico: the Mexican rancho, or farm, also commonly known in the post-Revolutionary twentieth century as the pequeña propiedad (smallholding, or, literally, the small property). I argue that the rancho rose as a dominant form of land tenure post 1940, establishing its regime of property relations over the vast lands of the Caxcana formerly belonging to hacienda owners. In my dissertation, the rancho is thus neither a thing nor merely a unit of land tenure, but a twin process by which farmers not only fought to guarantee their livelihoods through agricultural productivity but also ensured so by eradicating local traditional forms of arbitrary violence.

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