New Mexico Land Grant-Mercedes

PREFACE/Summary Content

It is the intent of this web-page to present historical and current legal information and links to legal documents that best assist in a basic understanding of New Mexico’s Land Grant-Merced.  In New Mexico, Merced is the Spanish term for Land Grants. Land Grant-Merced have existed well before New Mexico became a State in 1812. Information presented represents a snap shot of the historical and legal rights of New Mexico’s settlement history, which includes Indian and Pueblo Nations, Spain, Mexico and the United States rural land based communities. While many of these communities continue today, they are the basic fabric of New Mexico’s culture, heritage, values and stewardship. Their equity and legal rights as Americans has and continues to face challenges as America spread its desire to conquer the west. 

As you continue forward, you will find information of 24 Land Grant-Mercedes who meet the current (2022) New Mexico constitutional process that solidifies the recognition of Land Grants as Political Subdivisions of the State. You will also find date presented in the 2001 United State General Accounting Office Report to Congressional Requestors, which presents Definitions and List of Community Land Grants in New Mexico; data that reflects 295 original grants.

Of the many documents, studies, books, pictures, videos, etc. that are available, our goal is to provide a platform of information for your review. A few published resources initiate a pretty good starting point.

  •  “Briefing on Land Grant-Merced History and Current Legislation” New Mexico Land Grant Council – July 2018 (United States 115th Congress 2nd Session House of Representatives; House Bill 6487 introduced by Mr. Ben Rey Lujan “Land Grant and Acequía Traditional Use Recognition and Consultation Act” 2018)
  • Private Land Claims in the Southwest” )Selections from J.J. Bowden’s 2018)
  • Somos Indigena: Ethnic Politics and Land Tenure in New Mexico, 1694-1965” (Dr. Jacobo Baca, 2021)
  • Pueblo Sovereignty: Indian Land and Water in New Mexico and Texas” (Ebright, Hendricks, Hughes)
  • Report to the New Mexico Attorney General – A Response to the GAO’s 2004 Report “Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: Findings and Possible Options regarding Long Standing Community Land Grant Claims in New Mexico” (New Mexico Land Grant Council)

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo 1848

Treaty of peace, friendship, limits, and settlement between the United States of America and the
United Mexican States concluded at Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, 1848; ratificationadvised by Senate,
with amendments, March 10, 1848; ratified by President, March 16, 1848;
ratifications exchanged at Queretaro, May 30, 1848; proclaimed, July 4, 1848.

OAG Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Division 2003 – 2022 (Current)

The Treaty was incorporated into New Mexico’s State Constitution in 1912 and is part of the state’s legal and cultural heritage.
The OAG Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Division, created in 2003, was established to review, oversee and address concerns relating
to the provisions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that have not been implemented or observed in the spirit of Article 2,
Section 5 of the Constitution of New Mexico.

The Treaty Division provides legal representation to the New Mexico Land Grant Council and the New Mexico Acequía Commission.
The Division’s vision is to take a proactive approach to finding solutions and responding to the evolving needs of the Land Grant
Community by providing legal support, policy development and outreach. Land grant issues remain vexing in New Mexico and claims
of new or continued ownership of ancestral lands are a top priority. The Treaty Division continues to pursue resolutions to the
encroachment of historical common lands while seeking to protect, perpetuate and celebrate New Mexico’s history and culture of
land grants and acequias. The Division also works with the land grant council to identify legal assistance for land grants-mercedes
that are political subdivisions of the State under §49 NMSA 1978 and reviews and responds to election contests filed with the
treaty division in accordance with §49-1-7 NMSA 1978. Additionally, a top priority of the Treaty Division is to continue
the development and building of the Office of the Attorneys General Land Grant-Merced and Acequía Historical Gallery & Repository

APPROVED WORK PLAN, MEETING SCHEDULE AND BUDGET (Can be found at our link to NM Legislative Committees)

The Land Grant Committee was created with the signing of Laws 2003, Chapter 431.

The committee is tasked with studying existing law regarding land grants; developing legislation to improve existing law; gathering testimony from land grant heirs, state agencies and other community groups from across New Mexico to understand the relationships among the different groups and the issues and concerns faced by the different groups; and working in conjunction with the Guadalupe Hidalgo task force.

To carry out these tasks and statutory duties during the 2003 legislative interim, the Land Grant Committee will:

(1) review the existing law and determine the effect these laws have on land grant heirs and other groups throughout the state;
(2) hear testimony regarding the: a. history of land grants; b. relationship between land grants, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Protocol of Queretaro; c. current statutes and governance of community land grants; d. economic development of land grants; e. issues concerning land grants and Native Americans; and f. current legal status of land grants in New Mexico;
(3) conduct visits to various land grants to determine the conditions and specific problems facing the residents;
(4) work with the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty Division of the Office of the Attorney General to resolve state constitutional and statutory legal issues regarding land grants; and
(5) recommend necessary changes in current law or policy to the legislature.

New Mexico Land Grant-Merced that are Political Subdivisions
of the State of New Mexico and respective Presidents (As of November 2022)

Merced del Pueblo Abiquiú Victoria García, President

Anton Chico Land Grant Stoney Jaramillo

Cañon de Carnué Land Grant J. J. Herrera, President

Cebolleta Land Grant Kilino Marquez, President

Merced del Pueblo de Chililí Juan Sánchez, President

Cristóbal de la Serna Land Grant Beverly Armijo, President  

Gallery Item Citation: 1894 survey plat of the Cristobal de la Serna Grant (detail), John H. Walker, U.S. Deputy Surveyor. Court of Private Land Claims, Report No. 21. Spanish Archives of New Mexico Series I.  National Archives Record Group 49: General Land Office Records.   
Cristóbal de la Serna Land Grant was granted by Spanish Governor Joseph Chacón Medina Salazar y Villaseñor to Cristóbal de la Serna, a veteran of the presidio in Santa Fe, in 1710.  After his death in 1724, de la Serna’s heirs sold the grant to Diego Romero, whose family drew settlers from Pueblo Quemado (present day Córdova, NM) and settled several communities on the grant, including Talpa, Ranchos de Taos, and Llano Quemado, whose name they drew from their ancestral lands.  In 1876, more than 300 heads of households petitioned for the confirmation of the Grant, which boasted a population of over 1,500 people.  Despite an 1888 recommendation for approval from the Surveyor General, Congress took no action on the claim and the community petitioned the Court of Private Land Claims for confirmation in 1892.  The grant was patented in 1903 for more than 22,000 acres but lost land when the Cristóbal de la Serna Grant faced taxation of their property, leading to plain table surveys that forced them to individualize the commons into parcels (called liñas or lineas).  These liñas ran the entire length of the grant, from the Rio Grande del Rancho on the north to Picurís Peak on the south.  This enabled the county to assess taxes to individuals, thus guaranteeing their payment or the loss of the land, but destroyed the common land by individualizing communal lands, which were subdivided into unusable tracts over the next one hundred years. 

Cubero Land Grant James Chávez, President

Don Fernando de Taos Land Grant Frank Trujillo, President

Juan Bautista Baldez Land Grant Higinia Gallegos, President

Merced de Manzano Jason Quintana, President

San Antonio de Las Huertas Land Grant Augustine Lucero, President

San Joaquín del Río de Chama Land Grant Leonard Martínez, President

San Miguel del Bado Land Grant Joe Benito Chávez, President

Santa Bárbara Land Grant Bonifacio Vásquez, President

Santo Domingo de Cundiyó Land Grant Steve Vigil, President

Santo Tomás Apóstol del Río de las Trampas Land Grant Alex J. López, President

Tajique Land Grant Andrew Gutiérrez, President

Tecolote Land Grant Russell Pacheco, President

Merced de los Pueblos de Tierra Amarilla Steve Polaco, President

Town of Tomé Land Grant Andrea Padilla, President

Town of Torreón Senaida Anaya, President