Abstract in English


The agrarian reform in Mexico as a frontier process. Logic of autonomisation, consolidation of the State and institutional production in the Tuxtlas region

Eric Léonard

Socio-économiste, IRD, UR "Régulations foncières, politiques et logiques d'acteurs", associé à l'UMR Moïsa

The Mexican agrarian reform between 1920 and the beginning of the 1980s led to the redistribution of nearly half the country's land. Such change was also at the core of the process of construction and propagation of the political system and the consolidation of the State's presence in the rural world. Its implementation paved the way for the establishment of new collective farming structures and a reconfiguration of political territories for the benefit of categories of actors seeking to free themselves from old political and land ownership structures represented by the Indian commununity and the hacienda system. This article describes the background to the co-production of the land-rights policy, closely linked to the logic of autonomisation of local actors, and realised in forms that recall the internal frontier process analysed by Kopytoff in African contexts. The paper suggests a widening of this model by focusing in particular on the role played by the State and its representatives during the course of the process. The agrarian reform in Mexico can be interpreted as resulting from two superimposed frontier logics. On the part of the rural actors, the search for "interstitial frontiers" capable of withstanding the divisive dynamics at work in farming communities; and for the State, the construction of an "internal political frontier" enabling it to draw these communities within its sphere of control. These two logics reinforce each other up to the point where depletion of spaces to colonize calls their functional complementarities into question.

Key-words : Mexico - agrarian reform - Indian community - Ejido - internal frontier - political entrepreneur - institutional pluralism - land rights institutions - inter-generation relationships.