Mexican land reform’s contribution to mass migration to the U.S.

The roots of the recent wave of immigrants from Mexico to the United States lie partly in the failure of the Mexican Revolution to live up to its promise to return land to the country's dispossessed peasants, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a senior fellow with the Independent Institute, who gained key insights about Mexico from a recent meeting with Emiliano Zapata – the grandson and namesake of the hero of the revolution.

The "ejido" system of land reform, as it's called, was intended to benefit peasant villages, but it degenerated into a scheme of patronage and corruption that enriched land commissars, who would "inflate the price of public works in their villages and towns, splitting the excess money with the local political bosses," Zapata told Vargas Llosa.

  • In the 1990s, when trade policies became more liberal, Mexico's rural population found itself caught up in an extremely inefficient system that was undercapitalised, making it very difficult for Mexican peasants to compete with the outside world.

  • When villagers were finally allowed to sell their plots of land, many moved to Mexico's cities, but they found little hope and began to emigrate en masse to the United States.

    "The current Mexican government's best efforts notwithstanding, it will take decades for Mexico to undo the legacy of what became a crooked revolution," Vargas Llosa concludes.

    Source: Alvaro Vargas Llosa, The Other Zapatista, Independent Institute, November 7, 2007.

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    For more on International Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 20 November 2007
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