Properties of Violence
Law and Land Grant Struggle in Northern New Mexico

David Correia

Exploring the dynamics of violence and law in a notorious conflict over property


"Correia has written a fast-paced, interesting, enjoyable, and academically rigorous book that tells a story of injustice in impeccably precise terms."
—Lorena Oropeza, author of ¡Raza Sí! ¡Guerra No! Chicano Protest and Patriotism during the Viet Nam War Era

"Property is a site for violence, whether implied or actual. Yet property is also positioned as the means by which violence is kept at bay. It is not for nothing that one talks of the "quieting" of title. David Correia writes against the grain, therefore, in his wonderful excavation of one site in New Mexico to reveal property as a site for struggle and ordering, crosscut with colonialism, race, and class. Property emerges as a live, active, and vitally important concept."
—Nicholas Blomley, professor of geography at Simon Fraser University

"Properties of Violence is a smart, original, and vibrant retelling of the history of land struggle in northern New Mexico. David Correia, through rigorous archival and ethnographic research, raises compelling questions about the complicated relationships between colonialism, violence, and property that have broad and deep implications for land struggles around the world. Moreover, it is a refreshingly well-written book, nimbly walking the difficult terrain between meticulous scholarship and well-crafted prose that makes it ideal for both the seasoned academic and anyone interested in a riveting story of violence, political struggles, and the very meaning of property."
—Jake Kosek, author of Understories: The Political Life of Forests in Northern New Mexico

"Correia's remarkable book is not just about New Mexico, not just about land grants. Properties of Violence presents a way of conceiving of property as a mobile, fungible, plastic set of social relations. It offers a process legal geography, not one solely fixated on the 'product' of land grant injustices. . . . When will a serious effort on the New Mexican land grants issue pay material dividends? That's impossible to predict, but for now, storytelling, familiar Nuevo Mexicano dichos, and work like Properties of Violence should help keep the issue alive, active, and relevant for decades to come. And changes in understanding property depend upon on-going stories conscious of the past but relevant now. This book does both."
—Eric Perramond, La Jicarita

“What is important in this book is the deep historical detail coupled with Correia’s insistence, fully illustrated, that property is never settled, deeds are never quiet, resistance to new regimes of property is always present. . . . This is engaged, critical, historical geography as it ought to be done.”
—Don Mitchell, Antipode

“David Correia’s book is exceptional in that it starts from the premise that New Mexico is a multiply colonized space and contemporary settler society. . . .[Correia’s] analysis of primary sources. . .make this an important contribution to conducting an anthropology of contemporary New Mexico.”
—Cristobal Valencia, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Correia sheds light on a hidden story in American history. . . Good for collection on property law and American history. Summing up: Recommended."

"[I]t is more than evident that Correia spent years researching and writing the book. The prose is highly accessible, free of jargon, and well organized. Correia’s outline is well articulated and he has masterfully provided scholarly benchmarks, transitions, and internal summaries. Properties of Violence is an excellent example of good scholarship. . . . Overall, Correia did an excellent job. Geographers, historians, and land use scholars with a focus on New Mexico and/or the American Southwest will find much to get excited about in this book. Perhaps the few ethical land and water attorneys, as well as the numerous unethical ones, will also find the book helpful in their practices."
—Jeffrey S. Smith, Journal of Historical Geography

"Properties of Violence is a powerful contribution to land grant studies and historical legal geography. Correia’s long perspective introduces fresh factual information and interpretations that expose how tightly linked violence and property have been in the Tierra Amarilla land grant."
—Richard Hunter, Historical Geography

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Through a compelling story about the conflict over a notorious Mexican-period land grant in northern New Mexico, David Correia examines how law and property are constituted through violence and social struggle.

Spain and Mexico populated what is today New Mexico through large common property land grants to sheepherders and agriculturalists. After the U.S.-Mexican War the area saw rampant land speculation and dubious property adjudication. Nearly all of the huge land grants scattered throughout New Mexico were rejected by U.S. courts or acquired by land speculators. Of all the land grant conflicts in New Mexico's history, the struggle for the Tierra Amarilla land grant, the focus of Correia's story, is one of the most sensational, with numerous nineteenth-century speculators ranking among the state's political and economic elite and a remarkable pattern of resistance to land loss by heirs in the twentieth century.

Correia narrates a long and largely unknown history of property conflict in Tierra Amarilla characterized by nearly constant violence—night riding and fence cutting, pitched gun battles, and tanks rumbling along the rutted dirt roads of northern New Mexico. The legal geography he constructs is one that includes a surprising and remarkable cast of characters: millionaire sheep barons, Spanish anarchists, hooded Klansmen, Puerto Rican terrorists, and undercover FBI agents. By placing property and law at the center of his study, Properties of Violence provocatively suggests that violence is not the opposite of property but rather is essential to its operation.

Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation

Page count: 240 pp.
14 b&w photos, 4 maps
Trim size: 6 x 9


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David Correia is an assistant professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of New Mexico.