Tierra y Libertad: The Social Function Doctrine and Land Reform in Latin America

  • Thomas T. AnkersenEmail author
  • Thomas Ruppert


Latin America has been caught for centuries in a vicious cycle of land consolidation and land reform; the issue perennially resurfaces since concentration of land and associated resources results in conflict.’ Latin American nations are among the world’s leaders when it comes to the inequality of land distribution. Land reform, or agrarian reform, as it is more commonly referred to in Latin America, is hardly a new phenomenon. As we will show, the need to develop a policy to redress the consolidation of lands by a powerful few and redistribute it in the name of equity and development has its pedigree in Greco-Roman times. In Latin America land reform began in colonial times and has persisted through the present, resisted by elites who benefited from the largesse of the colonial powers. In the colonial era, the land and its resources was all the crown could offer to the conquistadors, colonial elites, and to the church. As a result, the newly independent states immediately entrenched a resistant, wealthy class of latifundistas, or large landed estate holders, setting the stage for a legacy of revolution and attempts at land reform.


Social function Land reform Agrarian reform Land tenure Ecological function Expropriation Regulatory expropriation Productive use Allodial Latifundio Regalia Encomienda Repartimiento Utilidad pública 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Florida Joint Program in Environmental Law and Conservation ClinicGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Florida Sea Grant College ProgramGainesvilleUSA

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