LatinaLista — Throughout the debate over the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, critics have long enjoyed defending their stance by saying that it's within the "legal rights" of the country to defend its borders.
Well, there are some other legal rights that go way back before there ever was a border between Texas and Mexico â€” in the form of Spanish land grants.
In the tiny Texas town of Granjeno, roughly 450 residents will be the latest group along the Texas-Mexico border to challenge Homeland Security's insistence on building a border wall through their town. Yet, these Valley residents aren't going to rely on environmental impact studies or even popular opinion to drive their point home.
They're going to go by the letter of the law â€” 1767 Spanish civil law.
According to Yolanda Martinez, Granjeno's unofficial historian, the government doesn't have a legal leg to stand on when it comes to confiscating land to build the border wall.
Yolanda Martinez signs border wall petition letter.
(Source: Rio Grande Guardian)
It seems Granjeno was established by Spain's King Carlos III when he granted three "porciones" (portions) of land to Ramon Munguia and Nicolas Bocanegra. Families intermarried and stayed on the land.
â€œTexas passed legislation to protect Spanish land grants in 1840 and again in1852 when the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty was signed by the United States and Mexico,â€ Martinez told the Guardian, after the meeting.
â€œWe still reside on our land grants. We never left our property. Because our land is still governed by Spanish civil law, it should have some weight.â€
Martinez said the state of Texas uses Spanish civil law which it suits its case. She cited rules governing tidelands, homestead law, community property, public access to roads, rivers, coastal areas, and cemeteries.
Martinez said many of the original Spanish land grant holders lost their properties soon after the Civil War. She said punitive damages should have been paid to such landowners under a legal challenge settled in 1942.
â€œThey have not compensated us to this day. As long as those damages are not paid us, this is our land,â€ Martinez said. â€œThere is no question in my mind that we are protected under Spanish civil law, which controls to this date all Spanish and Mexican land grant property.â€
Homeland Security wants to build the fence on the north side of the city's levee. That would cut through the homes of 34 families.
The actions of the government are making people in Granjeno mad. At a recent town hall meeting, all those who came clustered around the tables to sign the petition against the wall.
(Source: Rio Grande Guardian)
The residents of Granjeno are counting on the rule of law to keep their land and town together. It may only count as sentimental value to the government but to these residents its their family history that is at stake.
If the government were to ignore the land grant rights of the people of Granjeno, it would be another example of how the government rewrites history to make it fit its needs.
Ignoring the Spanish land grants of the townspeople would also lead to an old-fashioned showdown between the government and the town over which law takes precedence â€” one that was passed over 200 years ago or one that passed months ago.
One that enabled generations to claim a birthright and the other that wants to take it all away.
â€œWe have state rights protected under legislated law. Land patents are respected and acknowledged by federal law in the 13 original colonies, as are Indian Grants. Please hear our pleas and save our heritage, history, and ailing souls.â€