Tierra Amarilla Land Grant & Courthouse Raid – 1967

“They stole our land and gave us powdered milk!”  —Reies Lopez Tijerina

People who were instrumental in the development and growth of the Mexican American culture don’t get much recognition, if ever, any at all. In fact, you won’t find most of this information I’m sharing with you in History books. And I’m talking about LAUSD where over 4 million Latinos reside.

It’s a little bizarre when you think about it. How many other Latino activists and fighters existed out there? How many other game-changers had a huge impact that we don’t know about?

I’m on a quest to find the untold stories that helped shaped our society allowing us to achieve monumental strides during the 60’s and 70’s with our black brothers and sisters.

WATCH THIS SHORT STORY. I’ll put the long version at the bottom. It’s called “A Quest for Home”. Hope you enjoy.

On June 5, 1967, Reies López Tijerina, also known as King Tiger, led the Alianza Federal de Mercedes to storm the Tierra Amarilla courthouse and arrest District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez, free detained members of the Alianza Federal de Mercedes, and raise awareness of the New Mexico land grant movement of the 1960s.

Some important information to understand: Spain and Mexico had endowed land grants to pioneers who settled in states along the Rio Grande River long before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded the region to the U.S. at the end of the Mexican American War. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo did protect these property rights, stating that they were to be “inviolably respected.” The Protocol of Querétaro of 1848 and Congressional legislation in 1854 further secured protections and created a land grant system in which the Office of the Surveyor General, working under the Supervision of the Secretary of Interior, managed land claim investigations. Even so, land grant heirs throughout the region unsuccessfully lost claims to millions of acres as private and communal lands transferred to new Anglo-Saxon owners and the U.S. Government.

Under Mexico’s government, community land grants like the 524,215-acre Tierra Amarilla land grant issued in 1832 could not be sold. Nonetheless, Surveyor General William Pelham, recognized these lands as private; so resistance movements by former Mexican citizens ensued. Tijerina and the Alianza Federal de Mercedes were among those organizing such movements.

One year before the Tierra Amarilla Courthouse Raid, Tijerina and the Alianza organized peaceful protests in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and occupied the Echo Amphitheater—located south of Tierra Amarilla to declare it the “Republic of San Joaquin del Rio Chama.” Law enforcement responded, arresting several Alianza members. Subsequent suppression of their meetings and orders by District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez for additional arrests culminated in the now infamous raid, which resulted in a manhunt for Tijerina by the National Guard and hundreds of police officers.

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