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AG seeks to void land transfer away from historic land grant group

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said Wednesday he is seeking to void a 2003 land transfer from a historic Hispanic land grant on grounds it was illegal.

Balderas’s office filed a complaint against the Greeley, Colorado-based nonprofit group Al Frente de Lucha over a title transfer of property belonging to La Merced de Los Pueblos de Tierra Amarilla in northern New Mexico.

The complaint contends a nonprofit created to manage the La Merced land grant transferred about 216 acres (87 hectares) to Al Frente de Lucha, but says the people representing the La Merced group were not elected board members.

In addition, the board representing La Merced also did not approve the transfer, the complaint said.

Hector Balderas

Balderas said whoever signed the agreement did so without the authorities of the board, making the agreement void, Balderas said.

“My office will fight to preserve the history and culture of land grants throughout New Mexico,” Balderas said in a statement. “This land must be returned immediately, and placed in a trust for the benefit of Merced de Los Pueblos de Tierra Amarilla.”

Al Frente de Lucha, which loosely means the Fighting Front, did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press.

According to its website, Al Frente de Lucha “is an anti-colonial organization dedicated to the struggle for the self-determination and liberation of all oppressed people.” The group works with youth to educate youth about Mexican-American history and the land grant struggles in New Mexico and Colorado.

La Merced de Los Pueblos de Tierra Amarilla land grant was established in 1831 by Mexico to encourage ranchers to settle in the New Mexico territory. The Spanish government also made similar grants before 1821.

A 2016 state audit found the La Merced board approved the sale of assets without board approval.

Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, is the site of the 1967, armed raid of a courthouse by land grant activists. The attack was connected to age-old Spanish land grant disputes and began after activists from the group La Alianza Federal de Mercedes sought to make a citizen’s arrest of then-District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez.

During the June 5, 1967, raid, the group, led by Texas-born activist Reies Lopez Tijerina, shot and wounded a state police officer and jailer, beat a deputy, and took the sheriff and a reporter hostage. Tijerina was ultimately arrested but ultimately acquitted of charges directly related to the raid. He eventually spent about two years in prison for federal destruction of property.

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Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP’s race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

 

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