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The KUT Longhorn Radio Network Presents: Mexican American Experience Collection

Audio recordings including interviews, music, and informational programs related to the Mexican American community and their concerns in the series "The Mexican American Experience" and "A esta hora conversamos" from the Longhorn Radio Network, 1976-1982.

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The Legal System Of The Southwest
Program #
Politics, Society

Legal Issues
Richard Goodman
Richard Goodman
Feb 25, 1977

The Legal System of the Southwest

When the Anglos arrived in the Southwest after the Treaty of Guadalupe, they found a legal system very different from their own. The Mexican laws were based on the southwestern life style and addressed the needs of the region. Eventually, local courts and legislatures adopted or incorporated them into their own laws.

State constitutions often adopted Mexican municipal laws untouched, which allowed each pueblo to have an ayuntamiento or town council and an alcalde, or a magistrate of the pueblo. Legal documents produced at the time were in both Spanish and English to accommodate local officials who could not speak Spanish.

Many Southwestern states also adopted Mexican mining laws, although some like California added the proviso that Mexicans as foreigners needed a special license to mine. It was not until 1870, in the People vs. de la Guerra, that California fully extended citizenship rights to the Mexicans who became Americans after the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. By then however, they had lost much of their land in title disputes when the U.S. government failed to abide by the Treaty of Guadalupe and its provisions, which legally protected Mexican land.


Center for Mexican American Studies | Department of History | The Benson Latin American Collection

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