What is latifundismo?

He Latifundismo Is that state of the economy in which a large amount of land is under the control of an owner or a minority of owners.

In other words, one can say that there is latifundismo when a person or a small group of people owns portions of lands that have an enormous extension, which they are commonly known as farms, fundos or, more, farms.

What is latifundismo?

Although in the 21st century vast funds remain under the control of wealthy landowners, in times past this proportion of large landowners tended to be larger in various parts of the world, since no agrarian reforms had been carried out at that time Efficient enough to satisfy the needs of the peasant population. The latifundismo, in this way, constituted a serious problem that generated crises and revolutions.

The struggle against latifundismo was thus a succession of critical events that led to continuous clashes between social classes, political elites and economic interests, who could not leave aside the natural resources that sustained the fortunes of landowners and with it the source of Its power.

The State, indistinctly from its dye in the specter of ideologies, was in charge of designing exits for this labyrinth. Each output had a different result; In some cases it was good, in another, it was bad.

Consequently, the agrarian reform caused the latifundistas to lose power, but not their capital, their money accumulated for years.

To this was added another problem not less important, which was that of the minifundio, which caused that a few were questioned whether it was really appropriate that the land should be distributed equally among all, that is to say the people, or only among those who knew how to work them . In this way, the minifundio came to be called miniature latifundio.

All this chain of events came to generate an extensive debate and investigation among the scholars on what is latifundismo itself, its causes, its consequences and the way in which this one has to be approached properly, so that do not repeat lamentable scenes that mourned to humanity.

Likewise, the analysis of the economic and political implications of latifundismo as a problem has served as a basis for making known its links with the hunger and poverty of peoples.


There is a unanimous agreement in which the latifundio obeys its etymology, which comes from the Latin Latus (Ie, broad, wide, extensive, if one does not use literal translations of the term) and Fundus (Fund, possession of rural land), which emerged in the mid-seventeenth century to express what was known in Spanish as a very large hacienda, so much so that it had colossal proportions, quite outside the size of a normal farm, with small plots.

However, what is controversial is the precise or estimated amount of land a peasant must have to be considered a latifundist. However, the figures, which have been calculated with more or less precision and taking into account the most studied cases, suggest that some 200 or 250 hectares are required for a farm to go from being a minifundio to a full-grown latifundio , Provided that the owners of such land are reduced.

Difference between latifundio and minifundio

The latifundio and the minifundio can be the target of confusions that must be clarified. In the first place, the minifundio works with lands of limited extent that do not lend themselves to a large scale exploitation.

That is, a tiny farm is not in itself a latifundio because it does not have abundant resources that can be used. In sum, smallholders also do not have enough hectares to grow crops and raise livestock in numbers that allow them to subsist adequately.

On the other hand, we have that latifundistas can work comfortably, since the agricultural space is immense and there is no scarcity of resources. However, the latifundist, unlike the minifundista, does not exploit all of his lands but only a portion of them, which is why a large number of his estates remain idle and unused.

In addition, the latifundista has more money and therefore greater power to buy goods and services inaccessible to the smallholder.

Add to this a last but important detail: productivity and labor. While minifundistas produce little and do not always have servants for the agricultural work, the latifundistas have a production of greater reach and have at their disposal the presence of employees that alleviate the responsibilities of the hacendados: the pawns. In times more remote and hard, they were the slaves.

History and causes

In the twentieth century, land ownership in many parts of the world was eliminated through agrarian reforms, that is, through the distribution of the extensive land owned by few landowners to the peasants, who sought means to To leave of the poverty to have greater amounts of cultivable zones that also were apt for the cattle ranch.

These types of claims were sought a lot in countries of Spanish America, such as Mexico.

What is latifundismo?  1

Venezuela, in fact, wanted the same agrarian achievements, since in the nineteenth century it was seen how the hacendados had lands and wealth to the detriment of the peasants who worked them.

Not in vain, the Creole latifundismo of those years brought with it the rise of caudillismo, several civil wars and a slavery that was difficult to abolish, although it was replaced by the system of the peonage, that is to say, of the peones that worked very in The field in exchange for a low salary.

As we have seen, the struggles that reduced latifundismo or eliminated it from the roots were often framed in ideas that clashed with the pretensions of the great hacendados, whose power was represented as capitalism, which had to be fought by revolutions or Policies of socialism.

In more recent years, it has been thought that land reforms are the most appropriate means for the distribution of wealth in the countryside.

However, it should be noted that these liberating intentions and this economic situation in the hands of the rich few are not entirely new; Rather, they are old-fashioned. It is no secret that between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, ie the time of Spanish colonization in America, there were families and wealthy religious orders whose lands covered important parts of the provinces in the viceroys. Lands that, of course, inherited their descendants.

The Middle Ages also stood out by a related medium of latifundismo that is known like feudalism . It is well known by historians that the Middle Ages meant for Europe an era of constant conflicts over territories whose value was measured by the natural resources that could be extracted from it, if it set aside the obvious military strategic value of its time. Feudalism, therefore, made the lords of the feud have extensive lands worked by the servants of the land.

It is also known that there were very clear antecedents of latifundismo in the Old Age, specifically in Rome and certainly in Greece. The presence of numerous slaves and serfs in the cultivation of the territory conquered by the Roman Empire and the small number of chiefs who administered it-the patricians, that is to say-certainly suggests that their civilization anticipated the footsteps of powerful men like Porfirio Diaz.

Asia, however, was not far behind. The most illustrative case is found in Japanese feudalism, which closely follows the European, saving cultural, historical, social and geographical differences. For centuries, the country of the Rising Sun had extensive territories controlled by clans of rival families who benefited from the agrarian work of numerous peasants who took the fruits of the land. This situation did not change until the Meiji Restoration, which began in 1868.

These examples and epochs to which reference has been made show that latifundismo has the same essence and the same basic ideas, irrespective of the place and culture in which they make an appearance. On many occasions, the possession of much land in the financial coffers of the same landowner has faltered before the forces of society and the economy through which the countries have been transformed.

In addition, it is summarized from the historically documented and studied examples that latifundismo can arise in various ways. In short, a landowner can accumulate many lands by:

  • Marriage links between the sons of the hacendados.
  • Installation of ecclesiastical missions, such as the Jesuits who had an estate in Santa Lucia (Mexico) between 1576 and 1767.
  • Legal or illegal appropriation of land, by land purchase or by war loot.
  • Violence, invasion and looting of indigenous peoples or rival landowners.

Political and socioeconomic consequences

The latifundismo has not gone unnoticed in the eyes of the critics, who have often considered it as a vehicle of capitalism in the agricultural sector.

But setting aside the judgments of theorists, some Marxists and other liberals, it is important to explain in what sense a country is affected when its lands are divided according to the principles of the latifundio. Historical cases such as those described above serve to better understand this panorama from a political and socio-economic perspective.

In the foreground, there have been few times when economic and political power have been directly related to social influence. In this aspect, latifundismo implies that the hacendado has an immense accumulated capital. In other words, the latifundist, by owning large estates, has by definition an astronomical amount of money that can be used to obtain benefits before the State, that is, public offices and privileges that others do not have.

In addition, the latifundista, being a very rich person, has absolute control of its territories in conditions that allow it to be outside the public powers of the State; That is, who owns the land is not only a landowner, but a ruler with authority who enjoys a certain autonomy.

This in itself is what they have in common the feudal lord of medieval Europe, the Latin American leader of the nineteenth century and the Japanese daimyo of the Tokugawa Period.

It is also possible to say that political and civil rights were reduced because the elections were census; Only a person who met the socio-economic requirements specified in the laws of the nation, such as the Constitution, could vote.

Often, the latifundist was the one who was able to generate sufficient income with which he had access to the vote and could also run, for example, to the post of mayor.

Land tenure, therefore, had much to do with obtaining citizenship. Who was a citizen, had a voice and vote in government affairs. But in nations where there was no law but that of the feudal lord or the daimyo, sovereignty did not reside in the people, but in the nobility.

In this way, the political elite, who came to power through latifundismo, is the one who really made the decisions that took their countries in different directions.

From the economic and political divergences the social divergences originate. Land laundering has undoubtedly been a symptom of political backwardness and socio-economic inequality, since it indicates that the population is structured in hierarchies that go according to the money they produce.

The lowest strata often correspond to the peasants, day laborers and workers, or in short, the peons who worked the lands of the landowners.

This socio-economic division has always brought to the fore debates the distribution of wealth, poverty and the right to property, since in latifundismo the peon works lands that are not his, but the landowner, who is Truth that profits from the land.

For many years this reality has been the cause of social outbursts in which they have wanted to increase the benefits of the peasants.

Latifundismo vs. agrarian reform

Through the agrarian reform it has been hoped that the distribution of land would be done in a fairer way.

Thus, the peasant would own the plots he sows or of the cattle raised, and therefore of the financial income that comes from the agricultural activity. The latifundist, therefore, would no longer have the territorial monopoly of his estates and therefore would be diminished his capital with which he has obtained his wealth for generations.

In the United States, for example, these reformist discussions have encountered obstacles with local landowners, who see in this reform a means to attack private property and with it their economic freedoms.

It is no wonder that in the nineteenth century the Confederate side rejected the abolition of slavery until its defeat in the American Civil War. Something similar happened in Venezuela with the Conservatives after the Federal War.

Finally, the struggle between latifundistas and agraristas ended up being more favorable for the latter. The need to promote social equality through more equitable economic policies achieved a greater democratization of the field, because the landlords lost their political supremacy and with it their preference treatment as citizens.

Japan is one of those cases in which the reforms of this nature got that the feudal regime of the daimyo came to an end.

However, the scope of the achievements of the struggle against latifundismo has been questioned. In particular, it has been suggested that in Peru the"mega-neo-latifundio"has appeared, which between 1994 and 2015 has experienced an increase in large landowners, who, despite having only 3.7% Of the agricultural units hold 84.2% of the area corresponding to arable land.

What is latifundismo?  2

The smallholdings, in contrast, control 67.9% of the agricultural units, but their surface barely reaches 3.5% of the arable land.

In other words, small-scale farmers in Peru are still the least powerful, while large scale farmers are still at the top, since their size and production capacity are larger. The latifundismo, therefore, has evolved in new forms.


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