Recent scholarship has shown that Latin American popular actors engaged creatively with the new system of republican law that followed the region's independence from Spanish rule. But what impact did republican citizenship rights have on political relations on large agricultural estates, or haciendas, where settlements existed on privately owned land? How did local governance function in the absence of public space for republican institutions to grow in? This article examines the challenges to landed power initiated by requests from two hacienda communities in the state of Guanajuato in the early 1820s to erect constitutional townships on their estates, as well as the landowners' responses to this challenge. From these cases the article moves to a wider investigation of the reorganization of power structures internal to haciendas in the aftermath of Mexico's War of Independence. By analyzing haciendas as a kind of constitutional gray zone in which vaguely defined property rights clashed with vaguely defined directives for constitutional political organization, the article contributes to understanding liberal state formation in Latin America during the crucial first years of the new republics.

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