Property Ownership and Foreign Acquisitions

Property Ownership and Foreign Acquisitions

By Ángel Marín Díaz


Property is not simply owning a piece of land; it is so much more. It is the economic right of every individual to rent, sell, donate, or inherit property in order to take full advantage of and enjoy their investment. The history of land ownership in Mexico is colorful and goes back to colonial times.


Taking a trip back in time, we see that the king owned all the lands and waters in New Spain as well as the riches that existed below the ground. As king, he had supreme power to exploit the wealth of the land at the expense of the common folk, including to cede said lands, by perpetual inheritance, from generation to generation within the same royal bloodline. This practice, which continued up until the time of Mexican Independence, was called “originating property.” At the point of Mexican Independence, the land that once solely belonged to one person now belonged to the nation.


Mexico’s first constitution, the Constitution of 1814, established the formation of private property, or the possession of a piece of land and its natural riches by one or more parties. It stated that property cannot be lost or taken except due to a “just and legal cause” in favor of the nation. Not until the reforms of 1847, known as the liberal period, did property ownership become a right recognized by the law. Subsequently, when these previous national laws were annulled by the Political Constitution of 1857, private property rights were assigned the characteristic of being an “economic transmission.” This brought new problems. Large portions of Mexican land were sold as foreign latifundios, which were very extensive portions of privately owned land also called haciendas. Latifundios ended with the current Political Constitution and Mexican Revolution of 1917.


Today, private property is recognized under Article 27 of the Political Constitution from 1917, which specifies that all land and water of the territory belong to Mexico. Land can be transmitted to individuals, provided that they are Mexican by birth or naturalization. Citizens of other countries living in Mexico may only enjoy the right of ownership when the Secretary of Foreign Affairs grants them permission to purchase small portions of Mexican land. In order to receive this permission, non-Mexicans must comply fully with Mexican laws and with the knowledge that such properties will continue to belong to the Mexican nation.


For more specific information on the matter, as well as all legal and notarial services including residential and commercial closings, please contact the author:


Ángel Marín Díaz at and 415 121 9005.