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September 10 marked the 200th anniversary of the document that constitutes the first integral agrarian reform of the independentist awakening of South America, through the Land Regulation of Jose Artigas, which distributed rural lands to the benefit of the least favored populations, focused on the concept of land as a social good.
As in the rest of Latin American countries, in Uruguay, the “problem of land” has been a foundational issue since the struggles for independence and the creation of our National States.
Artigas represents the radical expression of the Latin American Revolution and his 1815 Regulation represents the recognition of the key importance of land for those who work.
Written in Paysandu department, on the coast of Uruguay River and Hervidero Stream, the Regulation came into force on September 10, 1815.
Lands granted by the Spanish Crown to “bad Europeans” and “worse Americans” who received them by fighting against patriots from 1810 and 1815 were now being distributed.
As far as the beneficiaries of the Regulation, the social justice inspiration and redemption is seen in “let the most unfortunate be the most privileged”. Who were the “most unfortunate”? According to the Regulation: free zambos and black people; poor Creole and indigenous people, as well as poor widows with children.
The scope of this Regulation was celebrated with a seminar at the Legislative Building that gathered 500 settlers who occupy lands belonging to the National Colonization Institute (NCI).
The seminar included the views of historians, NCI authorities, legislators, settlers and social organizations, among them the central workers union Pit-Cnt and REDES-Friends of the Earth Uruguay.
Karin Nansen, member of this environmental organization, pointed out during her presentation that the legacy of the Regulation is seen today in the NCI, which represents a possibility of access for family farmers and rural workers. And she highlighted the decision to acquire more lands with these purposes.
She especially made reference to the co-ownership of lands, providing equal opportunities for men and women on decisions about how and what to produce in these lands, as an example of differentiated and gender policies.
The Vice-Chair of environmental federation Friends of the Earth also said that the collective use of lands and the role of the State in their control and management is a fundamental pillar in the path towards food sovereignty as part of the sovereignty of the peoples.
“As proven with the 2007-2008 crisis, the peoples that are not sovereign in the production of food and do not control their resources are much more vulnerable to food crises”, said Nansen.
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