Case Studies - Commons - Spain

Montes de Propios de Jerez de la Frontera


Type of institution for collective action


Name/description institution

Montes de Propios de Jerez de la Frontera





Name of city or specified area

Jerez de la Frontera (Cadíz)

Further specification location (e.g. borough, street etc.)


Patron Saint of this institution


Amount of area and boundaries (for institutions related to landed property)

The territory of the city of Jerez de la Frontera now occupies 140,461 hectares, of which 7,051 hectares are owned by the City Council (Concejo), in six plots:  Charco de los Hurones (1,637 ha), Jarda (2,225 ha), Jardilla (2,311 ha), Montifarti (631 ha), Rojitán (122 ha), and Gordilla (125 ha).


In the mid-eighteenth century, the Ensenada Cadastre quantified the property of the Concejo of Jerez in 49,896 hectares, divided into "propios", "arbitrios", "comunales" and wastelands (baldíos). Just under one-third of this property (14,104 hectares) was situated in the town Jerez itself, while the remainder (35,792 hectares) was in the depopulated territory of Tempul. The grounds cited in the first place were closer to the city and mainly used for grazing, with free use for residents of the city. There were 3 communal pastures (dehesas) (1,628 ha), 27 wastelands (baldios)for common use (12,470 ha) and 4 pieces of arable land (6 ha). By contrast, onerous harvesting that reported income to city coffers prevailed in the term of Tempul.


The Council's assets in Tempul included a farmhouse (cortijo) (51 ha), 3 pastures (dehesas) of propios (2,952 ha), 12 pastures of arbitrios (9,919 ha), 7 wastelands (baldios) of arbitrios (9,427 hectares), 1 communal pasture (dehesa) (1,073 ha) and 20 communal wastelands (baldíos) (12,370 ha). In short, 27,547 hectares were communal and wastelands of free use, while 22,349 hectares of arbitrios and propios provided regular cash income to the City Council (Concejo)  through the lease of the use of their resources.


 (Jiménez Blanco, 1996, 274-6).

Foundation/start of institution, date or year

The constitution of the patrimony of the Council (Concejo) of Jerez de la Frontera took place in three phases or stages:

  • 1264: Christian conquest and distribution of lands (repartimiento) among the settlers with a territorial heritage award to the Council of Jerez de la Frontera.
  • c. 1300: King Ferdinand IV donates Tempul Castle and its surroundings, recently won, to the city of Jerez.
  • 1588: the Council of Jerez de la Frontera purchases a portion of the wastelands (baldíos) from King Philip II, then using the title document to justify the appropriation of other.

Foundation year: is this year the confirmed year of founding or is this the year this institution is first mentioned?


Foundation act present?



Description of Act of foundation



Year of termination of institution


Not terminated: still in operation.

Year of termination: estimated or confirmed?

See above.

Act regarding termination present?

See above.


Description Act of termination

See above.


Reason for termination?

See above.


Recognized by local government?


Concise history of institution

a) Constitution of heritage and definition of uses 

The Council (Concejo) of Jerez de la Frontera was born in 1264 with the Christian conquest, reigning in Castile Alfonso X The Wise (el Sabio). While they proceeded to the distribution of lands among the Christian settlers, they also claimed land (the exact amount unknown to us) to form the heritage of the Council and the neighbors of the new city. The aim was to attract settlers and thereby strengthen the position of border against the Nazari kingdom of Granada. For this reason, the Council of Jerez was favoured at some point between 1295 and 1312 by King Ferdinand IV of Castile with the possession of the castle and territory of Tempul, located on the opposite side of the river Guadalete. This possession was confirmed by a document dated 1333, but nearly lost in the mid-sixteenth century. Emperor Charles V adopted a proposal by the noble Fernando Padilla-Dávila, to populate Tempul and donated him the castle and its territory. The Council of Jerez defended his right to property against the Emperor in court and won the lawsuit.


Until 1531, the use of pastures in the city was governed by a system of suertes, i.e. large lots of land, specifically designated to be used as pastures (dehesas) that were drawn annually between the neighbors that were entitled to use this pastures (those farmers who owned more than 300 head of cattle). The ordinances of 1531, ratified by the Emperor Charles V, replaced this system of exploitation, deleting the award of suertes and establishing the pooling without distinction across the pasture field, so that all neighbors would have the same rights. This applied to the communal lands belonging to the heritage of the Council of Jerez, granted to the Council by the  thirteenth century royal grants.


In addition to these areas of the city, residents also benefit from the wastelands or baldíos of the jurisdiction, usually more distant lands whose titles were ambiguous, but ultimately claimed by the King as his own. To finance its war effort, the Crown proceeded during the second half of the sixteenth century to the sale of waste ground and did so also at Jerez. In 1588 King Philip II recognized the ownership of the City of Jerez of a portion of the wastelands of its jurisdiction in exchange for a payment of 707,409.50 maravedies for the Royal Treasury. In addition, the monarch also committed, in exchange for delivery in installments of 862,500 maravedies, not to dispose of the wastelands in the remaining future. These two operations left the status of the wastelands uncertain and open to various interpretations by the parties involved. On one hand, the Council interpreted tghe arrangement as having bought the property of all baldíos. The Crown, on the other hand, considered only a part of the baldios to be actually sold, this point of view also showing from attempts by the Crown in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to sell some of the baldíos the Crown considered to be unsold and subsequently still property of the Crown.


In 1612 some of these wastelands were used by the Council to solve their financial needs. Preceding royal permission, wastelands of Rodaderos, Marrufa, Umbría de Escobar, Mojea de Asensio y Jardilla, Montifarti, Garganta Millán, and Algar were given on lease in exchange for cash rent. In 1696 the grass from Palmetín and acorn from LaCespedosa and LaGordilla were also leased and the proceeds went to the Arbitrios Treasury (Caja de Arbitrios). The initial situation of predominantly free use of the wastelands had changed into a situation of restricted and onerous use for a specific purpose and for a specific period: they had been converted into arbitrios. Other wastelands (baldíos) remained still in free and common use, but were designated for specific purposes, as happened in 1676 with Gibalgín and LaCaulina, to be used specifically for breeding mares and foals.


Lands situated in the mountains, being either wastelands (baldíos). propios, arbitrios, or comunales, were mainly used for collecting and harvesting grass, acorns, and wood. The right of use of the acorn was auctioned regularly and was a major source of income for the Council of Jerez. The pastures near the city were for free and open use, which benefitted mainly the big farmers in Jerez, which were well represented within the Council. Other more distant pastures (forming pastures (dehesas) of propios or arbitrios), were leased to neighboring farmers or strangers in exchange for a monetary payment. The use of wood, for its part, was mediated by the Navy Command (Comandancia de Marina) , particularly between 1744 and 1813, for its strategic interest in maintaining the royal fleet. Besides these uses, the people of Jerez could make other uses of subsistence and gathering wild fruits (asparagus, aromatic plants, palms, wicker), as well as small game (rabbits, hares, birds) and charcoal.


The Council held recognition of terms to find the encroachments made ​​by individuals in the mountains in 1434, 1523, 1551, 1640, 1661, 1679, 1802 and 1817 (Cabral, 1994, 78-80). By 1750, when the Cadastre of Ensenada offered the first overall figures, the area owned by the City reached 50,000 hectares according to their data, although the real figure was probably closer to 60,000 hectares. From that moment on, there was a long and complex process of privatization of land, leaving the heritage of the City reduced to just over 7,000 hectares in the late nineteenth century.


b) Chronology and routes of privatization

The ways to the privatization of this enormous wealth were varied. We highlight four ways.


1) Sale of public land by the Crown without regard to the Council

The sale of public land by the Crown had already begun, as noted, in the sixteenth century, affecting at least 3,736 hectares (Cabral, 1995, 87-8). The Council itself used this opportunity occasion to consolidate their ownership rights to the wastelands of the term. The Crown however continued to sell property rights of the baldíos to other individuals and institutions beside the Council of Jerez, even though the Council had already paid an amount of money to the Crown to gain full and exclusive ownership of these baldíos. The judicial nullification of any of these unjustified sales by the Crown led in 1657 to a dispossessed buyer demand (submitted by a convent and a noble family) and a long legal battle that culminated in 1769 in the delivery of five wastelands (baldíos) (2,898 hectares) to the successors of those buyers. Many years later, the Crown came to interfere in the ownership of the wastelands of Jerez, Fernando VII in 1829 granting of 2,692 hectares (not without protest from the Council) to Pedro Perez-Muñoz as compensation for his losses suffered in America.


2) Sale of land by the Council in order to obtain funding

For its part, the Concejo of Jerez also sold its own initiative a part of their heritage. In 1752 the council agreed to establish a hospice in the city "includes the orphan and idle people to give them a Christian education and teaching arts and crafts they do subsist common good".  With opposition from the oligarchy of stockbreeders, two royal orders of 1754 and 1755 approved the "rompimiento" and sale by auction of up to 12,074 hectares to fund this work and others, such as the conduct of fresh water to the city, the construction of a way between the city and El Puerto de Santa Maria, and reform of the pier on the river Guadalete. Between 1755 and 1757 were disposed of in thirteen sales transactions totaling 10,128 hectares, including expressly the privilege of fencing estates. Shortly after the buyer of one of these estates, Domingo López de Carvajal in 1773 drove the settlement in the new town of Algar, which would end by separating from the jurisdiction of Jerez de la Frontera.


Sales initiated by the city continued in 1789 when 1,234 acres were sold in four operations to the Monastery of the Cartuja and the Cabildo Catedral de Cadiz, and smaller quantities were sold in 1799 (27 ha), 1804 (27 ha), 1811 (16 ha) and 1820 (268 ha).


3) Distribution of plots of land under cultivation in small portions with a purpose of social reform and development of agriculture, free of charge or in exchange for an income or "censo"

The third way of privatization are the deals (repartos). The regulatory framework for these initiatives of social reform and agricultural development is based on the royal provisions of November 29, 1767 and May 26, 1770. These laws sought to form a rural middle class based on the orderly distribution of the Council’s agricultural land. The law of 1767 put the emphasis on giving land to landless labourers (jornaleros) as a way to moral and social reform, to improve the lower strata of the peasantry. The law of 1770 put the emphasis on the idea of efficiency (agricultural development), and focused on tenant farmers, not laborers. The idea of this latter law was to strengthen the middle strata of the peasantry. 


The deal faced opposition from some powerful groups who feared the expansion of cultivated land supply would cause a reduction of pasture, a decrease in land rent or an increase in wages. The first distribution was made in 1768, concerning land away from the city and of poor quality (561 hectares in 57 lots) in return for a rent proportional to the crop; the result however was lower than expected. New deals were conducted in 1790, 1796 (358 hectares), 1799, 1800 (152 hectares), 1806, and 1812 (162 hectares).


The decree of the Cortes of Cadiz of January 4, 1813 ordered the privatization of all public lands (wastelands (baldíos), arbitrios, propios), except lands of common use near to the village, necessary to people (ejidos). This measure served multiple goals: to clean up municipal accounts, to reward the soldiers who had fought against Napoleon, to facilitate access to the land to jornaleros (just like the provision of 1767), and promoting agriculture. The restoration of absolutism overturned this rule, but after the constitutional revolution of 1820 this rule could be implemented. In 1822 the Council arranged the deal of dividing 12,720 hectares among discharged soldiers (419 persons) and landless rural workers (1,171 persons). The first would receive land for free, while the latter agreed to pay an annual fee. The plan also envisaged privatization by auction to the highest bidder of another 18,484 hectares in favor of public credit, and to reserve 3,309 hectares for establishing new populations, as well as to keep the pasture Hato de la Carne (188 hectares) as an ejido. A new restoration of absolutism, facilitated by the Congress of Verona, prevented to this initiative from completion. But fifteen years later, the triumph of liberal constitutionalism made it possible to return scattered lots of land to the soldiers  and laborers. Once opposition from some powerful groups present at City Hall was overcome,  between 1840 and 1843 a total of  8,923 hectares spread over 1,141 lots, was returned to the soldiers and laborers. The soldiers received their lost for free, laborers paid a  royalty of 2% of the appraised value of the land.


At that time, other areas were also privatized in larger batches, using a different formula, known as censo reservativo sale. In short, it was a double operation on a single document: first, transfer of ownership by sale, and another covering the sale price with a mortgage bearing an annual income fixed by two or three per cent of that value. Thus, the buyer did not turn over more money than that for an annuity, promising to continue paying the fee for an indefinite period. Sales of this type occurred in 1844 (18 ha in Marisma de Torrox), 1845 (70 ha in Quinientas Bajas and 1,116 ha in Romerales y Pesebres), and 1847 (80 ha in Malabrigo).


The inventory made in 1851 reflects the changes compared to 1750. The area belonging to  the mountains of the Council of Jerez had been reduced to 37,017 hectares. Of this total amount, 29,527 hectares were transferred on lease and 7,490 hectares had been distributed or sold in exchange for the payment of an annual fee. No land was used free of charge anymore. The comunales and wastelands (baldíos) were transformed into propios. The lands were classified as 73 pastures (dehesas) of  propios (26,417 hectares), 117 lots of land leased for an indefinite period (which came from the deals made ​​between 1768 and 1820, adding up to 2,478 hectares), and 33 lots (631 hectares) of land leased for a short term period.


The latter lots were those lands that had been abandoned by their licensees or seized by the City due to late payment of taxes. The land given to census were divided in turn into 729 farms distributed to poor neighbors in 1822, and returned between 1840 and 1843 (6,145 hectares), and 7 censos reservativos (1,345 hectares). On this stock of municipal land,  the Confiscation Act (Desamortización, implying a nationwide privatization of enormous dimension), promoted by the Minister Pascual Madoz, was applied from 1855 onwards.


4) Sale of land under the Confiscation Act (Desamortización) of 1855  

This way of privatization could take two forms: next to the sale at public auction to the highest bidder, there was also the redemption of rents (censos). Both ways were existant at Jerez at that time.


 Sales by auction affected 110 lands (including 60 pastures (dehesas) and 45 suertes) with a combined area of ​​22,995 hectares. Most of these sales (85 per cent) occurred in just four years (1859-62). The process had several irregularities. The 1855 Act laid down the conditions under which a mount should be considered as being exempted from privatization. The exception criterium was defined by the dominant tree species, the Act citing sixteen species of trees (including oak, abundant in Jerez). The mere presence of this vegetation should result automatically in conservation in public hands. However, when the rule was applied, pastures where the oak was the dominant tree were alienated, while other pastures mostly populated by other trees not mentioned on the list, were exempted. In addition, many pastures were valued and auctioned based on surface figures that - from measures performed later on - appeared to be less than the real surface area. In conclusion one could state that the application of the rule was arbitrary.


The second way to full privatization was the possibility offered to the owner of the property to redeem or cancel the fee he was held to pay annually to the Council. This meant the owner could gain full property by paying a certain amount of money for the land he held. This amount had been set at 10 times the annual rent (censo) if the fee was less than 15 pesetas, or 20 times the annual rent if the fee was more than 15 pesetas and amortized in installments). For example, for a holder who had until then paid an annual canon of 10 pesetas, the payment of  100 pesetas was sufficient to obtain full ownership. This implied a significant gain for the owner if you consider that the canon was fixed at the time of delivery at a rate of two or three per cent of the value of the property. That is, he paid 100 for land actual worth between 333 and 500 pesetas. The redemption of rents (censos) allowed an area of ​​10,152 hectares to be completely privatized, mainly (77 per cent) in the years 1855-6 .


In short, as a result of the Confiscation Act, the municipality of Jerez was forced to change the ownership of 33,147 hectares of land for 5,396,872 pesetas in public debt securities to 3 per cent . Given the state budget deficit in subsequent years, and problems paying the debt, which led to two debt conversions in 1882 and 1899, the balance of the operation to the municipality can only be negative. In the 1901 catalog of Jerez, public forest occupied only 7,024 hectares.


The last break away from the “Montes de Propios de Jerez” came in 1915 and affected the Hato de la Carne, 220 hectares of land had been exempted from the seizure to be allocated to oxen pasture. The city of Jerez had experienced serious social conflicts and class struggles in recent years of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. For that reason the idea of ​​using the “Montes de Propios” to carry out a social reform that would give access to land for families of rural workers arose. The Colonization Law of August 30, 1907 provided the appropriate legal framework. The first project, proposed in 1909, to settle farmers in the valley to the Jarda was abandoned, but two years later, the council proposed the establishment of an agricultural colony in the Hato de la Carne. That colonization was seen as complementary the extension of irrigation following the construction of the dam on river Guadalcacín. In 1915 the Central Board of Colonization authorized the establishment of the colony of La Caulina, its 194 acres being distributed among individual crops (150 hectares for 75 families, two hectares per family), communal pastures (27 ha) and roads, canals and constructions (17 hectares). The slowness in the work of extension of irrigation (the water did not arrive until 1939) caused this experiment to fail in his first goal of setting an example for a successful social reform.


Finally, in 1990 there was a change, hitherto unprecedented. The municipal heritage was augmented with the purchase by the City of lands called Rojitán and La Gordilla, which previously also belonged to the Council until their sales in 1755 and 1859 respectively.


c) Contemporary management

Along with the loss of ownership over thousands of hectares, the Council of Jerez during the nineteenth century suffered a loss of management capacity on the properties kept in the mountains. The Forestry Act 1863 and regulations developed in 1865 granted the State responsibilities in the management of forests at the expense of the municipalities. The capacity of the latter was reduced to filing requests for using these areas for their neighbors to the State Forest Service.


This Service approved in 1873 the first Plan de Aprovechamiento of Montes de Propios de Jerez, a document specifying the resources (grass, cork, acorn, firewood, timber, etc.) that could be extracted from the mountains during the coming year, setting deadlines, quantities and conditions. Since then, every year harvesting plans were approved on the basis of requests from City Hall and under the supervision of a forest engineer.


In the last years of the nineteenth century, due to increasing international demand and increasing prices, cork was gaining prominence as resource . In this context the exploitation of this resource was moving towards a management and development model involving increased privatization of use: the Plan de Ordenación. In 1897 a private contractor was licensed by the Ministry for the “ordination” project of the Montes de Propios de Jerez (Charco de los Hurones, Jarda, Jardilla and Montifarti) for cork exploitation. The project was finally approved in 1911 and it included the conditions of joint auction of all depleted and improvements to be made ​​during the first twenty years. Auction of harvesting was abandoned, the harvesting being awarded to the concession holder of the “ordination” plan. The management was in private hands like this until 1925, the year the City regained its management capacity by a decree of the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera. From then on, the municipal engineer became responsible for making revisions to the management plan, whose approval was ultimately in the hands of the Ministry of Development.


The management model did not change significantly until 1985, when  a complete reform of the use of Montes de Propios de Jerez was made, based upon the scientific advice of Pablo Campos-Palacín, researcher at the Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC). The City Council assumed direct management of the mountains, creating for this purpose in 1988 the municipal firm EMEMSA (Explotaciones de los Montes de Propios Empresa Municipal S.A). This company is responsible for ensuring integrated development of all the harvest of forests, with a dual purpose: production and conservation. It is therefore an experience that seeks to reconcile economic goals with environmental, through a management system more agile and flexible.

Special events? Highs and lows? Specific problems or problematic periods?

  • In 1483 the town of Puerto Real was founded, ordained by the Catholic kings the demarcation of the term and its separation from Jerez. After several conflicts and delay, a decision of the Court (Chancillería) of Granada in 1518 ordered the separation of both jurisdictions while maintaining the right of the people of Puerto Real to graze his cattle in Jerez, and Jerez neighbors to take advantage of pastures in Puerto real.
  • Between 1750 and 1851, the Council saw the loss of 12,879 hectares, for a variety of land privatization transactions driven by the Crown or by the council. Since the latter date until 1901 the implementation of the Confiscation Act (Desamortización) led to to private ownership of 29,993 hectares.
  • In 1990 the City Hall signed a purchase and 247 hectares were added to the Montes de Propios de Jerez.


Numbers of members (specified)

The city of Jerez de la Frontera had 30,672 inhabitants in 1591, 45,506 in 1787, 63,473 in 1900 and 183,273 in 2001.

Membership attainable for every one, regardless of social class or family background?

Yes. The right of use of forests was inherent in the resident status of the city of Jerez de la Frontera.

Specific conditions for obtaining membership? (Entrance fee, special tests etc.)


Specific reasons regarding banning members from the institution?


Advantages of membership?

The right of use of forests was inherent in the resident status of the city of Jerez de la Frontera.

Obligations of members?


Literature on case study

  • Jiménez-Blanco, José-Ignacio (1996). Privatización y apropiación de tierras municipales en la Baja Andalucía: Jerez de la Frontera, 1750-1995. Jérez : Ayuntamiento de Jerez.
  • Cabral Chamorro, Antonio (1995). Propiedad comunal y repartos de tierras en Cádiz (siglos XV-XIX). Puerto Real : Diputación de Cádiz.
  • Cabral Chamorro, Antonio (1996). La Colonización Ilustrada y Liberal en Jerez de la Frontera, 1750 - 1850. Jerez de La Frontera : Ayuntamiento de Jerez.
  • González Jiménez, Manuel, and González Gómez, A. (1980). El libro del repartimiento de Jerez de la Frontera. Estudio y edición. Cádiz.
  • Campos, P., H. Daly-Hassen, P. Ovando, J. L. Oviedo and A. Chebil. (2009). Economics of cork oak forest multiple use: application to Jerez and Iteimia agroforestry systems study cases. In: M.R. Mosquera-Losada, A. Rigueiro-Rodríguez and J. McAdam (eds.), Agroforestry in Europe. Series Advances in Agroforestry VI, pp. 269-95. Dordrecht : Springer.
  • Campos-Palacín, Pablo (1994), “El valor económico total de los sistemas agroforestales”, in Agricultura y Sociedad  (71) April-June 1994, pp. 243-56  ( pdf-file available here).
  • Vassberg, D. (1983), La venta de tierras baldías. El comunitarismo agrario y la Corona de Castilla durante el siglo XVI. Madrid : Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación.

Sources on case study

Links to further information on case study:

Case study composed by

 José Miguel Lana Berasain, Public University of Navarra (Pamplona)




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