Large estate


The term latifundio is normally used in the field of economics. It refers to a large area of ​​land dedicated to agricultural activities. In primitive societies the owners used to be called landowners and were prominent figures with great social prestige and political power.


What is a latifundio?

A latifundio is an extensive parcel of fertile land belonging to a single owner , and which is subjected to agricultural exploitation. It is associated with a system of domination-dependency, established between the owner and his workers who have been oppressed since ancient times. This distribution of land hinders the development of nations.

  • Characteristics of a large estate
  • Source
  • History
  • Causes
  • Types of large estates
  • Latifundia in Latin America
  • How it differs from a smallholding
  • Importance
  • Examples of large estates

Characteristics of a large estate

Large estates have a group of characteristics that contemplate various aspects. The following stand out:

  • They are tracts of land of enormous dimensions belonging to a single person, generally the owner of other properties.
  • They are located in wide, flat and flat lands because they are more conducive to their use.
  • They are underutilized because much of the land remains idle without being shared for community benefits with a view to local development.
  • Its competitiveness in the markets is deficient, among other reasons due to the low technological level used in agricultural activities such as sowing, harvesting and livestock .
  • They are usually adjacent to other small lands that, if they are properly used and productive, called minifundios.
  • They are worked by people with basic knowledge of their trade who do not have their own land or the possibility of obtaining employment benefits beyond a modest salary. They are insufficient and exploited by the owners.


This form of ownership had its origin in the midst of a series of historical events and momentous political changes. During the time there were military conquests and colonizations for the creation of the Empire of ancient Rome, the Germanic invasions, the Spanish Reconquest and the European colonization of America .

It was, specifically in the Roman Empire where large estates first emerged . There there was a marked differentiation between citizens. Some were members of wealthy families, owners of land, which they granted to the State to be worked with, and others could only contribute their descendants or offspring as labor.

Thus, large tracts of land began to form as local production monopolies dedicated mainly to agriculture , livestock and to a lesser extent to fishing. Bureaucratic networks were also established from these primitive times.


In the Middle Ages, between the 5th and 15th centuries, due to political and social changes, the so-called feudal society emerged. The aristocrats and nobles became the owners of the lands. Each one, called a feudal lord, had a large estate where the peasants received lodging, protection and food in exchange for their work. In addition, to slavery was present in large estates, representing the most degrading form of exploitation of human labor.

In the Modern Age between the 15th and 18th centuries, the large estates continued to exist. At this time, it was the European metropolis that obtained the most benefits. Despite the distribution of land made during the conquest of America, the greatest production was sent to the other continent, strengthening the European national monarchies. In this way, the large landowners remain, in one way or another, politically and militarily protected despite the system changes that have occurred throughout history .


Large estates began to form between the time of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages. When the high military spheres obtained some victory, they took over the conquered lands, dividing them among themselves and accumulating them as a sign of wealth.

The kings also appropriated them as a kind of payment for the achievement obtained. They conferred land in exchange for loyalty. An example of this was the Western Emperor Charlemagne who awarded large proportions of land to servant subjects who swore allegiance to him.

The same situation was later observed in the Latin American colony, as a derivation of the Spanish dominion over the territory. The king granted land to a group of people allowing a privileged minority to make huge fortunes.

The excessive interest in accumulating land in order to obtain capital and to be able to monopolize agricultural activity was evident due to having large hectares of land, competent but mostly unproductive.

Another cause of the appearance of large estates was the need for large-scale production of food and other products from the land. The objective was to guarantee food for the population and develop the commercial sector. But this goal was never achieved because particular interests continued to prevail and the required reforms were not implemented.

Types of large estates

In general, it is established that there is only one type of latifundio referred to large areas of land in few hands. However, in some countries certain classifications have emerged according to production:

  • Productive large estates: When the vast amount of land has been adequately worked through efficient agricultural practices, both manual and technological, and positive results have been obtained in relation to production, productivity and the market.
  • Unproductive large estates: Referred to poorly worked, where the intervening factors such as land, capital, labor and technology do not keep the corresponding balance, therefore they do not generate any return.

Other classifications are made based on various approaches. In this way the following types are derived:

  • Social focus: Social latifundio and natural latifundio.
  • Legal approach: formal, informal and legal or constitutional latifundia.
  • Geophysical approach: Integrated and dispersed latifundia.
  • According to the type of property: ejidal, private, mixed and corporate latifundio.
  • According to the type of owner: civil, ecclesiastical and public latifundio.

Latifundia in Latin America

In Latin American nations, the practice of large estates is very common, generating negative economic, social and political consequences for the region. The owners are characters who inherited the vast lands from their ancestors, becoming powerful landowners.

Despite having acquired different forms and names such as herds, haciendas, farms, among others, wanting to attenuate the capitalist image that latifundismo has always reflected, it has not been achieved.

Rural workers, called laborers, continue to be poorly paid, restricted and without adequate contractual benefits. Likewise, low capitalization, the prevalence of self-interest over collective interests, and low productivity in proportion to the size of the plots remain.

How it differs from a smallholding

  • The minifundio is a small proportion of land. In fact, many of them arose from the fragmentation of large estates to grant inheritances.
  • The smallholding is located in mountainous terrain while the largeholding is preferably located on the plains.
  • The smallholding has no possibility of influencing the development of the local socio-productive process since its activity is reduced to subsistence agriculture. The latifundio, on the other hand, does have the ability to impact the local economy as long as its owners intend to do so.
  • Less labor is used in the smallholding . The latifundio requires a greater number of workers.
  • The smallholding is better to work because the physical properties are usually more favorable, the land being easy to prepare for agricultural work. The latifundio has higher demands at the level of all factors.


The importance of large estates lies in the potential it represents for obtaining large productions . It has an extraordinary land, good location and conditions suitable for its use and profitability.

It also constitutes an alternative for the State to plan and execute projects for the food security of the communities. Currently, in several nations, mainly Latin American, there are many lands in the power of the rulers.

However, it is pertinent to emphasize that latifundismo, rather than a benefit, is considered an obstacle to agricultural development. It is used to display dominance and power and not as an instrument for work. This is how it always was and continues to be in the present. It implies that its disadvantages are greater than the advantages as long as the pertinent reforms are not implemented.

Examples of large estates

At present, depending on the region where the large areas of land are located, they receive different names. It can be farms, farms, herds, farms, ranches, parcels. Despite the assigned name, they still have the same characteristics, which is why they can be considered large estates. Examples of these are:

  • Coffee farms.
  • Cocoa farms.
  • Cattle ranches.
  • Coffee plots.
  • Sugar cane fields.
  • Rice farms
  • Banana farms.

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