Another method used by the Spanish to occupy its large, but sparsely populated northern zones was through royal land grants. However, the crown could seize anything thus dispensed, so proprietors—usually wealthy Penisulares and Criollos—consolidated their smaller ranchos into large agricultural estates and, eventually, gained clear title to this property. As New Spain matured, royal intervention into the property holdings of its Mexican subjects became rare and families who had been able to amass large holdings usually passed them on as birthrights to their children.
The owners, known as Hacendados or Patróns, usually lived in the cities and hired managers to oversee the operations of their agricultural empires. Cattle, horses, sheep, and cultivated crops produced on these estates became critical to the local market economies, as did their by-products including wool, tallow, meat, flour, and leather. Labor on these estates came from the local population with some living in villages on Hacienda lands while others came in as temporary labor during high demand times such as planting, harvest, and roundup. Local labor bosses handled the gathering and releasing of these temporary workers. Campesinos might also be associated with the Hacienda, but worked their own ground based on shares.