In the 1990s the Mexican peasants witnessed the introduction of a new Agrarian Law and the implementation of the land regularization programme, PROCEDE. In this article it is demonstrated that the privatization of previously communally held ejido land did not lead to the promised dynamic land market, nor to an increase in agricultural productivity. On the basis of an in–depth study of land tenure practices in the ejido La Canoa in Western Mexico, it is shown that the changes of 1992 did not address the main problems of peasant agriculture. The new Agrarian Law legalized practices which, although illegal, had already become quite common in ejidos throughout Mexico. In addition, it is argued that legal security does not necessarily reside in official registration by the state, but can also be based on local recognition of land rights. The main argument of the article is that property consists of complex sets of claims, rights and obligations that cannot be manipulated by forms of state intervention that reduce land tenure predicaments to technical problems.