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(ānkōmyān`dä) [Span. encomendar=to entrust], system of tributory labor established in Spanish America. Developed as a means of securing an adequate and cheap labor supply, the encomienda was first used over the conquered Moors of Spain. Transplanted to the New World, it gave the conquistador control over the native populations by requiring them to pay tribute from their lands, which were "granted" to deserving subjects of the Spanish crown. The natives often rendered personal services as well. In return the grantee was theoretically obligated to protect his wards, to instruct them in the Christian faith, and to defend their right to use the land for their own subsistence. When first applied in the West Indies, this labor system wrought such hardship that the population was soon decimated. This resulted in efforts by the Spanish king and the Dominican order to suppress encomiendas, but the need of the conquerors to reward their supporters led to de facto recognition of the practice. The crown prevented the encomienda from becoming hereditary, and with the New Laws (1542) promulgated by Las CasasLas Casas, Bartolomé de
, 1474–1566, Spanish missionary and historian, called the apostle of the Indies. He went to Hispaniola with his father in 1502, and eight years later he was ordained a priest.
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, the system gradually died out, to be replaced by the repartimientorepartimiento
, in Spanish colonial practice, usually, the distribution of indigenous people for forced labor. In a broader sense it referred to any official distribution of goods, property, services, and the like.
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 and finally debt peonagepeonage
, system of involuntary servitude based on the indebtedness of the laborer (the peon) to his creditor. It was prevalent in Spanish America, especially in Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru.
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. Similar systems of land and labor apportionment were adopted by other colonial powers, notably the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the French.


See L. B. Simpson, The Encomienda in New Spain (rev. ed. 1966); J. F. Bannon, Indian Labor in the Spanish Indies (1966).



a form of exploitation of the Indian population in the Spanish colonies of America between the 16th and 18th centuries. Indians, who were nominally free, were “entrusted” to the Spanish colonialists, or encomenderos, to whom they were required to render payment in clothing, gold, or food and to perform corvée in the mines and on the estates of the encomenderos. In the 17th and 18th centuries the encomienda existed alongside other forms of colonial exploitation, such as the mita and peonage. The encomienda was officially abolished by royal decrees issued between 1718 and 1791, but in the majority of Spanish colonies it was retained until the early 19th century.


Al’perovich, M. S. “O kharaktere i formakh ekspluatatsii indeitsev v amerikanskikh koloniakh Ispanii (XVI-XVIII vv.).” Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 1957, no. 2.
Ivanov, G. I. “Enkom’enda v Meksike i vosstaniia indeitsev v XVI v.” Uchenye zap. Ivanovskogo ped. in-ta, 1964, vol. 35.
References in periodicals archive ?
The first thing one must know is that even if their beginnings were similar to slavery, very soon the regulations of the Crown transformed them into a sort of fief-serfdom--but republicanized: the encomendero was the representative of the king regarding the collection of taxes to be used by the imperial government, by the local government, or by the encomendero himself.
Another clear example of fresh new insights into colonial historiography is found in Chapter 6, "The Encomendero and His Literary Interlocutors.
By all appearances he had settled into becoming a typical encomendero (i.
Worship of Ixchel persisted until at least 1579 when Diego de Contreras Duran, the encomendero of Cozumel, recorded the practice this way:
His father was among the first colonists on Hispaniola; he himself had been a slave-holder, becoming an encomendero in the Indies around the time that Columbus commenced his fourth voyage in 1502.
Abercrombie's "Tributes to Bad Conscience: Charity, Restitution, and Inheritance in Cacique and Encomendero Testaments of Sixteenth-Century Charcas" (pp.
Under a system known as encomienda, the Quarai mission received protection from the encomendero, a Spanish colonist who, in return, received tribute in goods from the mission Indians.
82) Here the Indian natives kept access to their own land but were "allocated" to the encomendero to whom they were bound till the rest of his life.
Ello esta relacionado con el papel que formalmente se le asigno al establecer ahi, desde mediados del siglo xvi, la capital del nuevo reino, sede de encomenderos y el obispado dando lugar a un hinterland de alcance mesurable en terminos de cientos de kilometros (Lockart, 1997).
While landowners, or encomenderos, were obliged to follow a set of laws mandating that the native Guarani be treated decently and be provided with Christian instruction, the encomienda system quickly deteriorated into a legalized form of slavery.
Caracas encomenderos used the profits from these sales to purchase African slaves.