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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 ?
19) Moreover, at least in Venezuela, the encomiendas were extinguished by the end of the seventeenth century and were replaced by Pueblos de Doctrina.
At the time, they were encomiendas of the Spaniards; that is to say, they were possessions that the Spanish Crown granted the Spanish conquerors and settlers.
In practice, this meant that the indigenous population was abandoned, since it had been drastically reduced as a result of the war of conquest, disease, forced labour, and the near slavery of the encomiendas (indentured labourers).
Yet, Zambos could consider themselves indigenous, a status even inferior to the enslaved Blacks, but the Spaniards exploited and killed many of the indigenous peoples in notorious institutions via encomiendas, repartimentos, and debt peonage among many other ways.
Acumulador tanto de hazanas belicas como canallescas, mujeriego, pendenciero y corsario, Alonso de Contreras recorrio practicamente todos los frentes del imperio espanol a principios del siglo XVII: el Mediterraneo, Flandes y America, sin olvidar las "fronteras interiores" de la Peninsula, participando en el problema morisco, internandose como ermitano en los yermos de Aragon o procurando favores y encomiendas en la Corte.
My Lord"], nuestro Dio, rey del mundo, que nos santifico en sus encomiendas y nos encomendo para estar en cabanas.
Hence, the grant of encomiendas was always made by the Crown and was the main expression of the state's propensity to distribute privileges.
Comparing the conditions of work in the encomiendas to slavery, and declaring the colony an offense to God, the Augustinians threatened to stop administering confessions to the encomenderos until the newly arrived bishop put an end to the practice of appropriating indigenous labour.
While don Quijote's invocation of "los caballeros andantes antiguos" creates a clear connection to the literary legacy of the libros de caballerias, his description of the practice of endowing governorships is also suggestive of the sixteenth-century patronage system of allocating encomiendas for service to the crown (Himmerich y Valencia).