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encomienda (ānkōmyānˈdä) [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 Casas, the system gradually died out, to be replaced by the repartimiento and finally debt peonage. 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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Para Las Casas, la encomienda esta, junto con las guerras de conquista (39), en la raiz de todos los males indianos, por lo que el es inequivoco en cuanto a su rechazo de la misma: "de no haberse remediado sino [...] inficionado y estragado y despoblado todo este orbe--asegura en su Historia de las Indias-, aquella vastativa [sir] e infernal repartimiento que baptizaron con el nombre de 'encomiendas' [tiene] la culpa" (40).
La implementacion del sistema de encomienda ocasiono una transformacion de las relaciones prehispanicas, entre estas se cambio la tampsa (o tributo) indigena por un sistema de tributacion obligatoria, en el cual la sal fue uno de los productos mas apetecidos por los encomenderos espanoles, porque les permitio regular y controlar su abastecimiento a traves de las redes de circulacion de la sal.
The Senate chief though received unsolicited good words from former ambassador Alberto Encomienda the real expert on the South China Sea who declared Sotto is right.
Former Ambassador Alberto Encomienda, who was with Pitlo during the press conference, also had the same views, saying that what the President did was the right choice.