Spanish Empire: Repartimiento and Encomienda


Figure 1.--

Spain originally founded colonies in the Caribbean (The Spanish Main), but was disappointed with the economic returns. Within a very short period they began to understood that they had not reached the East (Indies). And they also realized that the Caribbean islands laid off a vast mainland and rumors began to circulate of fabulously rich native empires. This launched a period of conquest (16th century). Spanish conquistadores carved out parts of North, Central, and South America and created a vast empire. This included Native Americans at the hunter-gather stage as well as sophistcated empires, inluding the Azetec, Mayan, and Incan Empires as well as smaller Native American kingdoms. The defeat of these empires left the areas conquered in ruin. So the Spanish had to find a way of ruling theie empire and of rebuilding an economy. They chose the repartimiento/encomienda system which had been used by the Spanish after conqueing the Canary Islands. Th 'repartimiento' was the process of dividing up the Native Americans and assigning them in an 'encomienda'. Encomienda comes from the Spanish word 'encomendar' meaning 'to entrust'. It was essentially a trusteeship, a term used by the League of Nations after World war I. The Spanish used the encomienda system in several areas they conquered. It was of special imporance in Peru and Mexico, notably the area of the most sophisticated Native Amercan empires. Under the encomienda system, the Spanish Crown entrusted Conquistadores and prominent Spaniards with the rule over native communities. Many such grants involvd huge areas. It was essentially a recreation of the European feudal system. The Native Americans were tied to the land and provide labor and tribute to the Spanish lord. In return the Spanish lord would provide protection and education. As it developed in reality, it became virtual slavery. The treatment of the Native Americans was horendous, especially those used for mining, but there were many other abuses. The Crown attempted to protect the Native Americans go a degree, but the King was very far away. Some church men like Bartolomé de las Casas (c1484–1566), also attempted to reduce the abuses, but to little affect.

Origins

The origins of the encoimienda system lie with the practice of exacting tribute from Muslims and Jews during the http://histclo.com/essay/war/swc/08/sw8-rc.htmlChristian an Reconquista of the lands conquered by Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula during the medieval era. The encomienda system was first used outside the Iberian Peninsula by Castille to adminster the Canary Islands as they were conquered (15th century).

Conquistadores

Spain originally founded colonies in the Caribbean (The Spanish Main), but was disappointed with the economic returns. Within a very short period they began to understood that they had not reached the East (Indies). And they also realized that the Caribbean islands laid off a vast mainland and rumors began to circulate of fabulously rich native empires. This launched a period of conquest (16th century). Spanish conquistadores carved out parts of North, Central, and South America and created a vast empire. This included Native Americans at the hunter-gather stage as well as sophistcated empires, inluding the Azetec, Mayan, and Incan Empires as well as smaller Native American kingdoms. This vast empire was not created by the Spanish navy or army, but by private invdividuals who organized small armies at their own expense. The result is some of the most amaing accounts in gistory, the defeat of mighty empires by incredibly small groups. Some of the Conquistadores acquired great wealth. Others were abject failures. The Crown owed its vast empire to them, but was always concerned about their loyalty, afraid that they might set themselves up as soverign ruler and break away from the Crown.

Terminology

The 'repartimiento' was the the process of controlling the Native American people by assigning thm to Spainards andrequiring them to oay tribute. The actual destribution or allotment was the 'encomienda' comes from the verb 'encomendar' meaning 'to entrust'. It was essentially a trusteeship, a term dopted by the the League of Nations after World war I. As the repartimiento and encomienda were intriniscally linked, the two words were often used interchangeably. The encomienda involved tribute which essentially evolved into a system of forced labor and other assessments exacted from the Ntive mericans. The system endured for several centuries and was the core of Ntive American peonage and colonial supression.

Use in the Americas

The conquest if the vast Native American empires left the areas conquered in ruin. So the Spanish had to find a way of ruling theie empire and of rebuilding an economy. The Spanish used the encomienda system in several areas they conquered. It was of special imporance in Peru and Mexico, notably the area of the most sophisticated Native Amercan empires.

System

The encomienda was a grant by the Spanish Crown to a colonist conferring the right to tribute and forced labor from the inhabitants of a specied area of land. It was most commomnly used in Spain's American colonies. It was the foundation of a legal system designed to define the status of the Native American population needed for labor if the land was to have any value. The problem for the Crown was that the Native americans had any loyalty, setting up a potentially dangerous situation for comtrolling a large empire. Under the encomienda system, the Spanish Crown entrusted Conquistadores and prominent Spaniards with the rule over native communities. Many such grants involvd huge areas. It was essentially a recreation of the European feudal system. The Native Americans were tied to the land and provide labor and tribute to the Spanish lord. In return the Spanish lord would ensure their Chistenization, protection, and education. The encomienda was first legally defined (1503) as Spanish colonists after Colunbus' disciveries began to settle the newly discovered territories. Huspaniola was the first colony.

Implementation

An encomienda as it ws implenented in the Americas consisted of a grant by the crown to a conquistador, soldier, official, or other notable who had destinguished himself. The encomendero was entitled to tribute from a specified number of Native American, commonly individuals living on agricultural land, And the Native Americans were tied to the encomendero. They were not free to come and go without his permission to avoid the payment of tribute. Encomenderos were entitled to tribute in gold, in kind, or in labor. As the Native Americans rareky had gold or other precious items, the tribute was mosr commonly paid in agricultural products or handicrafts or labor. Forced labor was commonly referred to as the 'mita' in Peru and the 'cuatequil' in New Spain (Mexico). The encomendero was responsible for protecting them and instruct them in the Christian faith. The encomienda was not a land grant, but in practice this is what it became. The encomenderos used the right to tribute to gain control of Native American lands. And at the same time, few encomenderos faithfully fulfilled their obligations to Native Americans under their control. Abuses became widely understood from very early point. The Crown’s attempted to prevebt serious abuses of the encomienda system with the Laws of Burgos (1512–13) and the New Law of the Indies (1542). These efforts failed abjectly. The Spanish colonists opposed the reforms and the Crown neded the support of the colonists to maintain its hold on the colonies. A revised form of the repartimiento system was revived after 1550.

Feudal System

As it developed in reality, it became serfdom or virtual slavery. The treatment of the Native Americans was horendous, especially those used for mining, but there were many other abuses. Although the original intent of the encomienda was to reduce the abuses of forced labour (repartimiento) employed shortly after the discovery of the New World, in practice it became a form of enslavement. The Crown attempted to protect the Native Americans go a degree, but the King was very far away.

The Church

Some church men like Bartolomé de las Casas (c1484–1566), also attempted to reduce the abuses, but to little affect.










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Created: 7:16 PM 12/25/2014
Last updated: 9:34 PM 12/25/2014