The Encomienda System

When the Spanish arrived in Latin America they brought many things including their culture and many customs. One of those customs happened to be tributary labor in the form of what is known as the Encomienda System in Spain.This was a legal practice by decree of the Spanish crown during the colonization of the Americas and Philippines, which was very similar to the extraction of tribute from Muslims and Jews during the Reconquista (or reconquest in English) of Muslim Spain.

In this system the crown would grant a Spaniard control over a number of Indians living in an area. This grant did not include the ownership of land, however, the encomenderos, who were the receivers of the grant, gained control of these lands in order to fufill there obligation to the natives as stated by system. A certain number of Indians would oversee as they tended the land and did all the work that needed to be done on the property and in many cases the natives also provided personal services to the Spaniards and payed tributes in the form of harvest, gold and other natural products. In return, the laborers were protected under the person who was granted with the encomineda, taught the Spanish language, baptized and introduced to the Catholic faith.

Although the system was put in place to reduce forced labor the workers were often treated harshly and the Encomienda System became one of the harshest labor systems in the new world and in practice became a form of enslavement. The Spaniards used the spread of Christianity as a reason for the Encomienda System and for thier reason to spread religion amongst the people. The Spanish believed that the Latin American people were incompetent and had to use religion and God, along with forced labor to be able to live a life with God.


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