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Encomienda

From Academic Kids

The encomienda system was a trusteeship system used during the Spanish colonization of the Americas, whereby conquistadors were granted the towns of the indigenous people they conquered. The conquistadors, known as encomenderos, were able to tax these people and summon them for labor. In return the encomenderos were expected to provide safety for the people through an established military and teachings in Christianity.

However, most of the encomenderos ruthlessly exploited the people already living there. They used their influence and power as encomenderos and land owners to seize more lands from the natives, increase taxes, and ultimately force the natives into slavery. This exploitation of the indigenous natives and the other negative influences of the European presence of encomenderos were some of the factors that led to the breakdown of the entire encomienda system.

The downfall of the encomienda system began when Blasco Nez Vela, the first viceroy of Peru, tried to enforce the New Laws. Many of the encomenderos were unwilling to comply with the New Laws and soon revolted against Vela.

Other problems of the encomienda system in Peru occurred due to the breaking up of extended families, or ayllus, which brought an end to their economic system of vertical exchanges. Not only this impaired the encomienda system, but so also did the epidemic diseases brought to America by the Europeans. These diseases, such as the plague and smallpox, killed a large percentage of the indigenous population because they had no natural defenses against them.

The encomienda system was essential to the Spanish government sustaining their control over North and South America becuase it was the first major organizational law instituted on a contintent where disease, war and turmoil reigned.

The etymology of encomienda and encomendero lies in the Spanish verb encomendar, "to entrust".

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