Thursday, November 22, 2007


This Day in the History of Good Intentions Falling Short

On this day in 1542, the New Laws were passed in Spain prohibiting enslavement of Indians in the Americas. The earlier system, called encomienda, allowed each landowner of usually Spanish, often Conquistador descent, to tax and compel the labor of up to 300 native Americans. The New Laws helped shield the conquered Indians from the worst abuses of the system but they only lasted for about 3 years and then the encomienda system returned in full force (and it would last until it was replaced by the hacienda system in 1791) Although it was not the chattel slavery the imported Africans suffered in the New World, the serfdom like system kept the Indians down--poor, undereducated and exploited--for the benefit of the progeny of the European conquerors for centuries after the conquest. A slightly different encomienda system was also established in the Philippines.


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