from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In a special use, an estate in Spanish America, comprising land and Indian inhabitants, granted to one of the early military adventurers.


Sorry, no etymologies found.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • "The encomienda is a trusteeship labour system that was employed by the Spanish crown during the Spanish colonization of the Americas and the Philippines." (source)

    Nasty concept but fun to say. I love that it suggests "eating up" (comiendo).

    June 2, 2009

  • "Desperate to prevent a mutiny, he (Cortes) granted them something they wanted almost as much as gold and treasure: rights to the labor and tribute of the people they had conquered.

    "The conquistadors called these grants encomiendas, a term rooted in the Reconquista, Catholic Castile's medieval struggle against Moorish Spain. During this centuries-long crusade--which finally ended in Castile's victory over Muslim Granada in 1492, mere months before Columbus set sail for America--it became common practice for Castilian knights to receive temporary jurisdiction over the people who lived in the villages they had captured from the Moors. Patterned after this medieval encomienda system, Cortes's grants were eventually awarded to about half the conquistadors who survived the battle for Tenochtitlan, with the greatest number going to those men who had been with Cortes since the first days of the Conquest.

    "In Mexico, as in Spain, the men who held encomiendas were called encomenderos...."

    Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 55.

    "Though long accepted in Spain, the system as practiced in the Americas was already under serious attack by the time Cortes introduced it to Mexico in 1522. Leading the charge were Dominican clerics, who had recently convinced (Emperor) Charles V and his advisers that <i>encomienda</i> grants were archaic, ill conceived, and immoral. ... 

    "In Spain, <i>encomenderos</i> who abused their power could be brought to heel by the Crown, but in the faraway American islands no such limits applied. Far from the king's reach and crazy for gold, <i>encomenderos</i> forced the islands' native people to leave their families and search for the precious metals in rivers and streams. Others repeatedly tortured, starved, and raped the people in their charge, turning the sunny Caribbean into a charnel.

    "'Tell me, by what right of justice to you keep these Indians in such a cruel and horrible servitude?' an appalled Dominican priest asked his Hispaniola parishioners in 1511... but the <i>encomenderos</I> ignored it."

    (p. 57-58)

    October 5, 2017