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repartimiento (rāpärtēmyĕnˈtō) [key], in Spanish colonial practice, usually, the distribution of indigenous people for forced labor. In a broader sense it referred to any official distribution of goods, property, services, and the like. From as early as 1499, deserving Spaniards were allotted pieces of land, receiving at the same time the native people living on them; these allotments were known as encomiendas (see encomienda) and the process was the repartimiento; the two words were often used interchangeably. The encomienda was almost always accompanied by a system of forced labor and other assessments exacted from the indigenous people. The system endured and was the core of peonage in New Spain. The assessment of forced labor was called the mita in Peru and the cuatequil in Mexico.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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