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How would you describe the lives of Native Americans in New Spain?
When the Spanish arrived in the New World, they brought with them a set of customs and traditions from their old Spain. One of the systems that were commonly practiced in Western Europe was forced labour. [ In Spain, this was knownas the Encomienda system. An encomienda was a means of providing a Spaniard a portion of land and restricted property rights over a certain number of Indians. The
Encomienda system quickly became entrenched in South and Central America. Although it was implemented with the intention to care for and provide for the Native Americans, it became the most abusive and destructive system in colonial New Spain. The Need to Indoctrinate and Instruct Natives in the Catholic Faith The Spanish used religion to justify their domination over the Native Americans. The conquistadors maintained it was God’s will that they indoctrinate the Native Americans in the Catholic faith. Under the law of Burgos, any encomendero with more than fifty Natives had to educate one boy in writing and religious doctrine so that he could in turn, teach his people these things. “Some of the Native communities were even divided into territorial doctrinas or parishes with its own priest and church building where Indians would be instructed about the Christian faith,” says Michael Busbin. However, this method “quickly became an opportunity for the encomenderos to exploit and utilize the Indians for their own ends,” says Meredith Scott. The Belief the Native Americans Were Incompetent The need to Christianize the Natives was not the only reason for the Spanish to establish the encomienda system. The common belief that the Native Americans were savage and incompetent people unable to live a Christian life and conduct money and trade, fuelled the Spaniards’ desire to establish the encomienda system. Consequently, the Spaniards believed the Natives needed to be clothed, educated and taught about God. ]
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