From the decade of the 1570s throughout the rest of the colonial period, the Spanish authorities regularly instituted congregación, or forced resettlement programs, also known as reducciónes. As a result of the pestilence and population mobility unleashed by the Spanish conquest of the Americas, many previously densely populated regions were depopulated. As the system of colonial administration developed in the sixteenth century, the Spanish recognized the need to consolidate widely scattered native populations in nucleated villages for ease of control.
Three resettlement programs have received considerable scholarly attention. The earliest of these was the program initiated by Don Francisco de Toledo, viceroy of Peru, in the 1570s. Later, from 1599 to 1604, there was an extensive program in New Spain. The last was initiated in the eighteenth century by Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries in the region of present-day Paraguay and the Californias.
The congregaciones aided Spanish missionaries and crown officials. Yet the policy had serious disadvantages for the Indians, including loss of land, disruption of traditional political and social ties, and an increased susceptibility to disease. On the positive side, some have argued that the Jesuit settlements protected the natives of Paraguay from mistreatment at the hands of colonists and slave raids of the Portuguese.
Cardiff, Guillermo Furlong. Misiones y sus pueblos de Guaraníes. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Theoría, 1962.
Cline, Howard F. "Civil Congregations of the Indians of New Spain, 1598–1606." In Hispanic American Historical Review 29 (1949): 349-369.
Solano, Francisco. "Política de concentración de la población indígena: Objetivos, proceso, problemas, resultados." Revista de Indias 36, nos. 145-146 (1976): 7-29.
John F. Schwaller