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Repartimiento (labor levy), the system of forced labor demanded of indigenous communities by the colonial state. In the Andes, the system was also known as the Mita, a Spanish adaptation of the Inca term mita and labor service in the mining zone was known as the mita de minas. Usually one-seventh of a community's male population between the ages of eighteen and fifty-five was required to be in service to employers who had been assigned Indian labor by the state. Eligibility criteria could vary according to local regulations. For example, in some communities widows within this age group were required to serve, and individuals or entire communities could claim exemption based on some special service that they or their ancestors had performed for the state. In theory, individual men served two to four months of repartimiento labor and were then exempt for a year. In practice, however, excessive labor assessments based on outdated community censuses meant that individuals served with greater frequency, and this increased obligation contributed to a further population decline, chiefly through migration, which only intensified labor demands.

Repartimiento labor could be performed on the estates of local elites, but workers also could be assigned to distant work sites, and those who were often stayed at those sites after their repartimiento term had expired, sometimes abused by local employers and sometimes earning higher wages for the same, previously repartimiento, labor. Repartimiento labor was brutal and debilitating, particularly in mercury mines and coca fields, and repartimiento obligations caused Indians to flee communities subject to these services, so that rather than stabilizing the indigenous labor force, the repartimiento contributed to its dispersal. The system was plagued by the unwillingness and inability of local communities to meet labor quotas and a variety of alternative labor relationships arose, including wage labor and debt peonage.

See alsoEncomienda; Mita; Naboría.


See the general discussion of indigenous labor in Mark A. Burkholder and Lyman L. Johnson, Colonial Latin America (1990). For a detailed study of mining labor see Peter Bakewell, Miners of the Red Mountain: Indian Labor in Potosí, 1545–1650 (1984).

Additional Bibliography

Baskes, Jeremy. Indians, Merchants, and Markets: A Reinterpretation of the Repartimiento and Spanish-Indian Economic Relations in Colonial Oaxaca, 1750–1821. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.

Contreras Sánchez, Alicia del C. Capital comercial y colorantes en la Nueva España, segunda mitad del siglo XVIII. Zamora: El Colegio de Michoacán: Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, 1996.

Menegus Bornemann, Margarita. El repartimiento forzoso de mercancías en México, Perú y Filipinas. México, D.F.: Instituto de Investigaciones, Dr. José María Luis Mora: Centro de Estudios sobre la Universidad-UNAM, 2001.

Mira Caballos, Esteban. El indio antillano: Repartimiento, encomienda y esclavitud (1492–1542). Sevilla: Múñoz Moya Editor, 1997.

Solís Robleda, Gabriela. Bajo el signo de la compulsión: El trabajo forzoso indígena en el sistema colonial yucateco, 1540–1730. México: CIESAS: ICY, Instituto de Cultura de Yucatán: M.A. Porrúa Grupo Editorial: Conaculta, INAH, 2003.

Stavig, Ward. The World of Túpac Amaru: Conflict, Community, and Identity in Colonial Peru. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

Tandeter, Enrique. Coercion and Market: Silver Mining in Colonial Potosí, 1692–1826. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1993.

                                    Ann M. Wightman

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