Repartimiento de Mercancías

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Repartimiento de Mercancías

Repartimiento de mercancías (distribution of goods), also known as repartimiento de bienes, an obligation on indigenous peoples and their communities to purchase goods they neither wanted nor could afford. Merchants, colonial officials, and, at times, community leaders profited from an arrangement in which surplus goods were forced upon the local population that was obligated to pay for these "purchases" with labor service, land, or cash. The goods involved, frequently luxury items, were sometimes never even delivered but were repeatedly resold on paper to other "buyers." This abusive system arose in the seventeenth century and became particularly acute in the eighteenth, when the volume of goods illegally entering colonial markets exceeded the volume imported through the formal Consulado (merchant guild) system, whose merchant members were left with excess stock.

The repartimiento de mercancías was a major factor in the depletion of indigenous community resources, in the growth of debt peonage labor, and in indigenous revolts against colonial authority. Sporadic efforts to reform this system, including legalization and heightened regulation of the repartimiento de mercancías during the mid-eighteenth-century Bourbon Reforms, failed to curb the worst abuses.

See alsoDebt Peonage; Repartimiento.


Karen Spalding, Huarochirí: An Andean Society Under Inca and Spanish Rule (1984), esp. pp. 188-190, 200-204.

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.

Menegus Bornemann, Margarita. El repartimiento forzoso de mercancías en México, Perú y Filipinas. México, D.F.: Instituto de Investigaciones Dr José María Luís Mora: Centro de Estudios sobre la Universidad-UNAM, 2000.

                                    Ann M. Wightman