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Resguardo, a Colombian institution regulating indigenous landholdings. The resguardo is a territorial unit comprising communal and inalienable lands administered by native authorities and legitimized by colonial titles granted to indigenous communities. Resguardos were carved out of more extensive aboriginal territories by the colonial administration in order to isolate indigenous populations from surrounding ethnic groups and to free remaining aboriginal lands for exploitation by non-Indians. By the eighteenth century, however, the resguardo served as a vehicle for expanding native holdings and for legitimizing new forms of indigenous authority.

During the Republican period, the Colombian state enacted legislation to privatize resguardo lands but was only partially successful; alliances between regional elites and indigenous communities under the federalist system succeeded in maintaining the institution, especially in the southern highlands. A return to centralized political authority in the last decade of the nineteenth century brought a more protectionist Indian policy that codified the existence of the resguardo as a small and politically weak unit dependent upon municipal authorities.

Notwithstanding protectionist legislation, state policy in the twentieth century continued to foster the privatization of resguardo lands. Some extinguished resguardos, however, succeeded in revalidating their communal status during the 1980s, and existing ones expanded their territorial base by occupying usurped lands. Indigenous communal landholdings received more extensive protection under the 1991 Constitution, which transcended existing resguardo legislation, granting native communities the right to define modes of territorial organization.

See alsoEncomienda; Pueblos de indios; Repartimiento.


Juan Friede, El indio en lucha por la tierra, 2d ed. (1972).

Margarita González, El resguardo en el Nuevo Reino de Granada, 2d ed. (1979).

Adolfo Triana, Legislación indígena nacional (1980).

Myriam Jimeno and Adolfo Triana, Estado y minorías étnicas en Colombia (1985).

Joanne Rappaport, The Politics of Memory: Native Historical Interpretation in the Colombian Andes (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Bohórquez M., Carmen L. El resguardo en la Nueva Granada: Proteccionismo o despojo? Bogotá: Editorial Nueva América, 1997.

Castro Blanco, Elias. La extinción de los resguardos indígenas de Colombaima y Paquilo en Ambalema en el siglo XIX. Bogotá: CRIT: Notaría de Ambalema, 1999.

Gros, Christian. Políticas de la etnicidad: Identidad, estado y modernidad. Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, 2001.

Holguín Sarria, Armando. Los indígenas en la Constitución colombiana. Bogotá: G. Rivas Moreno, 1997.

Maybury-Lewis, David. The Politics of Ethnicity: Indigenous Peoples in Latin American States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies: Distributed by Harvard University Press, 2002.

                                         Joanne Rappaport

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