Indian Reductions

Indian Reductions

Indian Reductions (Spanish: reducciones) were mission towns established by Spanish Jesuit missionaries in Central and South America, built and occupied by the forced relocation of indigenous populations. By consolidating the previously scattered populations, Spain was able to take advantage of the slave labor and rule them more easily.


Reductions were part of the larger reforms of Francisco de Toledo, the fifth viceroy of Peru, beginning in 1567.[1] This concept was part of what were known as the Toledo reforms, adopted by the Spanish crown to "aggrandize Spanish power by consolidating viceregal rule and to revive the flow of Andean silver to the metropolitan treasury."[2] In order to achieve these economic and political goals efficiently, Toledo attempted to relocate the scattered Native American population of the Andes into larger settlements.[3]


Before the construction of the relocation towns, Native Americans throughout Peru and colonial South America generally lived in small, localized and dispersed villages, which were difficult for Spanish colonial authorities to oversee. The purpose of the massive resettlement program "was to establish direct state control and facilitate the church's Christianization of the native population, while enhancing the collection of the tribute tax and the allocation of labor."[4] By relocating the native population to centralized settlements, the Spanish colonists could more easily enforce their systems of forced tribute tax and forced labor, known as mita in Spanish.

Besides the settlements under the Toledo reforms, the Viceroyalty of Peru. These eventually achieved the most economic and cultural development, success, and fame, especially the Jesuit Reductions of the Province of Paraguay (then including parts of Argentina and Brazil. This was a result in a difference between the application of the reduction system between Viceroyalty of La Plata and the Viceroyalty of Peru.


The structural layout of the reducciones was based on a repeatable template, modeled after a Spanish-style rural town. Each settlement town was built in a rectangular or square grid formation. The reducciones each had a town square, around which were arranged the chief buildings: a church with an assigned priest, a prison, and a travelers lodge. They can best be described as a type of camp designed to model an ordered town.

Impact on indigenous people

The shift into the reductions had highly disruptive effects on the indigenous society. [5]

The people were torn from their established agricultural system and crops, and their familiar villages, but they were relocated to potentially completely different climate zones, requiring new crops and techniques. Poma also notes that the new sites were "sometimes set in damp lands that cause pestilence" (disease).[6]

The Spanish sometimes located the settlement villages in what the natives knew to be natural disaster zones, prone to flooding or avalanche. The resettlements destroyed the longstanding and key kin and other familial relationships between villages. The social disruption resulted in adversely and dramatically affecting the indigenous populations. (For instance, the reductions increased the risk of smallpox transmission; as the native population had no natural immunity to this new disease, they suffered very high fatalities from its epidemics.) Through the reductions, the Spanish colonists completely controlled and exploited the indigenous population, under the guise of attempting to culturally transform and "hispanicize" or assimilate them.

Humane treatment attempted

The work of Vasco de Quiroga, the Bishop of Michoacán who founded a number of hospital towns, and Francisco de Toledo, Count of Oropesa, the Viceroy of Peru who promoted the system, convinced the Jesuits to work within it and tried to eliminate inhumane treatment of the natives. Father Eusebio Kino worked for humane practices at the Spanish missions in the Sonoran Desert and in the forced labor conditions at the silver mines and ranchos in Provincia Interna de Sonora y Sinaloa.

See also


  1. ^ Peru: Society and Nationhood in the Andes, Klarén 58
  2. ^ Klarén 59
  3. ^ Klarén 60
  4. ^ Klarén 60
  5. ^ Poma 148
  6. ^ Poma 327