Estancia (American Spanish: [esˈtansja]) or Estância (Brazilian Portuguese: [iʃˈtɐ̃sjɐ]) is a Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese term describing private landholdings. In some areas these were large rural with similarities to the English term ranch.
In the early Caribbean and Mexico, holders of encomiendas acquired land in the area where they had access to Indian labor, and often the need for on-site Hispanic supervisors or labor bosses called estancieros. In Mexico, multiple estancias owned by the same individual could be termed an hacienda. The term estancia is used in various ways in Argentina, Uruguay, southern Chile and southern Brazil. The equivalent in other Spanish American countries would be hacienda, or in Brazil fazenda,
Estancias in the southern South American grasslands, the pampas, have historically been a livestock (cattle or sheep) estate.
During the first centuries of Spanish colonial rule, cattle introduced by the Spanish in the peripheral areas of northern Mexico and the southern part of South America roamed free and there were periodic raids to catch and slaughter them. In the 19th century stationary ranching ventures started to form in the pampas, with permanent buildings and marked livestock with clearly defined ownership. They were called estancias, the term indicating the stationary, permanent character.
The estancia's ranch worker on horseback in Argentina, the gaucho, is of similar importance to national folklore and identity to the cowboy in North America. In recent decades agriculture has intensified and often shifted from livestock to crop farming in the pampas of Argentina and Uruguay, due to the region’s high soil fertility.
A small number of estancias, particularly those with historic architecture have been converted into guest ranches, paradores, in Argentina and Uruguay as well as in Paraguay or Chile.
Several cities and villages, mainly but not exclusively in Latin America, grew out of such estancias and are named accordingly, for example:
- Estância in Sergipe state, Brazil
- Estancia, Iloilo in the province of Iloilo, Philippines.
- Estancia El Brete, Salta Province, Argentina
- James Lockhart and Stuart Schwartz, Early Latin America: A History of Colonial Spanish America and Brazil, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983, pp. 69-71.138
- Estancias of the Pampas, Argentina and Uruguay
- Images of Modern Estancia Life In Uruguay
- Example of working estancia
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