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Mit'a (Quechua) was mandatory public service in the society of the Inca Empire. Historians use the hispanicized term mita to differentiate the system as it was modified by the Spanish, under whom it became a form of slavery.
Mit'a was effectively a form of tribute to the Inca government, in the form of labor, i.e. a corvée. In the Inca Empire, public service was required in community-driven projects such as the building of their extensive road network. Military service was also mandatory.
All citizens who could perform labor were required to do so for a set number of days out of a year (the basic meaning of the word mit'a is a regular turn or a season). Due to the Inca Empire's wealth, a family would often only require sixty-five days to farm; the rest of the year was devoted entirely to the mit'a.
Religious worship 
The Incas elaborated creatively on a preexisting system of not only the mit'a exchange of labor but also the exchange of the objects of religious veneration of the peoples whom they took into their empire. This exchange ensured proper compliance among conquered peoples. In this instance huacas and pacarinas became significant centers of shared worship and a point of unification of their ethnically and linguistically diverse empire, bringing unity and citizenship to often geographically disparate peoples. This led eventually to a system of pilgrimages throughout all of these various shrines by the indigenous people of the empire prior to the introduction of Catholicism.
Enormous construction of highways and structures were only possible in part by the use of the Mita system by the Inca. In this system all the people worked for the government for a certain period of time. This labor was free for the Inca Rule. During the Inca period, men were required to work 65 days in the field to provide food for his family. When someone's turn came (actually Mita means turn) he joined the various works that used the Mita system. A communal type of elemental provisions and needs was set up in order to care for the families of those who were absent in their Mita turn. In the Mita people worked in building highways, the construction of Emperor and noble's houses, monuments, bridges, temple fields, Emperor fields and also in mines.
The System 
All males starting at the age of fifteen were required to participate in the Mita. This remained mandatory until the age of fifty. However the Inca rule was flexible on the amount of time one could share on the Mita turn. Overseers were responsible to make sure that a person after fulfilling his duty in the Mita still had enough time to care for his own land and family.
Categorization of lands 
During the Inca period people were mostly depended on the cultivation of their land. All the fields of the Empire were divided into four categories: The Field of the Temple, the Emperor, Curacas, and People. Fields of the people were fields that belonged to the sick, widows, the elderly, wives of the soldiers and that of his own land.
At the beginning of the plowing time people started to work first at the fields of widows, of sick people and of wives of the soldiers under the direction of the village overseers. Then they worked on their own field. Next they worked on the Temples fields and Curacas' fields and finally they set to work on the Emperor's fields. While they worked on the Emperor's field they typically wore their best dress and men and women chanted songs in praise to the Inca.
When people were engaged in war, their fields were cultivated by people engaged in Mita. So this way soldiers went to the wars with their fields and family secured and protected. This led to enhanced loyalty and focus on the part of Incan soldiers.
Mita during Spanish rule 
Colonial administrators instituted the Mita system in 1605, requiring indigenous men to perform two to four months of forced labor in the mines or factories owned by Spanish colonials. The Incas' Mita system of forced labor for the common good was used by the Spanish for mining gold and silver for the Crown. When people were engaged in Mita they were baptized, ultimately Mita system became slavery under the guise of educating and converting the local people to Catholicism.
Working in mines 
During the Inca period people had to work four months in mines, then they returned home. During the Spanish regimes the number of months required to work in mines remained the same, but working conditions changed dramatically, which made it impossible for them to come back home. While they worked in the mines they had to spend money on buying food and paying taxes. Earnings were so low that they were always in debt. Now the rule was that a miner could not leave the mine until he paid his debts. If a man died then his children had to work in the mines to pay his debts, so eventually they were in a circle, and rarely came back home.
The Spanish conquistadors also utilized the same labor system to supply the workforce they needed for the silver mines, which was the basis of their economy in the colonial period. Under the leadership of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, who was dispatched to Peru in 1569, the mit'a system greatly expanded as Toledo sought to increase silver outputs from the Potosi silver mine.
Toledo recognized that without a steady, reliable and inexpensive source of labor, mining would not be able to grow at the speed that the Spanish crown had requested. Under Toledo's leadership, the first mit'a recruits arrived in Potosi in 1573 from the regions directly surrounding the Potosi mine. At its peak recruitment for the Potosi mit'a extended to an area that was nearly 200,000 square miles (520,000 km2) and included much of southern Peru and present-day Bolivia.
The conquistadors used the concept of mit'a to suit their own needs. Mit'a is considered as the ancient and original version of mandatory state service. The mit'a system had severe impacts on the Indian population as it drained them of able-bodied workers at a time when their communities were experiencing demographic collapse due to epidemics of old-world diseases. It also resulted in Indians fleeing their communities to evade the mit'a. With fewer workers able to work the fields, farming production fell resulting in famine and malnutrition for many Indian communities in the region.
Mitma resettlement system 
The mit'a labor draft is not to be confused with the related Inca policy of deliberate resettlements referred to by the Quechua word mitma (mitmaq meaning "outsider" or "newcomer"), or its hispanicized forms mitima or mitimaes (plural). This involved transplanting whole groups of people of Inca background as colonists into new lands inhabited by newly conquered peoples. The aim was to distribute loyal Inca subjects throughout their empire to limit the threat of localized rebellions.
See also 
- The Mountain Institute