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A church was always at the center of the reductions; this one is in Loreto, Baja California Sur.

Reductions (Spanish: reducciones, also called congregaciones; Portuguese: redução, pl. reduções) were settlements created by Spanish rulers in Spanish America and the Spanish East Indies (the Philippines). The Spanish relocated, forcibly in many cases, indigenous inhabitants of their colonies (los indios) into urban settlements modeled on those in Spain. In Portuguese-speaking Latin America, such reductions were also called aldeias.

The Caribbean[edit]

The policy of reductions was begun in 1503 by Spanish colonists on Caribbean islands. In the words of the Spanish rulers, "It is necessary that the Indians be assigned to towns in which they will live together and that they not remain or wander separated from each other in the backcountry."[1] The Spanish ordered Indian villages to be destroyed and selected sites where new villages should be built. The concentration, or reducción of the Indian population, facilitated the Spaniards' access to Indian labor, the promulgation of Christianity, and the collection of taxes and tribute.[2] Moreover, the reduction of the Indians was intended to break down ethnic and kinship ties and detribalize the residents to create a generic, pan-Indian population, disregarding their numerous tribes and different cultures.[3]

North America[edit]

The Spanish began creating reductions in Mexico shortly after Hernan Cortés's conquest in the 1520s. They were begun in Baja California in the 17th century and California in the late 18th century. Reductions in Mexico were more commonly known as congregaciones.[4]

South America[edit]

Indian reductions in the Andes, mostly in present-day Peru and Bolivia, began on a large scale in 1570 during the rule of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo. Toledo worked to remake the society of the former Inca empire, with some success. In a few years, he had resettled about 1.4 million Indians into 840 communities, many of which were the nuclei of present-day cities, towns, and villages.[5] Probably the most famous of the reductions were in the areas of present-day Paraguay and neighboring Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia in the 17th and 18th centuries. These were created and governed by the Jesuit order of the Catholic Church.[6]


In the Spanish Philippines, the Spanish colonial government founded hundreds of towns and villages across the archipelago modeled on towns and villages in Spain. The authorities often adopted a policy of reductions for the resettlement of inhabitants from far-flung scattered barrios or barangays to move into a centralized cabecera (town/district capital), where a newly built church and an ayuntamiento (town hall) were situated.[7] This allowed the government to defend, control and Christianize the indigenous population in scattered independent settlements, to conduct population counts, and to collect tributes.[8]

A similar policy was implemented in the nearby Marianas Islands.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mumford, Jeremy Ravi (2012). Vertical Empire: The General Resettlement of Indians in the Colonial Andes. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-8223-5310-2.
  2. ^ Mumford, Jeremy Ravi (2012, Vertical Empire: The General Resettlement of Indians in the Colonial Andes, Durham: Duke University Press, p. 44
  3. ^ Stern, Steve J. (1993), Peru's Indian Peoples and the Challenge of Spanish Conquest, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, p. 80
  4. ^ Leal, Juan Felipe and Rountree, Mario Huacuja (2011), Economic y sistema de haciendas en Mexico, Juan Pablos, Editor, D. R. Voyeur, pp. 22-23
  5. ^ Mumford, p. 190
  6. ^ Caraman, Philip (1976), The Lost Paradise: the Jesuit Republic in South America, New York: Seabury Press.
  7. ^ Constantino, Renato; Constantino, Letizia R. (1975). "Chapter V - The Colonial Landscape". The Philippines: A Past Revisited (Vol. I) (Sixteenth Printing (January 1998) ed.). Manila, Philippines: Renato Constantino. pp. 60–61. ISBN 971-895-800-2. OL 9180911M.
  8. ^ Abinales, P. N.; Amoroso, Donna J. (2005). State and Society in the Philippines. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 53, 68. ISBN 978-0-7425-1024-1. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  9. ^ Navarro, Atoy M. (1999). "Philippines-Marianas Relations in History: Some Notes on Filipino Exiles in Guam". Asian and Pacific Migration Journal. 8 (1–2): 120. doi:10.1177/011719689900800107.