This study, which won the Miguel Cruchaga Tocornal Prize of the Academia Chilena de la Historia for 1961, is focused upon one important aspect of Spanish-Indian relations in Chile during the closing years of the 16th century: an attempt to eliminate the encomienda for personal service and to replace it with a tribute system. Miss Gligo thus provides a detailed account of a Chilean phase of the crown-cum-humanitarians attack upon the system of Indian peonage.
Curiously enough, the encomienda had been transferred to Chile in the 1540’s, coincidental to Pedro de Valdivia’s conquest of the area, in almost the same years that this system of dependent labor had been under such heavy attaek in the earlier-established colonies of Spain. Then, almost forty years later, the campaign for Indian betterment reached a moment of crisis in Chile when the new governor, Martín Ruiz de Gamboa, in the space of a few months in 1580 drafted, promulgated, and applied, a new set of ordinances regulating the encomienda in general and the employment of Indians in particular. However, the ordinances, proclaimed in May, 1580, and soon provisionally confirmed by the Audiencia of Lima, were almost immediately opposed by the majority of the Chilean colonists and their full implementation largely blocked by stalling and delaying tactics. When a new governor, Alonso de Sotomayor, took office in 1583 virtually all attempts to enforce the new regulations were ended and they were soon revoked, though on a piecemeal basis rather than all at once.
It is upon this brief period, which marked both the appearance and disappearance of the new code, which Miss Gligo has centered her attention. In a very brief introductory section the author discusses the origins of the encomienda in Spanish America, its appearance in Chile, and the first attempts at a survey of its Chilean incidence with an eye to reform in the tasa of Santillán. A similarly brief treatment is given to the events after the end of Ruiz de Gamboa’s period in office. The main body of the work is a detailed (almost clause by clause) examination of the Gamboa ordinances: their origins, aims, and application. This painstaking examination, soundly based upon the Chilean documents of that period, should be of great value to students interested either in Spanish-Indian relations or in Chilean colonial history.
If there are any serious deficiencies in this superior work they are its too narrowly legal and juridical base, and its too narrowly Chilean base, both in the materials consulted and in the focus presented. It is only occasionally that the author presents economic, social, or anthropological data, or goes beyond the legal constructions abounding in the documents. Perhaps if Miss Gligo had utilized to a greater degree the numbers of so-called secondary works that have been dedicated in recent years to the study of Indian and colonial institutions she might have been able to supply the materials omitted, and to treat the events concerned with the Tasa de Gamboa less as incidents isolated in Chilean history and more as Chilean incidents in the larger history of Spanish-Indian relations.