By D. H. Figueredo, Frank Argote-Freyre
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Additional resources for A Brief History of the Caribbean (Brief History)
The encomienda system was used during the reconquest of Spain from the Muslims. It was introduced in Hispaniola by Columbus in 1499 and institutionalized by Governor Nicolás de Ovando in 1503. Under the encomienda system, settlers, known as encomenderos, were assigned plots of land and Taino laborers who were forced to mine riverbanks for gold and cultivate the fields to produce food. An encomendero could have no more than 300 Tainos, whom he employed as labor gangs assigned to mining, farming, and taking care of cattle.
After all, two conquistadores, Hernán Cortés (1485–1547) in Mexico and Francisco Pizarro (1478–1541) in Peru, had annihilated the Aztec and Inca Empires with just several hundred men. And if any doubted Spain’s zealousness at keeping its domains untouched by other Europeans, there was a 1564 massacre in Florida in which 200 Frenchmen were executed by the Spanish. This was a lesson that kept France focused on the exploration of Canada rather than challenging Spanish hegemony farther south. As for Britain, King Henry VIII (1491–1547), despite the establishment of a Protestant state in England, maintained a good relationship with Spain.
It is unknown whether Columbus ever realized the significance of his explorations, which led to the opening of the New World rather than a passage to the Far East. The First Contact between Europeans and Caribbeans The Europeans were given to pageantry, and their entry into the Caribbean was no exception. How Columbus approached the first island was the pattern followed by other explorers. In October 1492, the admiral climbed onto a boat, and his officers rowed ashore. Carrying a royal standard, Columbus dropped to his knees when he reached the shore.