by Daniel Cubias
As we all know, Hispanic culture has contributed much to the United States. A quick glance at the artistic, political, and social makeup of the nation confirms that Latinos are prime instigators when it comes to plotting the direction of the country.
Many of our new values have their roots in Latin America. However, there is one concept from the old world that should not be welcome here. Ironically, it is U.S. power brokers — people unlikely to be Latino — who are most clamoring for it to gain a foothold in this country.
I’m talking about the encomienda system, which hasn’t formally existed for hundreds of years, but which has never really gone away. Briefly, the encomienda system was set up by the Spanish Conquistadors, who divided Latin America among themselves. An encomienda was a land grant that gave a Spaniard property rights over Indian labor. Basically, the conquistador got a hacienda and indentured servants to make him rich.
The encomienda system was “one of the most damaging institutions that the Spanish colonists implemented in the New World. The system would come to symbolize oppression and exploitation.”
In fact, the legacy of the encomienda system is the series of military juntas and brutal dictatorships that have afflicted much of Latin America for decades, if not centuries. The very essence of so much third-world misery is a fabulously wealthy, landed elite that keeps the vast majority impoverished and slaving away.
So what has the encomienda system got to do with the United States? Well, consider that “the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record.”
In addition, the international Gini index, a very fancy gauge for measuring economic chaos, “found U.S. income inequality at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. The U.S. also has the greatest disparity among Western industrialized nations.”
It’s clear that, unless we alter our current course, the United States will soon have it very own encomienda system, where the super rich lounge on their haciendas all day while the rest of us labor for their benefit.
Of course, you may say that this is just paranoia. That’s fair enough, but one must still address the fact that, according to the Wall St. Journal, “the richest .01% (or 14,000 American families) possess 22.2% of the nation’s wealth. The bottom 90%, or over 133 million families, control just 4% of the nation’s wealth.”
And that study was conducted three years ago. The gap has only widened since then.
As I wrote recently, Latinos have made progress in eliminating the grievous condition known as the Mande Mindset, which also has its origins in the Spanish Conquest.
However, vanquishing the encomienda system will take a concerted effort by all Americans — not just Hispanics — who do not want the United States to adopt this most pernicious of cultural legacies. It’s one aspect of the Hispanic experience that should be killed off once and for all.
To learn more about Daniel, visit Hispanic Fanatic.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.