Legalized Slavery Persisted in Latin America into the 20th Century

Americans tend to assume that slavery was a uniquely American institution, brought by the English and Scottish colonizers, but the Spanish, Portugese and French were aggressive slave-traders in Latin America. Indigenous peoples in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia were legally enslaved well into the 20th century, during the Amazon Rubber Boom.

The Yaqui people, an Uto-Aztecan-speaking indigenous people of Mexico who inhabit the valley of the Río Yaqui in the Mexican state of Sonora and the Southwestern United States were enslaved, broken up, segregated, placed in concentration camps and sold into slavery in the 19th and early 20th century. “By 1908, at least 5,000 Yaqui had been sold into slavery…Most of the Yaqui men, women and children sent for slave labor on the plantations died there, with two-thirds of the arrivals dying within a year.”

“Encomienda (Spanish pronunciation: [eŋkoˈmjenda]) was a labor system in Spain and its empire. It rewarded conquerors with the labor of particular groups of subject people…It was applied on a much larger scale during the Spanish colonization of the Americas and the Philippines….Raphael Lemkin(coiner of the term genocide) considers Spain’s abuses of the Native population of the Americas to constitute cultural and even outright genocide.…The impact of slavery in culture is greatly apparent in Latin America.” But it has not been studied to the extent that African American slavery has been studied. More from Wikipedia.

Slavery is almost universally illegal today but persists globally because of lax enforcement or difficulty enforcing laws globally.

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