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Despite being used in the Spanish colonies for greater than 200 years, the encomienda system was never fully supported by its monarchy. The Spanish conquest of the Americas began against the tip of the 15th century. By this time, the once sprawling Inca Empire was already in its death throes. However, it was only in 1572 that the Spanish were in a position to defeat the Incas decisively, and claim the riches of the New World for themselves. The natives were now left to the mercy of their conquerors, who viewed them as heathens, but saw no harm in using native labor for agriculture, mining, and constructing of public initiatives. Over time, the native population in each place colonized America would face a big decline; by the 17th century, that of Mexico alone would have reduced by about 90%.