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AYUNTAMIENTO, the Spanish name for the district over which a
town council has administrative authority; it is used also for a town
council, and for the town-hall. The word is derived from the Latin
adjungere, and originally meant "meeting." In some parts of Spain
and in Spanish America the town council was called the cabildo or
chapter, from the Latin capitulum. The ayuntamiento consisted of
the official members, and of regidores or regulators, who
were chosen in varying proportions from the "hidalgos" or nobles
(hijos de algo, sons of somebody) and the "pecheros," or
commoners, who paid the pecho, or personal tax; pecho (Lat.
pectus) is in Spanish the breast, and then by extension the
person. The regidores of the ayuntamientos, or lay cabildos, were checked
by the royal judge or corregidor, who was in fact the permanent
chairman or president. The distinction between hidalgo and pechero has
been abolished in modern Spain, but the powers and the constitution of
ayuntamientos have been subject to many modifications.
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