11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography, Facts 2022

11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography Facts 2022

11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography, Facts 2022

There is a delicious aroma of mystery about the origins of the Canary Islands and the Guanches, who disappeared after consecutive waves of invasion. In 1821 the islands were declared a province, but the effects of the Civil War and World War II plunged them into economic misery. It was not until the 1960s, with the arrival of mass tourism, that the island’s economy began to recover.

1. In the beginning

A fantastic theory holds that the Canary Islands are the remains of the legendary submerged continent of Atlantis. The most scientific and least romantic explanation is that the Macaronesian archipelago represents a tiny part of substantial underwater volcanoes. El Teide, in Tenerife, is not only the highest mountain in Spain but measured from the ocean floor; it is the third highest volcano on the planet.

Carbon dating of the few archaeological remains on the islands indicates that the first settlers arrived around 2000 BC. However, there was likely an earlier occupation, and goat bones dated to 3000 BC were found on Fuerteventura. The Phoenicians and their successors, the Carthaginians, glimpsed the easternmost islands of the archipelago during their explorations of the North African Atlantic coast. Some historians believe that a Phoenician expedition landed on the islands in the s. XII BC and that the Carthaginian Hanno the Navigator visited them in 470 BC

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11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography, Facts 2022

What is known is that the Roman Empire defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War in 146 BC. However, it does not seem that the Romans were interested in investigating the legendary islands, which they knew as the Insulae Fortunate (Fortunate Islands).

A century and a half later, shortly after the birth of Christ, the Romans received vaguely reliable reports written by Pliny the Elder and based on accounts of an expedition carried out around 40 BC by Juba II, a vassal king of West Africa. North roman. In 150 AD, the Egyptian geographer Ptolemy located the islands’ position quite accurately by dead reckoning, tracing an imaginary meridian that marked the end of the known world and passed through El Hierro.

2. The first (known) inhabitants

Tall, blonde, and good-looking, the question of how the Guanches came to the islands has puzzled historians for centuries. Were they descended from lost Norse adventurers? Or were they Celtic immigrants from the Iberian peninsula, probably related to the Basques?

11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography Facts 2022

Neither one nor the other: according to the analysis of DNA extracted from Guanche skulls from Gran Canaria and Tenerife, the origin of these people is in North Africa, and their closest relatives would be North Africans of Berber descent. Similarities in Guanche toponyms, funerary practices, and rock carvings also link to North Africa. The little-known of the extinct Guanche language resembles the Berber languages, and among the Berbers, there are cases of people with blue eyes and more or less blond hair.

As for figures, before the conquest of the s. XV it is believed that the Guanche population numbered approximately 30,000 individuals in Gran Canaria and Tenerife, more than 4,000 in La Palma, more than 1,000 in El Hierro, and a few hundred in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

3. the first conquerors

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe entered the shadows of the High Middle Ages, and the Canary Islands disappeared from the radar for more than a thousand years. There is no written document of visits to the islands until the beginning of the s when the Genoese captain Lanzarotto (or Lancelotto) Malocello came across the island that would later bear his name: Lanzarote.

The conquest of the islands began in earnest in 1402, when the Norman nobleman and adventurer Jean de Béthencourt left La Rochelle with a small and ill-equipped group for the Canary Islands. And so began a long and shameful chapter of invasion, betrayal, and failure. 

Many Guanches perished or were sold into slavery in the following century, and the rest were absorbed into the invading society.

11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography, Facts 2022

Bethencourt’s motley crew first landed on Lanzarote, at the time ruled by the money (king) Guardafía. There was no resistance, and Bethencourt established a fort on Fuerteventura.

And that’s where it got. Running out of supplies and with very few men for his company, he went to Castile to win the crown’s support. Fuerteventura, El Hierro, and La Gomera immediately fell under Castilian command. Appointed lord of the four islands by Henry III of Trastámara, Bethencourt encouraged the settlement of farmers from his Norman homeland and began to make a profit. In 1406 he returned to Normandy and left his nephew Maciot in command of his Atlantic possessions.

11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography Facts 2022
11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography Facts 2022

4. Disputes and stalemates

What happened next cannot be precisely defined as one of the noblest colonial undertakings in the world. Characterized by disputes and occasional revolt among the settlers, the European presence did nothing for the increasingly oppressed islanders in the years following Bethencourt’s departure.

Very high taxes were collected, which Maciot seized to perpetrate frustrated raids on the three islands that remained independent. Mascot sold his rights to the four islands (inherited from his uncle) to Portugal to top it off. Portugal did not recognize Spanish sovereignty over the Canary Islands until 1479, under the Treaty of Alcaçovas (in exchange, Spain recognized Portuguese rule over the Azores, Cape Verde, and Madeira).

Mascot died in self-imposed exile on Madeira in 1452. A series of petty peninsular nobles later ruled the Canary Islands with little success.

5. The Christian Campaign Continues

In 1478 a new commander arrived with new forces and orders from the Catholic Monarchs to end the Canary Islands campaign. Despite being attacked immediately by an army of 2,000 men in the current location of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, they were victorious. They later shot the Guanarteme(island chief), Tensor Semi dan, in a naval attack on Gáldar.

Semi dan was sent to Spain, where he converted to Christianity, returning in 1483 to convince his fellow citizens to give up the fight. Although they obeyed him, 20 years of fighting and a failed attempt to deport hundreds of islanders from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to be sold as enslaved people in Spain followed. But the Canarians found out about the vile plan and forced the ships transporting them to dock in Lanzarote.

6. The latest campaigns

In May 1493, the Spanish commander Alonso Fernández de Lugo arrived in Tenerife with 1,000-foot soldiers and 150 cavalries, including Aborigines from Gran Canaria and La Gomera. In what is known as the first battle of Acentejo, Lugo fell to the Guanche forces, who had the advantage of knowing the mountainous terrain.

On December 25, 1494, 5,000 Guanches under the command of money Bencomo were overwhelmingly defeated at the second battle of Acentejo. The skirmish site, a few kilometers south of La Matanza, is still called La Victoria. The following July, when Fernandez de Lugo marched into the Orotava Valley to confront Bencomo’s successor, Bentor, the sick and demoralized Guanches were in no condition to resist. Bentor surrendered and thus concluded the conquest. It took two years to put down the pockets of resistance, and Bentor ended up committing suicide.

Four years after the capture of Granada and the reunification of Christian Spain, the Catholic Monarchs were able to celebrate the conquest, after 94 years of fighting, of the Atlantic archipelago

It could be considered the first step for the colonization of the New World.

11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography Facts 2022
11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography Facts 2022

7. Economic and foreign challenges

At the beginning of the s. In the 16th century, Gran Canaria and Tenerife, in particular, attracted a constant flow of settlers from Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and even Great Britain. Each island had its local authority, and sugar cane became the main Canarian export.

The discovery of the New World in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, who stopped in the archipelago several times to America, turned out to be a two-sided coin. It brought abundant transatlantic trade, but it also caused sugar production to be diverted to American lands, where it was cheaper. The local economy was rescued only by the growing export demand for wine, especially from Great Britain, produced mainly in Tenerife.

The poorer islands, especially Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, remained stagnant, their inhabitants making a living by smuggling and piracy off the coast of Morocco, the latter activity part of a game of giving and take with the Moroccans. for centuries.

11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography, Facts 2022

Spanish control of the islands was not without challenges. The most spectacular attack was perpetrated by Admiral Robert Blake, one of Oliver Cromwell’s three “generals of the sea,” who in 1657 annihilated an entire Spanish Indies fleet in Santa Cruz de Tenerife losing a single ship.

British harassment culminated in 1797 with Admiral Horatio Nelson’s attack on Santa Cruz. He was sent there to intercept another treasure ship, but not only failed in his attempt to take the city, but he also lost his right arm during the battle.

On a more pastoral note, in 1799, the illustrious explorer and botanist Alexander von Humboldt stopped briefly in Tenerife on his way to South America. It seems that when he contemplated the Orotava valley, he said that it was “the fascinating sight that had ever been seen.” This comment and his general praise of the islands contributed to the subsequent popularity of the Canary Islands and its beginning as a tourist destination, initially reserved for the elites. A century later, it was not until a century later that tourism became a viable source for the local economy.

8. island division

Within the Canary Islands, a bitter enmity was forged between Gran Canaria and Tenerife for the supremacy of the archipelago.

When the Canary Islands were declared a province in 1821, Santa Cruz de Tenerife was named its capital. The disputes between the two main islands continued to rage, and Las Palmas kept demanding that the province be divided in two.

Finally, in 1927 the Government divided the Canary Islands into two provinces: Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma, and El Hierro in the west, and Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote in the east. The main crops were bananas and tomatoes and, even today, they are essential export items in the agricultural sector. More unusual is the introduction of cochineal farming, which became one of the most critical industries, especially in Lanzarote. This insect is a parasite that feeds on prickly pears and is cultivated for its dye, although the industry declined dramatically with the advent of synthetic dyes.

9. Decades of emigration

The emigration to America was very extensive during the ss. XIX and XX. Some towns were left with virtually no young male population. The exodus continued after the Spanish-American War (1898), when Cuba and Puerto Rico ceased to be Spanish territories. Cuba was, in principle, the most requested country, followed by Venezuela, and the trend increased considerably after the Spanish Civil War, at a time of great misery, with rationing, food shortages, and a booming black market. In the 1950s, the situation was so desperate that 16,000 people emigrated clandestinely, mainly to Venezuela. A third of those who tried to flee perished at sea.

11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography Facts 2022
11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography Facts 2022

10. Franco’s Spain

In the 1930s, fear of a coup increased. In March 1936, the Republican Governor appointed General Franco, a veteran of the Spanish wars in Morocco and highly respected by the Legion, Captain-General of the Canary Islands.

Suspicions that he was involved in a plot to overthrow the Second Republic were well-founded. When the pro-coup garrisons in Melilla rose prematurely on July 17, Franco was prepared. Under the pretext of attending the funeral of the military governor of Las Palmas (who died in strange circumstances on July 14), Franco moved from Tenerife to Gran Canaria, where he proclaimed a state of war throughout the archipelago, and from there he flew to Morocco.

To lead the uprising. Although there were virtually no battles on the islands, the Nationalists were quick to crack down on anyone even vaguely suspected of harboring Republican sympathies, including writers, artists, teachers, and politicians.

The islands shared the post-war economic misery in mainland Spain, and many Canarians continued to emigrate. During World War II, Winston Churchill developed (but never activated) a plan to seize the Canaries and use them as a naval base should Spain invade Gibraltar. At the same time, exports to Europe ceased.

11. Tourism, nationalism, and demographic changes

When Franco decided to open the doors of Spain to tourists from northern Europe by abolishing tourist visas in 1959, the Canaries benefited as much as the Peninsula. Soon vast numbers of tourists would begin arriving on the islands.

Canarian nationalism, always a marginal phenomenon, emerged in opposition to Franco. Antonio Cubillo founded the MPAIC (Movement for Self-Determination and Independence of the Canary Archipelago) in 1963 to promote secession from Spain and embarked on a terrorist campaign in the late 1970s, which included planting an explosive shopping center in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in 1976. There were also bomb threats, and the explosion of a device at Gran Canaria’s international airport indirectly contributed to the worst disaster in aviation history.

In March 1977, two Boeing 747s (one of KLM and another of Pan Am) were diverted to the congested Los Rodeos airport (now Tenerife North) and collided on the runway. Five hundred eighty-three people died. Cubillo gave the slip to the Spanish authorities and flew to Algeria in 1963,

In 1978 the current Spanish Constitution was approved, which has the transfer of powers from the central State to the autonomies as one of its main pillars. In this way, in August 1982, the Canary Islands became an autonomous community with two provinces.

11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography, Facts 2022

The main political force in the Canary Islands since its first autonomic electoral victory in 1993 is the Canary Coalition (CC). Although it does not seek independence from Spain (which would be unlikely), it puts the islands’ interests before national considerations.

Over the last two decades, immigration from Africa and other parts of the world has drastically changed the demographics of the Canary Islands. It has forced the islands to rethink their relationship with the African continent. The EU has also promoted the relationship between the Canary Islands and Africa to bridge the European trade bloc. Since the 1990s, cooperation with Africa has been one of the main priorities of the Canary Islands, which has established bilateral agreements with Morocco, Mauritania, Cape Verde, and Senegal.

11 Best History of the Canary Islands Geography Facts 2022

Who first discovered the Canary Islands?

The Spanish finally claimed the 7 Canary Islands in the 15th century. Before the Spanish conquered the islands, they had been visited by an expedition from Mauritania, the king of which recounted the story to Pliny the Elder. That was how the Romans learned of the existence of the ‘Islands of the Dogs’.

Did the Canary Islands ever belong to Africa?

The Canary Islands are a unique part of Spain. Geographically part of Africa and politically part of Europe, this small island chain is unlike anywhere where else in Spain or the EU.

What is the history of the Canary Islands?

The Canary Islands were formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. All the western islands exceed 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) at their highest points, with Teide Peak on Tenerife rising to 12,198 feet (3,718 meters), the highest point on Spanish soil. Teide Peak on Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.

Who colonized the Canary Islands?

Spain Spain colonized the Canary Islands beginning in 1483, and by the time of Columbus’s voyages to the New World, the Canary Islands were firmly under Spanish control.

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