History of Canary Islands, Spain

Many ancient authors mentioned the Canary Islands as a kind of mythical or even paradise land lying behind the Pillars of Hercules. The first, most reliable, mention of the Canary Islands belongs to Pliny, who tells about the campaign of the Mauritanians, who brought huge dogs from the islands.

Before Europeans came to the islands, they were inhabited by Guanches. Their development was at the level of the Stone Age, they were engaged in cattle breeding and primitive agriculture. Animal skins were used as clothing. At the same time, they were able, like the ancient Egyptians, to mummify their leaders. It remains a big mystery how, by whom and why the pyramid of Guimar was built – an amazing monument of megalithic architecture.

According to growtheology.com, Arab sailors were the first to reach the Canary Islands in the 12th century. French navigators visited the Canaries in 1334. In 1344, Pope Clement VI grants the islands of Castile. In 1402 the Frenchman Jean de Bethencourt began to seize the islands. The tribes from Gran Canaria welcomed the Europeans, while the tribes that inhabited Tenerife tried to resist, fighting with stone-tipped arrows and slings. In 1404, King Henry III of Castile proclaims Jean de Bethencourt king of the Canaries. Portugal, which also claimed the Canary Islands, recognized them as Spanish possession under a treaty of 1479. The last battles on the island of Tenerife took place at the end of the 15th century. In May 1494, the Guanches defended their island, but in December 1495, after the plague had weakened the Guanches, the Spaniards completely took over the archipelago.

At the same time, Christopher Columbus makes a stop on the island of Homer during his first journey in search of a way to India. After the discovery of America, the Canary Islands become the most important point on the way from Europe to the new world. Due to this geographical position, the islands become the target of other states, and simply pirates. First, Moroccan troops captured Lanzarote in 1596 and 1586. Then in 1595 Sir Francis Drake attacked Las Palmas. In 1657, the British fleet under the command of Admiral Robert Blake defeated the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Tenerife. In 1797, already Admiral Nelson tried to capture Santa Cruz de Tenerife. But he was defeated and lost his arm in battle. Despite everything, the Canary Islands remain under the control of Spain. In 1821 they become a province of Spain with Santa Cruz de Tenerife as their capital. This causes dissatisfaction on the part of Las Palmas and for some time the islands are divided into two provinces.

Throughout this time, the basis of the economy of the Canary Islands was agriculture. In the 17th century, sugar cane was grown, in the 18th century they were engaged in winemaking, in the 19th century – cochineal (fabric dye), at the end of the 19th century – bananas and tomatoes. However, the British blockade of Europe during the First World War destroyed the banana trade and plunged the islands’ agriculture into decline. From the end of the 19th century, tourism began to develop on the islands, the first few dozen hotels were built in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas.

The era of upsurge and hope after the end of the First World War was destroyed in 1936. In March, General Franco, suspected of conspiracy, is transferred to the Canary Islands. But already in July, Franco captures the islands and flies to Morocco to continue the fight. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that Franco decided to open the islands to tourists. Around the same time, the ban on carnivals on the island was lifted. But the real tourist boom began after the end of the dictatorship in 1976.

In 1982, the Canary Islands become an autonomous region of Spain and in 1986 are admitted to the EEC under special conditions.

History of Canary Islands, Spain

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