History

The origins of Gran Canaria and Canary Islands are full of myths and legends. The first historical references to Gran Canaria population points to a link with North Africa and the Berber cultural heritage. It would seem that the island was colonised at around 500 B.C. Most of the many people and cultures that arrived in the archipelago during the pre-Hispanic period settled in Gran Canaria.

Gran Canaria : [ɡɾaŋ kaˈna.ɾiya]; originally means ‘Great Island of Dogs is the second most populous island of the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago, with a population of 838,397 which constitutes approximately 40% of the population of the Canaries archipelago. Located in the Atlantic Ocean about 150 kms ( approx 93 miles) off the north western coast of Africa and about 1350 km (approx 838 miles) from Europe.

The date of the discovery of the islands cannot be accurately pointed but with some certainty it can be stated that the Romans were aware of their existence as early as around 428 BC. Plato spoke of Atlantis, a continent sunk deep into the ocean floor that left only the peaks of its highest mountains above the water. In the centuries since Plato’s death, those convinced of the existence of Atlantis have maintained that Macronesia (the Canary Islands, the Azores, Cape Verde and Madeira) constitutes the visible remains of the lost continent.

Recently, historians using archaeological, cultural and linguistic studies reveal a simpler theory of the origin. They have spotted similarities between the dwellings, burial practices and rock carvings of the various ancient tribes living in the Canaries and the Libyan-Berber peoples of North Africa, they’ve concluded that the original inhabitants of the islands came from the Maghrib, the area spanning from present day Tunisia to Morocco. Place names and the handful of words from the Canary Islands’ languages and dialects bear a striking resemblance to Berber tribal languages. Body features such as the occasional case of blue eyes and blondish hair occurs among the Berbers too.

There is virtually no written record of the Fortunate Islands until the 14th century. The first vaguely tenable account of a European landing comes in the late 13th or early 14th century when the Genoese captain Lanzarotto (or Lancelotto) Malocello bumped into the island that would later bear his name. Lanzarote From then on, slavers, dreamers searching for the Río de Oro (the River of Gold route which many thought spilled into the Atlantic at about the same latitude as the islands) and missionaries and fortune hunters all made excursions to the islands. Of these missions, the most important and influential was the Italian-led and Portuguese-backed expedition of 1341. Three sailing ships charted a course around all seven islands and took note of even the tiniest islets. The Canary Islands were finally, and more or less accurately, on the map.

Boccacio, a great writer who took part during an expedition in the 14th Century wrote that Canarian men were handsome and strong, with blue eyes and blond hair. 4 natives were offered as slaves to the Portugal king Alfonso. Primitively the island of Gran Canaria was divided into 10 independent cantons.  They were constantly fighting for domination of the best pastures. After the struggles the monarcy of the Guanartemes was established on Gran Canaria.

The conquest of the Island, which took place during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs in the last third of the fifteenth century, was fiercely resisted by the natives of the Island. The definitive annexation of Gran Canaria by the Crown of Castile was the work of Pedro de Vera, who, in 1483, completed the conquest that was started earlier by Juan Rejón. The conquest took place in two phases. Firstly, the landing and subsequent construction of Real de Las Palmas at the mouth of the Guiniguada ravine, and, secondly, Vera’s military campaign, which ended with the subjugation of the aboriginal people of Gáldar, as well as the campaign for the pacification of the southern slopes of the island.

The capital city of Las Palmas was founded on June 24, 1478, under the name “Real de Las Palmas”, by Juan Rejón, head of the invading Castilian army. After gaining full control of the island the Spanish Crown issued a Royal Decree abolishing slavery and granting them security of residence.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus anchored in the Port of Las Palmas (and spent some time on the island) on his first trip to the Americas.

From this time onwards the Crown of Castile (Spain) began to infiltrate the Island of Gran Canaria in political, social and economic terms. The capital of Gran Canaria became the administrative centre and epicentre of the planning of the archipelago. The 17th century, saw some loss of shine in the splendour of Gran Canaria, which was caused by a lull in the exportation of agricultural products to America and the rest of Europe.

In the mid-nineteenth century a free port system was established in the Canary Islands. This was a special economic regime designed to favour trading relations. This new regime, based on tax exemptions and facilities for free trade acted as a major trading attraction and the number of British ships and shipping companies calling in at the Island soon multiplied.

Currently, the geographical isolation of Gran Canaria and the Archipelago in general is formally recognised in the Special Status granted to Canary Islands by Spain to which it belongs as a Autonomus region and the European Union giving it a special lower “VAT” status. To date Canary Islands carry a “No Tax- haven” image within the European Union.

It was precisely because of the shipping traffic that the tourism industry was born in Gran Canaria. Over the years, tourism would eventually become the main source of income for the island, which would become one of the main tourist destinations in the world. From the second half of the 19th century, Gran Canaria started gaining popularity in European circles as a place of rest for tourists. Shipping companies soon took advantage of the opportunity to equip their vessels with cabins for the transport of passengers. These companies would also take the initiative in the building of the first hotels on the island, one of which was the Hotel Santa Catalina (1890) in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, this being the only hotel dating from the early beginnings of tourism that still remains open.

Las Palmas is, jointly with Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital of the autonomous community of the Canary Islands.

 

Gran Canaria Flag

GRAN CANARIA FLAG

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