Canary Islands

Canary Islands

Canary Islands, Span. Islas Canarias, group of seven islands (1990 pop. 1,589,403), 2,808 sq mi (7,273 sq km), autonomous region of Spain, in the Atlantic Ocean off Western Sahara. They constitute two provinces of Spain. Santa Cruz de Tenerife (1990 pop. 770,627), 1,239 sq mi (3,209 sq km), includes Tenerife, Palma, Gomera, and Hierro. Las Palmas (1990 pop. 818,776), 1,569 sq mi (4,064 sq km), includes Grand Canary, Lanzarote, and Fuerteventura. Fuerteventura is 67 mi (108 km) from the African coast. The islands, of volcanic origin, are rugged; Mt. Teide (12,162 ft/3,707 m) is the highest point in Spain.

Wine was the main export of the Canaries until the grape blight of 1853; its place was taken by cochineal until aniline dyes came into general use. Today the leading exports are bananas, sugarcane, tomatoes, potatoes, and tobacco, which are grown where irrigation is possible. There is fishing on the open seas, and the Canaries, with their subtropical climate and fine beaches, have become a major tourist center. An oil refinery and other large-scale industries are located at Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Pliny mentions an expedition to the Canaries c.40 B.C., and they may have been the Fortunate Isles of later classical writers. They were occasionally visited by Arabs and by European travelers in the Middle Ages. Jean de Béthencourt, a Norman, settled at Lanzarote in 1402 and, with the support of the kingdom of Castile, became its king in 1404. The Treaty of Alcácovas (1479) between Portugal and Spain recognized Spanish sovereignty over the Canaries; conquest of the Guanches, the indigenous Berber inhabitants of the islands, was completed in 1496. The islands became an important base for voyages to the Americas. The Canaries were frequently raided by pirates and privateers; Las Palmas beat off Francis Drake in 1595 but was ravaged by the Dutch in 1599. In the French Revolutionary Wars, Horatio Nelson was repulsed (1797) at Santa Cruz. The Canary Islands became an autonomous region in 1982. In the early 21st cent. the islands, as part of Spain and the European Union, became a destination for illegal immigrants traveling by boat from Africa.

Spanish Islas Canarias

Island group and autonomous community (pop., 2005 est.: 1,968,280) of Spain located in the Atlantic Ocean 67 mi (108 km) off the northwestern coast of Africa. The islands comprise two provinces, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas, with an area of 2,876 sq mi (7,447 sq km). The capital is Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Known in ancient times as the “Fortunate Islands,” they were written about by both Plutarch and Pliny the Elder. Believed to be the western limit of the world, they were visited in the Middle Ages by Arabs, Genoese, Majorcans, Portuguese, and French. They were taken by Castile (see Castile-León) in 1404, and their indigenous inhabitants, the Guanche and Canario, were gradually conquered during the 15th century. The islands became a stop on the usual route for Spanish trading vessels with the New World. Today agriculture is an economic mainstay, as is an expanding tourist trade.

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The Canary Islands (English pronunciation: ; Spanish: Islas Canarias, ) are a Spanish archipelago. The archipelago consists of seven major islands, one minor island, and several small islets. They are of volcanic origin and can be found in the North Atlantic Ocean. These islands are located just off the coast of the north-western portion of the African continent/mainland, nearest the political divide of Morocco and Western Sahara. They form the autonomous community of the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands were formed by the Canary hotspot. The status of capital city is shared by the two cities of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Etymology

The name "Islas Canarias" is likely derived from the Latin term Insula Canaria, meaning Island of the Dogs, a name applied originally only to Gran Canaria. The dense population of an endemic breed of large and fierce dogs, similar to the Canary Mastiff (in Spanish, el Presa Canario), may have been the characteristic that most struck the few ancient Romans who established contact with these islands by the sea. The connection to dogs is retained in these animals' depiction on the islands' coat-of-arms (shown above).

History

Ancient and pre-colonial times

The islands were known to the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, and are mentioned in a number of classical sources. For example, Pliny the Elder describes a Carthaginian expedition to the Canaries, and they may have been the Fortunate Isles of other classical writers. King Juba, the Roman protegee, dispatched a contingent to re-open the dye production facility at Mogador in the early 1st century AD. That same naval force was subsequently sent on an exploration of the Canary Islands, using Mogador as their mission base.

When the Europeans began to explore the islands they encountered several indigenous populations living at a Neolithic level of technology. Although the history of the settlement of the Canary Islands is still unclear, linguistic and genetic analyses seem to indicate that at least some of these inhabitants shared a common origin with the Berbers of northern Africa. The pre-colonial inhabitants came to be known collectively as the Guanches, although Guanches was originally the name for the indigenous inhabitants of Tenerife.

Castilian conquest

There are claims that the Portuguese had discovered the Canaries as early as 1336, though there appears to be little evidence for this. In 1402, the Castilian conquest of the islands began, with the expedition of Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle, nobles and vassals of Henry III of Castile, to the island of Lanzarote. From there, they conquered Fuerteventura and El Hierro. Béthencourt received the title King of the Canary Islands, but still recognized King Henry III as his overlord.

Béthencourt also established a base on the island of La Gomera, but it would be many years before the island was truly conquered. The natives of La Gomera, and of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and La Palma, resisted the Castilian invaders for almost a century. In 1448 Maciot de Béthencourt sold the lordship of Lanzarote to Portugal's Prince Henry the Navigator, an action that was not accepted by the natives nor by the Castilians. A crisis swelled to a revolt which lasted until 1459 with the final expulsion of the Portuguese. Finally, in 1479, Portugal recognised Castilian control of the Canary Islands in the Treaty of Alcaçovas.

The Castilians continued to dominate the islands, but due to the topography and the resistance of the native Guanches, complete pacification was not achieved until 1495, when Tenerife and La Palma were finally subdued by Alonso Fernández de Lugo. After that, the Canaries were incorporated into the Kingdom of Castile.

Long term historical significance

The Canary Islands would prove a stepping stone towards "The New World" - and not only in the geographical sense. In retrospect, their conquest and colonization can be seen as a "dress rehearsal" in which the Castilians practised what they (and later, other Europeans emulating them) would practice on an immensely larger scale throughout the Americas and other continents. The Guanches has the misfortune to be the first of countless extra-European indigenous populations to have their land invaded, their most persistent and prolonged opposition eventually crushed, and their populations decimated but never were completely exterminated.

In the specific Spanish context, the conquest of the Canary Islands provided the transition between the Reconquista, carried out under the claim of recovering territory which had been conquered by Muslims, to the work of the Conquistadors, in which land was conquered without any claim of prior possession, solely on the basis of the doctrine that Christians were entitled to conquer the land of "pagans" or "infidels" (a doctrine later secularized into asserting the right of "civilized" people to conquer "savages" and "primitives").

After the conquest

After the conquest, the Castilians imposed a new economic model, based on single-crop cultivation: first sugar cane; then wine, an important item of trade with England. In this era, the first institutions of colonial government were founded. Both Gran Canaria, since 6 March 1480 a colony of Castile (from 1556 of Spain), and Tenerife, a Spanish colony since 1495, had separate governors.

The cities of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife became a stopping point for the Spanish conquerors, traders, and missionaries on their way to the New World. This trade route brought great prosperity to some of the social sectors of the islands. The islands became quite wealthy and soon were attracting merchants and adventurers from all over Europe. Magnificent palaces and churches were built on the island of La Palma during this busy, prosperous period. The Church of El Salvador survives as one of the island's finest examples of the architecture of the 1500s.

The Canaries' wealth invited attacks by pirates and privateers. Ottoman Turkish admiral and privateer Kemal Reis ventured into the Canaries in 1501, while Murat Reis the Elder captured Lanzarote in 1585.

The most severe attack took place in 1599, during the Dutch War of Independence. A Dutch fleet of 74 ships and 12,000 men, commanded by Johan Van der Does, attacked the capital, Las Palmas (the city had 3,500 of Gran Canaria's 8,545 inhabitants). The Dutch attacked the Castillo de la Luz, which guarded the harbor. The Canarians evacuated civilians from the city, and the Castillo surrendered (but not the city). The Dutch moved inland, but Canarian cavalry drove them back to Tamaraceite, near the city.

The Dutch then laid siege to the city, demanding the surrender of all its wealth. They received 12 sheep and 3 calves. Furious, the Dutch sent 4,000 soldiers to attack the Council of the Canaries, who were sheltering in the village of Santa Brígida. 300 Canarian soldiers ambushed the Dutch in the village of Monte Lentiscal, killing 150 and forcing the rest to retreat. The Dutch concentrated on Las Palmas, attempting to burn it down. The Dutch pillaged Maspalomas, on the southern coast of Gran Canaria, San Sebastian on La Gomera, and Santa Cruz on La Palma, but eventually gave up the siege of Las Palmas and withdrew.

Another noteworthy attack occurred in 1797, when Santa Cruz de Tenerife was attacked by a British fleet under the future Lord Nelson on 25 July. The British were repulsed, losing almost 400 men. It was during this battle that Nelson lost his right arm.

Eighteenth to nineteenth centuries

The sugar-based economy of the islands faced stiff competition from Spain's American colonies. Crises in the sugar market in the nineteenth century caused severe recessions on the islands. A new cash crop, cochineal (cochinilla), came into cultivation during this time, saving the islands' economy.

These economic difficulties spurred mass emigration, primarily to the Americas, during the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. From 1840 to 1890, as many as 40,000 Canary Islanders emigrated to Venezuela. Also, thousands of Canarians moved to Puerto Rico, the Spanish monarchy felt that Canarians would adapt to island life better than other immigrants from the mainland of Spain. Deeply entrenched traditions such as the Mascaras Festival in the town of Hatillo, Puerto Rico are an example of Canarian culture still preserved in Puerto Rico. Similarly, many thousands of Canarians emigrated to the shores of Cuba as well. During the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Spanish fortified the islands against possible American attack; but the attack never came.

Early twentieth century

At the beginning of the 20th century, the British introduced a new cash-crop, the banana, the export of which was controlled by companies such as Fyffes.

The rivalry between the elites of the cities of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife for the capital of the islands led to the division of the archipelago into two provinces in 1927. This has not laid to rest the rivalry between the two cities, which continues to this day.

During the time of the Second Spanish Republic, Marxist and anarchist workers' movements began to develop, led by figures such as Jose Miguel Perez and Guillermo Ascanio. However, outside of a few municipalities, these organizations were a minority and fell easily to Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War.

Franco regime

In 1936, Francisco Franco was appointed General Commandant of the Canaries. He joined the military revolt of July 17 which began the Spanish Civil War. Franco quickly took control of the archipelago, except for a few points of resistance on the island of La Palma and in the town of Vallehermoso, on La Gomera . Though there was never a proper war in the islands, the post-war repression on the Canaries was most severe.

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill prepared plans for the British seizure of the Canary Islands as a naval base, in the event of Gibraltar being invaded from the Spanish mainland.

Opposition to Franco's regime did not begin to organize until the late 1950s, which experienced an upheaval of parties such as the Communist Party of Spain and the formation of various nationalist, leftist parties.

Today

After the death of Franco, there was a pro-independence armed movement based in Algeria, the MPAIAC. Now there are some pro-independence political parties, like the CNC and the Popular Front of the Canary Islands, but none of them calls for an armed struggle. Their popular support is insignificant, with no presence in both the autonomous parliament and the cabildos insulares.

After the establishment of a democratic constitutional monarchy in Spain, autonomy was granted to the Canaries via a law passed in 1982. In 1983, the first autonomous elections were held. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) won. In the most recent autonomous elections (2007), the PSOE gained a plurality of seats, but the nationalist Canarian Coalition and the conservative Partido Popular (PP) formed a ruling coalition government.

Population genetics

A 2003 genetics research article by Nicole Maca-Meyer et al. published in the European Journal of Human Genetics compared aboriginal Guanche mtDNA (collected from Canarian archaeological sites) to that of today's Canarians and concluded that, "despite the continuous changes suffered by the population (Spanish colonization, slave trade), aboriginal mtDNA [direct maternal] lineages constitute a considerable proportion [42 – 73%] of the Canarian gene pool. Although the Berbers are the most probable ancestors of the Guanches, it is deduced that important human movements [e.g., the Islamic-Arabic conquest of the Berbers] have reshaped Northwest Africa after the migratory wave to the Canary Islands" and the "results support, from a maternal perspective, the supposition that since the end of the 16th century, at least, two-thirds of the Canarian population had an indigenous substrate, as was previously inferred from historical and anthropological data. mtDNA haplogroup U subclade U6b1 is Canarian-specific and is the most common mtDNA haplogroup found in aboriginal Guanche archaeological burial sites.

Y-DNA, or Y-chromosomal, (direct paternal) lineages were not analyzed in this study; however, an earlier study giving the aboriginal y-DNA contribution at 6% was cited by Maca-Meyer et al., but the results were criticized as possibly flawed due to the widespread phylogeography of y-DNA haplogroup E1b1b1b, which may skew determination of the aboriginality versus coloniality of contemporary y-DNA lineages in the Canaries. Regardless, Maca-Meyer et al. states that historical evidence does support the explanation of "strong sexual asymmetry...as a result of a strong bias favoring matings between European males and aboriginal females, and to the important aboriginal male mortality during the Conquest.

Physical geography

The islands and their capitals are:
Island Capital
Gran Canaria Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Tenerife Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Lanzarote Arrecife
La Palma Santa Cruz de La Palma
La Gomera San Sebastián de La Gomera
El Hierro Valverde
Fuerteventura Puerto del Rosario
La Graciosa Caleta de Sebo
The island of Fuerteventura is the second largest in the archipelago and located about 60 km from the northwest mainland African coast.

The islands form the Macaronesia ecoregion with the Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira, and the Savage Isles. The archipelago consists of seven large and several smaller islands, all of which are volcanic in origin. The Teide volcano on Tenerife is the highest mountain in Spain, and the third largest volcano on Earth on a volcanic ocean island. All the islands except La Gomera have been active in the last million years; four of them (Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma and El Hierro) have historical records of eruptions since European discovery. The islands rise from Jurassic oceanic crust associated with the opening of the Atlantic. Underwater magmatism commenced during the Cretaceous, and reached the ocean's surface during the Miocene. The islands are considered as a distinct physiographic section of the Atlas Mountains province, which in turn is part of the larger African Alpine System division.

According to the position of the islands with respect to the NE trade winds, the climate can be mild and wet or very dry. Several native species form laurisilva forests.

Four of Spain's thirteen national parks are located in the Canary Islands, more than any other autonomous community. In the early 90's, there were only five Spanish national parks, four of them being the Canarian parks, and the other one Doñana. The parks are:

Park Island
Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente La Palma
Garajonay National Park La Gomera
Teide National Park Tenerife
Timanfaya National Park Lanzarote

Political geography

The Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands consists of two provinces, Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, whose capitals (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife) are co-capitals of the autonomous community. Each of the seven major islands is ruled by an island council named cabildo insular.

The international boundary of the Canaries is the subject of dispute between Spain and Morocco. Morocco does not agree that the laws regarding territorial limits allow Spain to claim for itself seabed boundaries based on the territory of the Canaries, because the Canary Islands are autonomous. In fact, the islands do not enjoy any special degree of autonomy as each one of the Spanish regions is considered an autonomous community. Under the Law of the Sea, the only islands not granted territorial waters or an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are those that are not fit for human habitation or do not have an economic life of their own, which is clearly not the case of the Canary Islands.

The boundary is relevant for possible seabed oil deposits and other ocean resource exploitation. Morocco therefore does not formally agree to the territorial boundary; it rejected a 2002 unilateral Spanish proposal.

The Islands have 13 seats in the Spanish Senate. Of these, 11 seats are directly elected, 3 for Gran Canaria, 3 for Tenerife, 1 for each other island; 2 seats are indirectly elected by the regional Autonomous Government. The local government is presided over by Paulino Rivero Baute.

Economy

The economy is based primarily on tourism, which makes up 32% of the GDP. The Canaries receive about 10 million tourists per year. Construction makes up nearly 20% of the GDP and tropical agriculture, primarily bananas and tobacco, are grown for export to Europe and the Americas. Ecologists are concerned that the resources, especially in the more arid islands, are being overexploited but there are still many agricultural resources like tomatoes, potatoes, onions, cochineal, sugarcane, grapes, vines, dates, oranges, lemons, figs, wheat, barley, maize, apricots, peaches and almonds.

The economy is 25 billion (2001 GDP figures). The islands experienced continuous growth during a 20 year period, up until 2001, at a rate of approximately 5% annually. This growth was fueled mainly by huge amounts of Foreign Direct Investment, mostly to develop tourism real estate (hotels and apartments), and European Funds (near 11 billion euro in the period from 2000 to 2007), since the Canary Islands are labelled Region Objective 1 (eligible for euro structural funds). Additionally, the EU allows the Canary Island's government to offer special tax concessions for investors who incorporate under the as Zona Especial Canaria (ZEC) regime and create more than 5 jobs.

The combination of high mountains, proximity to Europe, and clean air has made the Roque de los Muchachos peak (on La Palma island) a leading location for telescopes like the Grantecan.

The islands are outside the European Union customs territory and VAT area, though politically within the EU. Instead of VAT there is a local Sales Tax (IGIC) which has a general rate of 5%, an increased tax rate of 12%, a reduced tax rate of 2% and a zero tax rate for certain basic need products and services (eg telecommunications). The ISO 3166-1 α-2 code IC is reserved for representing them in customs affairs. Goods subject to Spanish customs and excise duties and Value Added Tax (VAT), such as tobacco or electronic goods, are therefore significantly cheaper in the Canaries. Spanish magazines usually have a similar or higher price than in the peninsula since VAT is substituted with air transport costs. The islands' country calling code is (+34) and the Internet country code is the same as Spain's (.es). The currency is the euro.

Canarian time is Western European Time (WET) (or GMT; in summer one hour ahead of GMT). So Canarian time is one hour behind that of mainland Spain and the same as that of the British Isles and Portugal all year round.

Wildlife

Terrestrial wildlife

With a range of habitats, the Canary Islands exhibit diverse plant species. The bird life includes European and African species, such as the Black-bellied Sandgrouse; and a rich variety of endemic (local) species including the:

Terrestrial fauna includes geckos (such as the striped Canary Islands Gecko) and wall lizards, and three endemic species of recently rediscovered and critically endangered giant lizard: the El Hierro Giant Lizard (or Roque Chico de Salmor Giant Lizard), La Gomera Giant Lizard, and La Palma Giant Lizard. Mammals include the Algerian Hedgehog, though this may have been introduced. Some endemic mammals, the Lava Mouse and Canary Islands Giant Rat, are extinct, as are the Canary Islands Quail, Long-legged Bunting, and the Eastern Canary Islands Chiffchaff.

Marine life

The Marine life found in the Canary Islands is also varied, being a combination of North Atlantic, Mediterranean and endemic species. In recent years, the increasing popularity of both scuba diving and underwater photography have provided biologists with much new information on the marine life of the islands.

Fish species found in the islands include many species of shark, ray, moray eel, bream, jack, grunt, scorpionfish, triggerfish, grouper, goby, and blenny. In addition, there are many invertebrate species including sponge, jellyfish, anemone, crab, mollusc, sea urchin, starfish, sea cucumber and coral.

There are a total of 5 different species of marine turtle that are sighted periodically in the islands, the most common of these being the endangered Loggerhead Turtle; however, local fisherman continue to take this endangered species. The other four are the Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Kemp's Ridley Turtle. Currently, there are no signs that any of these species breed in the islands, and so those seen in the water are usually migrating. However, it is believed that some of these species may have bred in the islands in the past, and there are records of several sightings of leatherback turtle on beaches in Fuerteventura, adding credibility to the theory. .

Sports

One native of the Canary Islands played Major League Baseball: Alfredo Cabrera, born there in 1881; he played shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1913.

Another native of the Canary Islands plays in the National Basketball Association today: Sergio Rodríguez, born there in 1986; he plays point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers.

See also

History

Geography

Culture

Neighbors

Natural history

See:- Borgesen, F. 1929. Marine algae from the Canary Islands. III Rhodophyceae. Part II. Cryptonemiales, Gigartinales, and Rhodymeniales. Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskabs Biologiske Meddelelser. 8: 1 — 97.

Notes

References

  • Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Cambridge University Press) ISBN 0-521-45690-8
  • Felipe Fernández-Armesto, The Canary Islands after the Conquest: The Making of a Colonial Society in the Early-Sixteenth Century, Oxford U. Press, 1982. ISBN 13: 9780198218883; ISBN 10: 0198218885
  • Sergio Hanquet, Diving in Canaries, Litografía A. ROMERO, 2001. ISBN 84-932195-0-9

External links

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