Discovery and conquest of the Canary Islands

It is likely the Archipelago was supposedly discovered in the second century BC just because the beginning of the navigation history go back to that same age, when phoenicians played a leading role. About 600 BC a group of phoenicians by order of the Egyptian pharaoh Nekó II sailed round Africa and might have visited the Canary Islands, but no written evidence was found.

First scientific evidence about our Archipelago were found within the Roman literature.The chronicler Plinio the Old wrote a credible, non mythological description of the islands in his book Natural History. After the Roman and Greek empires fall, the Canary Islands remained peacefully forgotten hundreds of years, far away from the well-known world and it wasn't until the 15th century when they were again awaken, this time to stay forever and ever.

Prior to European Conquest, in these islands lived people originally from northen Africa, in paleolithic conditions though with certain culture, religion and handicraft. Ancient inhabitants are known as guanches  (a term that, whilst exclusively referring to the indigenous people of the island of Tenerife, has been extended to take in the former inhabitants of the archipelago as a whole). The first settlers who arrived on the Canary Islands wore skins, worked clay, gathered fruits and fashioned spearheads from sharpened volcanic rock.

Religious aspects were also observed, when one of them died, they carefully mummify the dead body and then buried it. As was to be presumably expected, they were unable to sail.

When the Spanish conquerors first arrived to Tenerife, the island was divided into nine "Menceyatos" (small kingdoms) and each of them had a Mencey (a monarch) who was advised by an old people assembly. The conquest of the Archipelago began in 1402 when Jean de Bethencourt and Gadifier de La Salle, in the name of His Majesty Enrique III, raided the islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and El Hierro and they were annexed to the Castile Kingdom. Fernán Peraza did the same in La Gomera. Tenerife was the last one to be conquered by the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabella of Aragon and Castile). The fight was bloody. Spanish soldiers commanded by the adelantado (military and political governor) Alonso Fernández de Lugo were defeated in several battles, just like it happened in 1494, in La Matanza (northern Tenerife). One year later, Fernandez de Lugo came back with a new army to win in the battlefield. Some "menceyes" ally with foreign invaders. In 1496 Tenerife is finally conquered. It was the last one to surrender.

While this happens in Tenerife, Christopher Columbus set sail from Palos (Huelva) with his ships docking in La Gomera, before heading to what he believed was a direct sea route from Europe to discover the Americas.

The Canary Islands and America have been closely bound together. The islands where a place which ships take on supplies before leaving to the New Continent. The "canarios" (inhabitants of Canary Islands) took active part as colonists at the new cities and nations beyond the Atlantic ocean. Montevideo or San Antonio (Texas) were founded by families who came all the way from the Canary Islands.

Foreign trade, the richness of the soil and Malvasía wines (sweet wine) turned this archipelago into one of the most famous places all over the world. In the 16th and 17th centuries the islands' strategic location gathered together people from different countries such as Portugal, England, Holland and Spain.

The archipelago became a tempting target for pirates and foreign nations. In 1797 admiral Nelson tried to attack with his fleet Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital town. He was defeated under the general Gutiérrez's command and as a result of the assault, Nelson loses one of his arms by a gunshot. While Nelson still was in Tenerife, gifts and letters were exchanged with high-ranking officers from one to other army and that's a valuable proof of the friendly, warm way to be of the "Tinerfeños" (inhabitant of Tenerife), even in war times.

Along its history, the Canary Islands, due to its geographical location, have always granted economic and management privileges with regard to the mainland's regions (the Iberian Peninsula).

These economic concessions were collected at the Free Port Law (1872), in the constitution of insular, regional governments called Cabildos Insulares (1912) and with the implementation of the REF Law (special tax system).

In 1982 the Canary Islands became a "Comunidad Autónoma" (a regional government) and at the same time as Spain did, joined the European Union, in 1986.