The aborigines of Canary Islands: a look into the past of the islands 🌍🌴

aborigines of Canary Islands
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The Canary Islands, a dream archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, are known worldwide for their unrivalled climate, picture-postcard beaches and unique natural landscapes. However, their charm lies not only in their geography, but also in their rich history and, in particular, that of the aborigines of Canary Islands. If you are passionate about history and plan to visit these islands, we want to help you to know them in a whole new way.

Who were the aborigines of the Canary Islands? 🤔

Before the islands became a tourist destination, they were inhabited by various pre-Hispanic cultures known generally as the Guanches, although this term is specific to the original inhabitants of Tenerife. These peoples are thought to be descended from the ancient Berbers of North Africa, who arrived in the Canaries more than 2,000 years ago.

Each island developed a unique identity, with distinct traditions, languages and ways of life, but with a common way of life: a close relationship with the land and the sea. Vestiges such as cave paintings, stone tools and, notably, mummies, are silent witnesses to their existence.

The population of the islands before the conquest 🛶🌴

The arrival of the aboriginal Canarians in the archipelago is still a matter of debate. However, the most widely accepted theory is that, driven by economic necessity or conflict, these peoples set out into the Atlantic in successive waves using rudimentary vessels. Once settled, they adapted their way of life to the island geography, giving rise to surprisingly sophisticated cultures.

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Inter-island diversity: Aboriginal peoples by island 🌋

  • Tenerife: The Guanche people of Tenerife were perhaps the best known. They were great fighters, and left a significant legacy in terms of rock art and mummification practices.
  • Gran Canaria: The Canarians (or canarii) inhabited this island, and were known for their stone constructions and grain storage systems.
  • La Gomera: The Gomeros are famous for the “silbo gomero“, a whistling language that allowed communication over long distances.
  • El Hierro: The Bimbaches, the inhabitants of this island, had unique religious practices and rituals related to nature.
  • Lanzarote and Fuerteventura: On these islands, the mahos or mahoreros lived from fishing and agriculture, adapting to a more arid climate, and maintaining contacts between the two eastern islands of the Canaries.
  • La Palma: The Benahoarites left behind petroglyphs and other artefacts that reflect their connection with their natural environment.

The arrival of the Spanish conquistadors ⚔️🏰

At the end of the 15th century, the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand, turned their attention to the Canary Islands, seeing them as a strategic point for trade routes with Africa and America and as an opportunity for territorial expansion. This interest sparked a period of conquest that would last almost a century.

Despite their bravery and resistance, the aborigines of Canary Islands had obvious technological disadvantages against the conquerors, who had firearms and cavalry. Despite this, the conquest was not a homogeneous process: while some islands were subdued by peaceful agreements, others, such as Tenerife, were the scene of violent battles.

The Guanche resistance is especially remembered in the figure of Bencomo, an aboriginal leader who led the fight against the Castilian forces. Despite the resistance, the military superiority of the Spaniards, diseases brought from the mainland, and enslavement, significantly depleted the aboriginal population.

battle of Acentejo between Guanches and Castilians

The legacy of the Canarian Aborigines today 📘

Although the aboriginal culture was largely suppressed after the conquest, its legacy is still alive in the Canary Islands. Some words from the Guanche language have been incorporated into Canarian Spanish, and many traditions and festivities – for example, bonfires at the summer solstice – have their roots in pre-Hispanic practices.

The silbo gomero, for example, is a form of communication based on whistling that originated in La Gomera and is still taught in the island’s schools – it has even been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO! 😲

Interest in the aboriginal Canaries has grown in recent decades, leading to the creation of museums, research and festivals that seek to keep alive the memory of these ancient inhabitants. The Museo Canario in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, for example, has an impressive collection of Guanche artefacts and mummies.

A remarkable historical wealth 🌍⏳

The Canary Islands are much more than a tourist destination. They are a kaleidoscope of cultures, traditions and intertwined histories. Strolling through its streets, beaches and mountains, one is not only in contact with nature, but also with thousands of years of history. When exploring these islands, it is essential to remember the aborigines of Canary Islands who once inhabited these lands, and the undisputed legacy they left behind. Whether you’re enjoying the sun, the sea or the local culture, remember that echoes of the past resonate in every corner of this paradise! 🌅📜🙌🏼

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