Tenerife History
tenerife history

Tenerife rose out of the Atlantic Ocean around 10 million years ago as a result of huge volcanic eruptions, emerging in the east and spreading west


The first settlers on the island were the Guanches around 3000 BC, who were thought to be descendents of the North African Berbers. It is still a mystery today how they arrived on the island, as they were not believed to have the ability to make boats or navigational aids. The Guanches believed that a God lived on the summit of Teide and an evil presence lived in the molten crater. This led them to have sophisticated religious beliefs especially regarding burial rites, resulting in elaborate mummifying of their dead.

In the 1st century AD early explorers gave the Canary Islands their name, after encountering packs of wild dogs on the islands, they called them canis which is the Latin word for 'dog'. Early European visitors named the island the 'Fortunate Isle' due to its perfect climate.

Spain conquered Tenerife in 1496. Despite being defeated in early raids on the island - 1,000 Spanish soldiers were forced to retreat after they were ambushed by the native tribes in La Matanza (the massacre). La Victoria de Acentejo, was the place of victory after more than 2000 Guanches were killed by the invading army.

Spain then began developing the island. Initially, it focused on wine production then moved on to establishing banana plantations after the vineyards became ravaged with disease.

In 1797 Nelson attempted to conquer the island, it was his only military defeat. He lost his arm in the ensuing battle after being hit in the elbow by a cannonball. His men were overpowered by the natives but allowed to retreat honourably, with gifts of wine and bread sent with them. Nelson returned the favour with English cheese and ale. Later the officers from both sides dined together while the British wounded were treated at the local hospital.

In 1936 Franco formulated his plan to establish a right-wing dictatorship in Spain. After managing to avoid three assassination attempts while living on the island, Franco commandeered his forces and began his take over of the republican government. There was some initial resistance in Tenerife but this was met with considerable aggression and involved the execution of many republicans. A solemn monument comemorates this in Plaza de España, Santa Cruz.

The 1960s saw the rise of mass tourism in the north of Tenerife; the first major tourist resort being Puerto de la Cruz. With the opening of the Reina Sofia airport in 1978, the south quickly became commercialized with hundreds of hotels, bars and restaurants emerging from the hot, dry desert. This quick development has occurred at a cost, with Tenerife attracting a lager lout image due to the availability of cheap accommodation and numerous bars. Recent Tenerife history has shown that the local government is now beginning to address this problem by reducing visitors and developing a number of luxury five star resorts and marinas which they hope will attract a more up market clientele.

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