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History of Tenerife

Known to the Romans as Nivaria, a reference to the snows atop the volcano known as El Teide, Tenerife bears a name that is also a reference to this volcano, and was used for the island by the Guanches of the neighboring island of La Palma, "Tene" signifying "mountain" and "ife" white (the "r" was added by the Spanish). To the natives Tenerife was known as Chenech, Chinech or Achinech.

History of Tenerife
Tenerife - Son of Pluton .

As with the rest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is also called a son of Pluton. While the volcanic development of the eastern islands started more than 20 Million years ago, the oldest mountain ranges of Tenerife arose from the Atlantic much later (about 8 to 12 Million years ago).

At least 3 Million years ago it was believed that there were 3 islands formed with the Anaga, Teno and Valle San Lorenzo mountain ranges. In a tremendous volcanic process the old central volcano and the great mountain range (Cumbre Dorsal) melted together into what we know today as Tenerife .

Presumably the top of the volcano did not explode but collapsed in it's own crater and is now one of the greatest collapsed craters of the world (Las Cañadas). This oval crater is at it's longest distance about 17Km long.

500.000 years ago the last stage of volcanic activity in Tenerife took place. The 'Pico Viejo' (old peak) erupted first and some time later the higher 'Pico del Teide'. This last one has on it's top a sulphur coating surrounding it. The last volcano eruption in Tenerife happened near the village of Santiago del Teide in 1909.

The bravest of most feared of Canary Inhabitants.

The natives of Tenerife where known as the bravest and most feared of the canary inhabitants. They were cavern men and they balsamated their deceased people in caves and prayed for their peaceful rest.

From the remains of the mummies we can afirm a northwest African origin. A few years ago a stone was found. It has the symbols 'Z(a)N(a)T(a)' engraved on it, which suposedly has some sort of a connection to the same name with a Bereber origin. No definitive explication has been given yet.

Likewise there are only theories and speculations of how the Guanches originally came to the islands. European reports afirm that the natives did not have any knowledge about seacraft. It is also very peculiar that there were not even connections between the very near island of La Gomera and Tenerife . Another mystery is why the Guanches did not make any evolution in time, despite the many visits from the Phoenician, Punicians and Romans.

As on the other islands of the same group, much of the native population of Tenerife was enslaved or succumbed to diseases at the same time as immigrants from various places in Europe associated with the Spanish Empire Portugal, Flanders, Italy and Germany settled on the island. Native pine forests on the island were cleared to make way for the cultivation of sugar cane in the 1520s; in succeeding centuries, the island's economy was centered around the cultivation of other commodities such as wine, cochineal for making dyes, and bananas.

Tenerife at the time of its conquest, comprised of nine distinct menceyatos, as the small kingdoms of the Guanches were known. Though the Spanish forces under the Adelantado ("military governor") Alonso Fernández de Lugo, suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Guanches in the First Battle of Acentejo in 1494, the Guanches were eventually overcome by superior technology and diseases, to which they were not immune, and surrendered to the Crown of Castile (Spain) on December 25, 1495.

The memory of the last nine kings.

500 years ago the spanish conqueror Alonso Fernández de Lugo arrived at the bay of Añaza (todays harbour of Santa Cruz ). The Royal House ordered him to take the last bastion of the Canary natives. But the Guanches proved themselves very brave and audacious as is related by some chroniclers.

Bencomo, the king of Raoro (today La Orotava) the mightiest of all nine kings, gathered all his warriors and enticed the intruders to the Bay of Acentejo . 2.000 compatriots of the spanish crown fell and 'de Lugo' was seriously injured.

This happend on the 31st of May of 1494. Since then the town of the massacre is called La Matanza (the slaughter). Today besides the motorway there is a huge stone wall painting with a Guanche blowing the victory signal through a horn in the place of the massacre. One and a half years later, the 25th of December of 1495 and after the stench plague which weakened the Guanches, the spanish crown finally conquered Tenerife .

For a long time the extermination of a nation and all it's culture was held in secret and always denied. Under the mandate of Francisco Franco it was even forbidden to talk about it. A few years ago a Rennaisance started and now even Guanches names are being registrated on streets. Families with the surname 'Oramas' are proud again of their name and tell about their ancestor 'Juan Oramas' a grandson of the King 'Doramas de Guanarteme' who was killed in Gran Canaria.

In Candelaria, the memory of the last nine Kings was kept alive by Lava made statues at the beach in front of the Basílica. The pass of time and especially the erosion corroded and partially destroyed these statues.

The Museum of Tenerife History.

A few years ago the native artist 'José Abad' from 'La Laguna' made 7 bronze statues with royal sceptres, stone weapons, wood spears, slings and other symbolic objects. The proud Menceys as witnesses of the polemic times of discoverers.

After the victory over the Guanches, de Lugo constructed in 1496 the Metropolis of 'San Cristobal de La Laguna' beside a lagoon, which was about seven kilometres away from the bay of 'Añaza'. In 1723 the government's mandate changed to the harbour city of Santa Cruz which then became the capital city. La Laguna was the first spanish city without citywalls. Shortly before it's 500th anniversary La Laguna woke up, remembered its historical values, and opened it's doors; untill then the events of the Guanches Era had been obscured whereas now, the Museum of History of Tenerife is open to visitors. This location is at a renovated villa once the home of a nobleman named Lercaro.

Attacked by the British in 1797.

The island was attacked in 1797 by the British. On July 25, Horatio Nelson attacked Santa Cruz de Tenerife , the capital town of Tenerife and headquarters of the Captain General. After a fierce engagement, the British were repelled; Nelson lost his right arm as he tried to disembark at the shore. On September 5, another attempted landing in the region of Puerto Santiago was fended off by the inhabitants of the Valley of Santiago , who hurled stones at the British from the heights of the cliffs of Los Gigantes.

Less hostile visitors arrived at the island in succeeding centuries. The naturalist Alexander von Humboldt ascended the peak of the Teide and remarked on the beauty of the island. Tourists began visiting Tenerife in large numbers in the 1890s, especially the northern towns of Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife .

Before his rise to power, Francisco Franco was posted to Tenerife in March 1936 by a Republican government wary of his influence and political leanings. In Tenerife Franco received information and agreed to collaborate in the military coup that would result in the Spanish Civil War; the Canaries fell to the Nationalists in July 1936 and its population was subject to the mass executions of opponents to the new regime. In the 1950s, the misery of the post-war years caused thousands of the island's inhabitants to emigrate to Cuba and Latin America .


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