The Castilian expancion towords the Atlantic

In the 15th century, the island was occupied by the Castilian troops under the command of Alfonso Fernandez de Lugo, who would introduce Christianity onto the island and also set up the slave trade. This, together with the illness brought from Europe, wiped out large numbers of the local population that had managed to survive the onslaught of the invading forces. In 1477, coinciding with the Castilian expansion of the Atlantic, Tenerife, together with the Gran Canaria and La Palma, became an island of realengo, under the jurisdiction and direct authority of the monarch, offering protection against the aspiration of Portugal, which had set its sights on their conquest. The other smaller islands were initially considered feudal lands of the Catholic Monarchs. Alonso Fernandez de Lugo began the conquest of the island in 1494, with the support of the Christianised natives from other islands. However, he met with fierce resistance from kingdoms of north, who won an initial victory over the enemy in Acentejo. Today Tenerife has a municipality named La Matanza de Acentejo – or “ The Slaughter of Acentejo” – in memory of this bloody battle. Yet that same municipality also has town named La Victoria de Acentejo, where just one year later the Castilian troops would take their revenge, although the conquest of the island was not completed until 1496. The Canary Islands held out for many years against the bloodthirsty troops; indeed, the campaign to conquer the islands lasted from 1402 ( when Bethencourt first disembarked in Lanzerote) until 1496. The following centuries were marked by periods of colonization and trade with America. The islands served as ports of call where vessels would load up with provisions, and as sugar cane and orchil plantations and vineyards (planted with the malvasia and vidueno varieties) for export to Europe. The capital, San Crisobal de la Laguna, was home to Flemish, English, Genovese and Portuguese merchants, and its architecture provided a prototype for numerous cities in New World. Like the rest of Canary Islands, Tenerife served as a kind of testing ground for the new products from America (potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, millet or corn, cocoa and cotton…)Yet at the same time it also exported its products to these new markets, such as guineas or bananas, suger, cereals, vegetables and even horses…). The 16th and 17th centuries were also the heyday of pirates and corsairs from England, Holland and Algeria, who took advantage of the booming trade with America. They roamed the coast of the Canary Islands and the Azores, which vessels were forced to pass en route to America, Asia or Africa. 1526 saw the creation of a Royal Court that held jurisdiction over all the islands. The 17th century was a time of financial crisis, worsened by a series of epidemics, fierce competition from the sugar and banana plantations and vineyards if Caribbean and Portuguese producers, plus heavy taxes to finance pointless wars. Many of the inhabitants of the Canary Islands were forced to emigrate to America, where they founded cities such as Montevideo in Uruguay, San Antonio in Texas, and colonized the coastline of Venezuela, known as the Venice of America. The people of the Canary Islands played a major role in the development of America: to give just two examples, the mother of Jose Marti was from Tenerife, as was Father Ancheta, the founder of Sao Paulo.

From overseas colony to autonomous community

In the 18th century the thriving commercial city and port of Garachio was buried following the eruption of the Trejevo volcano in 1706. As a result of this disaster, Puerto de la Cruz became increasingly important followed later by Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which eventually became a capital. In 1797 the English Rear Admiral Nelson carried out an attempted invasion of the island, attacking Santa Cruz de Tenerife in a battle that would cost him an arm.

The Enlightenment was a period of great prosperity for Tenerife, following an upsurge in trade with Indies. Jose de Vieira y Clavijo is a key figure in this movement. This historian and naturalist introduced journalism into the island, as well as new scientific ideas and a vision of the world more in keeping with the philosophy of the bourgeoisie than the Ancien Regime. The archipelago ceased to be considered an overseas territory or colony when it was declare a single province by the Courts of Cadiz in 1812. Santa Cruz de Tenerife took over from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria as the capital, until a new province was created by decree in 1927, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which would include not only Gran Canaria by also the western islands. The Canary Island Nationalist Party, with its claims to independence, had been set up three years earlier in Havana.

In the light of the economic plight of islands, rooted in a backward rural lifestyle and condemned to a seemingly unstoppable diaspora, in 1852 Bravo Murillo (a minister of Isabella II ), promulgated the Canary Islands Free Ports Act, aimed at boosting free trade and the commercial and industrial development of the island.

The victory of Franco, who had been Governor General of the Canary Islands, and the defeat of the President of the Second Republic, Juan Negrin, who came from Gran Canaria, led to the harsh repression of the islands` nationalist aspirations, as well as the blatant manipulation and covering up of the true history of the islands and their people. Today little remains of the Canary Islanders` anti-colonial sentiment, although it is still common to hear them refer to the Spanish mainlanders as godos or Goths. The coming of democracy brought with it the fleeting rise of the Movement for Independence of the Canary Island Archipelago, characterized by its outspoken and revolutionary ideas.

The 20th century, and the 1960s in particular, saw the birth of the island`s tourist industry; the number of emigrants began to fall, and the island`s economy – to date had been based on production of bananas and tomatoes – began to develop and prosper. A further major economic boost for Tenerife and the rest of the Canary Islands would come following Spain`s entry in the EU and the declaration of the archipelago as an ultra-peripheral region. Considerable improvements were made to the island`s infrastructures and communications, and financial aid was made available for the agricultural and fishing industries; this latter sector in particular had suffered a severe setback following the restrictions on fishing in Moroccan fishing grounds. A coalition of independent parties (Coalition Canaria) has governed the island for most of the time since the statute of autonomy was passed in1882. A ongoing process has been in place since 2006 aimed at studying the possibility of extending the autonomous government`s powers. The power of the autonomous community lies in Canary Island Parliament ( the legislative body), the Canary Island Government (the executive body), the High Court of Justice (the judicial body) and the Island Councils the local government bodies of each island. Like other regionalist and /or nationalist parties they play a key role in the state decision-making process and can often tip the balance in favour or against Spain`s two major parties.

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