The History of Tenerife

Origins of the island

As the rest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is also 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 arised 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 with the Anaga, Teno and Valle San Lorenzo mountainranges. 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.

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


The Mysterious Guanches

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

From the rests of mummies we can afirm the northwest african origin. Likewise from some vestiges from spoken and written language which made the conquest of the spaniards over the Guanches much more difficult. 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 until yet.

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Likewise there are only theories and speculations of the way the Guanches even arrived the first time to the islands. European reports affirm 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 Fenician, Punician and Romans.


The Spanish conquest

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 submit the last bastion of the canary natives. But the Guanches proved themselves as very brave and audacious as related by some chronists.
Bencomo, the king of Raoro (today La Orotava) the mightiest of all nine kings, congregated 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 '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.

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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 destroyed partially these statues.
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. The colonialist city from late Middle ages which would be later the University and Bishops city remained uncommunicative to foreigners. All the modern tourism ran into the walls of the city each time - but not in real walls because La Laguna was the first spanish establishment without citywalls. Short before it's 500th birthday La Laguna woke up, remembers the historical values, and opens it's doors; untill now the events of the Guanches Era have been obscured and since last year the Museum of History of Tenerife is open to visitors. This collection is placed in a renovated villa from the nobleman Lercaro.