Four Fascinating Historical Facts about Tenerife

At this moment in time, Tenerife is an admired and approved destination among numerous travellers wanting to escape daily life in search of sun, sea, and sand. The biggest of the Canary Islands is also home to nearly half the region’s residents, but it wasn’t always this way.

Tenerife was uninhabited until around 200BC when cave dwellers known as Guanches settled here. For over a millennium, these natives were isolated from the outside world until the Spanish arrived in the 15th century.

From then until the present day, Tenerife has been a part of Spain, which is heavily reflected in the island’s culture and cuisine. But what other facts are there about the island’s fascinating past?

1. The word “Tinerfe” refers to one of the original Guanche monarchs
Although the word “Tinerfe” closely resembles the island’s name and can be seen on various buildings and businesses, it is actually honouring one of the original Guanche monarchs.

Tinerfe had nine children and after his death, each one received a “menceyatos” or municipality on the island to rule over. While Tenerife now consists of 31 municipalities, they are divided up in much the same way.

2. It took two years for Spain to complete its conquest
Military leader Javier Alonso Luis Fernández de Lugo along with around 2,200 soldiers sailed to the shores of Tenerife at the end of 1493 to begin Spain’s conquest of the island. However, the last of the defending Guanches did not surrender until late December 1495.

In addition to fatal injuries suffered in battle, the Guanches also succumbed to various diseases that the Spanish brought over, as the natives had little natural immunity or resistance.

3. Tenerife survived a famous attack from the British
Even though Horatio Nelson was one of Great Britain’s finest military leaders, he failed to conquer the island in 1797. In fact, the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife was where a musket ball hit him in his right arm, which later had to be amputated.

To commemorate this victory, Castle Negrillo close to the Parque Maritimo César Manrique hosts an annual re-enactment on 25th July. As you would expect, Nelson always loses.

4. Tenerife was a tourist destination before the 20th century
After a period of stability, Tenerife warmly welcomed visitors to its shores and by the 1890s it was a popular holiday destination. While visitors typically stayed around Santa Cruz and Puero de la Cruz, the whole island embraced the idea of tourism.

However, Tenerife soon entered yet another turbulent period and growth was hampered when the Spanish Civil War began in 1936. After General Francisco Franco was installed as leader of a dictatorship, several of his opponents in Tenerife fled to Cuba and Latin America.

But today, there are no signs of turmoil or trouble and Tenerife has firmly established itself as a thoroughly charming and captivating destination.

Images by Tony Hisgett and Jörg Lange used under the Creative Commons license.