V-I CENTURY BC

Although no definite records exist it is believed that the first population of the islands were Cro-Magnons from North-west Africa who arrived on the islands towards the end of the Neolithic age. Then followed successive immigrations from the African Berber tribes of early Mediterranean type who formed the aboriginal population, known generally as GUANCHES, although the inhabitants of Fuerteventura were known as MAJOS. It is not known how these people arrived on the islands, as the European conquerors recorded that the Guanches had no navigational skills and scant knowledge of the sea, and as such had little knowledge amongst themselves from island to island. In the pre-hispanic era the island of Fuerteventura was divided into two separate kingdoms, the north of the island was known as Maxorata; the south known as Jandia, with a dividing wall at the isthmus of La Pared. At the time of the conquest the respective Majo kings were Guize of Maxorata and Ayoze of Jandia. The people lived in the style of the Stone Age Man, although with some advances such as a well-structured society - there is evidence to show clear class differences. The Majos had trapping devices, knew of some metals, had a religion, and mummified their dead. The people lived mainly from livestock although in Fuerteventura the Majos knew how to swim and collect shell-fish.

 

I BC - I AD

Mentions of the islands started to appear in the Greek-Roman civilisations - Herodotus in the 5th century BC talks of "The Garden of Hesperides", Plutarch and Pliny referred to the islands as "The Fortunate Islands", whilst some believe that the islands are the Elysian Fields referred to by Homer in the 8th Century BC, or even the remains of Atlantis. The greek geographer Ptolemy (AD 100-160) charted the islands for the first time, as the most western point of the known world. An expedition sent by Juba the Roman King of Mauritania in around 30 BC baptised the island of Gran Canaria as "Canary Island" because of the quantity of large dogs found there (the Roman word Canis meaning dog). Later this name was given as a general name for the whole archipelago. From the Roman age until 14th century Fuerteventura had various names: La Herbania, because of the supposed greenery which covered the island (La Hierba means grass or herb): La Capraria because of the number of goats on the island (La Cabra means goat) and La Planaria because of the planes or flats of the island.

 

14th CENTURY

In the middle ages the islands started to become known and visited by Berber and European (catalan, genoese, norman, portugese, venetian) sailors, who stopped at the islands for provisions of water, slaves and orhcil lichen (used in the making of dyes).

 

END of 14th CENTURY

More expeditions set off to the islands as a result of the competition between European countries to conquer new countries and capture wealth. 1402 The Norman Knight Jean de Bethencourt along with the French Knight Gadifer de la Salle, sponsored by the King of Castille, attempt to conquer Tenerife and Gran Canaria, and having failed landed on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, overpowering the latter. The recognition of the possession of the islands by the Castillian crown put an end to the European race for their conquest.

 

15th-18th CENTURIES

After the conquest all the islands passed under direct rule of the Castillian throne, with the exception of Fuerteventura, which had become a ´Senorio´. ´Senorios´ were areas created by royal decree to be governed by ´Senors´ (Lords), who paid a duty to the Crown. Fuerteventura´s history in those days was a constant succession of pirate invasions, from the Europeans to the Berbers, and in particular the invasion by Xaban de Arraez in 1593, which totally destroyed Betancuria and lasted six months. It was after this that the defence towers of Val Tarajal, el Toston and Caleta de Fuste were constructed. This also speeded up the creation of a military command , the Colonels, as a defence for the island. Based in the La Casa de Los Coroneles in La Oliva, the Colonels had total military power on the island, and were independent of the Lord. The Colonels gradually assumed not just defence functions, but administrative roles, until a new Lord governed from 1708-1859. In those days the islanders lived from the selling of slaves, sugar, and later cereal export which heralded the arrival of the windmills on Fuerteventura. 18th-19th CENTURY The start of modern history of the Canary Islands with big changes economically and socially. In 1812 the Spanish constitution of the Court of Cadiz totally abolished the Senorios and Colonels which brought about the creation of most of the present municipalities. The island abandoned cereal cultivation and started to export BARILLA a vegetable used in the production of soap, and COCHINEAL a beetle used in the making of dye, and much sought after by the European upper classes. In 1852, under the reign of Isabel II, the Canaries were declared Duty Free to stimulate commerce, a decisive point in the commercial development of the Canaries. In Fuerteventura the people started to export salt and lime, filling the island´s landscape with lime-kilns and salt-flats. During these centuries there were many hungry times caused by drought which, often coinciding with economically grave crises, stimulated migration to other islands and America. At the end of 19th century the islands started mass cultivation and exportation of bananas, although the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote were too dry for this crop.

 

20th CENTURY

Fuerteventura´s recent history is linked to the cultivation and export of the tomato, goat farming and cheese production, fishing, and the close relationship of the island to the neighbouring Western Sahara. The ports of Puerto Cabras and Gran Tarajal were created, the latter dedicated to tomato export. A fundamental aspect of the modern history, and yet strangely little studied, is the necessary and close relationship between Fuerteventura and its people with the Western Sahara.

 

End of 20th CENTURY

Fuerteventura is starting its big economic boom thanks to the tourist industry and new advances in natural energy and water de-salination. A dizzying demographical growth is underway.

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