The History of Tenerife

Tenerife is the largest and best-known of the seven Canary Islands. It’s a very popular holiday destination, attracting tourists from all over the world. In spite of this, very few people know much about this beautiful island. We have gathered some historic information so that you can know more about the place many people consider a home from home. The original inhabitants of Tenerife were the Guanche people and their presence can be dated back to about 200BC. The Guanches didn’t have a typical Spanish appearance. Unlike many Spaniards who are generally dark haired and have olive skin, the Guanches had fair hair and were tall, blonde and muscular. This appearance provoked speculation over their origin but today it is widely accepted that the Guanches were descendants of Berbers from North Africa. The Guanches knew Tenerife as Achinech. It was the natives of the neighbouring Island La Palma that gave the island the name that we use today. They knew the island as Tene-Ife – Tene (White) and Ife (Mountain), this is due to the snow-capped peak of Mount Teide which is clearly visible from La Palma. One of the original guanches “menceys”, or monarchs, was Tinerfe. You will still see reference to him all over the Island with many hotels and businesses including “Tinerfe” in their name, this is done in honour of Tenerife’s history. Tinerfe had nine children and after his death the island was divided up between them. Nine menceyatos, or municiplities, were formed and each was ruled by one of the sons. These are the municipal areas of Tenerife known today. Tenerife, with its nine menceyatos, existed for over a millennium and was generally isolated from the outside world but with the arrival of the Spanish at the start of the 15th century this was all to change. The Canarian islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura and their natives readily surrendered as they were in a less fortunate position than some of the other Islands. Gran Canaria, El Heirro, La Gomera, La Palma and Tenerife all put up a fight but eventually one by one they fell to the Castilian aggressors. Tenerife was the last Island capitulated in 1496. Tenerife and all the other Canary Islands continued under Castilian, the Spanish rule. However, invasion attempts, and assaults still continued. It was 1797 when Tenerife was attacked by a British fleet headed by Horatio Nelson. Tenerife was victorious but that didn’t deter further attacks, including a task force led by Walter Raleigh. Tenerife also felt the effect of the Spanish Civil War. General Franco was sent to Tenerife in March 1936 to distance him from the Republican government. Once the Nationalists took control in July 1936, opponents of the new regime were executed in masse. This was one of the darkest times in Tenerife’s history. Obviously, many countries in the World suffered attacks and various invasions and like those countries Tenerife and the other Islands picked themselves up and carried on. Tourism really took off for Tenerife in 1890, with people choosing the North of the Island for their holiday destinations. It was not until 1960 that the South of the island became the popular destination that it is today.