Short History

Ancient times

The historic origins of the island of Gran Canaria cannot be pointed out with extreme accuracy, floating in myths and stories.

It seems the first visitor of the island was Juba, king of Morocco. When he arrived there, he was amazed by the large number of wild dogs living and spawning on the island, which is why he called it “the Island of Dogs”. Later on, Romans too have arrived on the island, and since they were much more civilized, they decided to change the name of the island, which is why they called it “Insulae Canariae”. The island was subsequently referred to as “the Island of Happiness” and the “Island of Fortune”, but eventually its name settled as Gran Canaria.

At first, the island was inhabited by the Guanche population, which originated in north Africa. Despite the fact written records of the Guaches have not been found, the arms and the tools discovered in caves in particular substantiate the fact the island has been inhabited since old times.

After the decay of the Roman Empire, Europe forgot about the existence of the island for about 1.000 years. Despite the fact until the 14th century, when sailors rediscovered the island, the Guanches lived in complete isolation from the rest of the world, it was discovered the natives had developed a special culture. Thus, the population was governed by kings, but priests too had a particular significance, officiating sundry rituals. The most striking proofs in this respect refer to the embalmed bodies buried in caves along with a range of material goods.

Modern era

The peace so characteristic of the island for more than one millennium was shattered when the Italians, the Portuguese and the Spaniards started to send ships to Gran Canaria in view of the fur and slave trade, and then, again, in the early 15th century when the process of conquering the island began. Though the Guanches only had primitive weapons made of wood, bones or stone, they had managed to face the Spaniards for more than a half a century.

The conquering attempt began around 1405 and 1406, but it was not until 1438 that Gran Canaria fell to the Spanish rule. Despite their victory, the Catalans lost more people while fighting the Guanches than they had lost in the battle against the entire Aztec kingdom.

On the other hand, the Gucanches were decimated, some of the natives being killed, others preferring to suicide instead of accepting the Spanish dominion. The ones left alive were baptized and turned into slaves, which led to the decay of the traditional Guanche population.

Recent history

In 1485, Las Palmas became the residence of the bishop, and the city had owned the statute of capital of the Canary Islands since 1820 until 1822. In 1927, Las Palmas becomes again the capital, but only of the eastern province of the archipelago. As from 1993, the Canary Islands have been integrated in the European Union, and Gran Canaria became one of the most popular vacation destinations not only at European scale, but worldwide. Thus, more than 10 million tourists come here each year, most of this flow being represented by Germans, Englishmen and people of the north countries.

Gran Canaria