Native canary islanders: Ancient mtDNA analysis and the origin of the Guanches
A Migrant People: Canary Islanders’ Routes of Resistance
The Canary Islands are an archipelago off the north-west coast of Africa. The island closest to the African continent is within one-hundred kilometres of the Moroccan coast, while the distance between the northernmost Canarian islet and the Spanish mainland is more than 900 kilometres. The archipelago consists of seven major islands and a number of minor, mostly uninhabited, islets. The population is currently concentrated on the islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria.
Nowadays, the population of the Islands is above two-million, of which about three-quarters are Canarian. The islands are, politically, a part of Spain, despite having their own distinct fiscal regime and semi-independent institutions. Canarians, regardless of their ancestry, are nowadays considered full Spanish citizens. This however obscures the complex history and sense of identity that emerges from the geography, colonial past and migrant networks of the Canary Islands. Though in the contemporary imagination the Canaries are a mass tourist destination linked to beach tourism and package holidays, the Islands’ history is deeply enmeshed in colonial histories and resistance movements that shaped the history of the Atlantic.
Unlike the other archipelagos of the region (Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde), the Canary Islands were inhabited before the European ‘discovery’ and conquest of the 15th century. They are, after all, the closest to the African mainland and seemed to have been populated about one or two millennia before the European Conquest, depending on the island. These initial Amazigh, or Berber, settlers from north Africa had been neither Christianized nor Islamized and their culture emerged from the proto-Berber matrix with marginal Egyptian, Carthaginian and Roman influences. Indigenous Canarians were also called Guanches and their skin colour and features seemed to have been very similar to those of their new colonial masters: the only recently Christian peoples of Southern Europe, in particular of the Iberian Peninsula.
The conquest of the seven islands spanned almost a century (1402-1496) and was met with fierce resistance in at least four of the seven islands. In 1496, the Canaries were officially brought under Castilian sovereignty, though challenges to European/Spanish rule continued. This coincided with the beginning of the Spanish colonial expansion in the Americas and the Canaries, and the resistance of their original inhabitants, can be said to have been a blueprint and a laboratory for Spanish imperial conquest elsewhere. However, the Islands were also on the route to America and quickly developed a very important relation with the newly conquered territories across the Atlantic. Canarians, both of indigenous and European descent, were present in some of Columbus’ journeys. The flow of people from the Canaries to America was constant from the late 15th century to the middle of the 20th century.
Though some Canarians, especially those of European descent, were considered fellow Spanish by the conquerors of the Americas, Canarians, by and large, did not become assimilated or regarded as Spanish in the New World. The Canaries were not quite considered part of the Old World but neither were they entirely seen as the New World. The social and ethnic make-up of early colonial Canarian society resembled that of the Americas. A large contingent of the indigenous population mixed with European settlers from Spain, Portugal, Normandy and Genoa, who in turn introduced black African slaves and North African indentured labourers. Although the Islands were legally speaking part of the kingdom of Castile, Canarians were not seen as naturally Spanish or European, but as hybrid subjects, neither fully Spanish nor fully colonial or American. This led to the formation of distinct Canarian and Canarian-descendant communities across the Americas, who were characterised as ‘marginal whites’, below the ‘fully white’ Spanish elite but above Native Americans and African slaves.
The continued migration of Canarians to the Americas, due to the small size and poverty of the Islands and their subaltern position in colonial societies, created a singularly rebellious underclass. The first challenges to the Spanish imperial establishment came in the late 18th century from the Canarians of Venezuela, whose experience of oppression prompted them to seek to oust or replace the Spanish and Creole elite. Leaders such as Francisco de Miranda and Simón Bolívar were of Canarian ancestry and their projects are haunted by a powerful sense of in-betweenness which is typical of Canarian consciousness. Canarians and Canarian descendants also played a key role in the Cuban and Puerto Rican struggles for independence, as they made up a large section of the impoverished white peasantry and small business class. The iconic leader of Cuban independence, José Martí, had a Canarian mother and was acutely aware of the colonial condition of both Canarians and Cubans.
Through their contribution to various struggles, Canarians also aspired to lose their own stigmatized sense of identity. Canarian consciousness is based on colonial mimicry and desire; in the same way that they struggled, and failed, to be recognized by their Spanish colonial masters as equals, Canarians also joined the Latin American independence struggles wishing to shed their ‘white marginality’ and emerge as hybrid and empowered American subjects. Being Canarian was often associated with being part of a shameful underclass and thus Canarian rebelliousness was consequently expressed as a desire to relinquish Canarian identity.
Secundino Delgado, the first Canarian known to have articulated a Canarian national consciousness, reclaimed this subaltern space. Delgado was a Canarian migrant to the US, Cuba and Venezuela, whose life embodies the transatlantic networks of resistance of the late 19th century, which brought together the transnational anarchist movement and anti-colonial struggles (Cuba, Philippines). Delgado approached his involvement in the trade union and anarchist movements as a Canary islander, which for him involved a racialized, hybrid and subaltern subjectivity. His life reflects not only how the 19th century anarchist imagination informs Canarian consciousness, but also reveals the many connections between Canarian and American history, woven through the routes of the Canarian diaspora.
Delgado has become an iconic figure in the modern Canarian imagination. In this mural he appears surrounded by symbols from the indigenous past and the current nationalist movement’ (The author would like thank Ramón David Tosco y Díaz for letting him use this photograph)
The last large migration of Canarians towards the Americas took place in the 1950s and had Venezuela as its target. Since then, Canarians have started, for the first time in their history, to migrate to Europe. Although most have settled in Spain, relatively small Canarian communities can be found in the UK, Germany and Sweden. In Europe, Canarians seem to self-identify or be identified as Spanish, except within Spain where they are still perceived as in-between subjects and are often mistaken for Latin Americans. Despite this fact and the many instances of casual racism experienced by Canarians in the Spanish mainland, they have not formed a distinctly separate underclass. Canarians have overwhelmingly mixed with mainland Spaniards and today can be found in some positions of power and influence. Like their predecessors in the Americas, second generation Canarians in Europe quickly adopted the identity of their host countries, while keeping a distant connection to their native or ancestral land.
A small minority of Canarian emigrants and descendants have also returned to the Islands from the 1960s onwards. As living conditions worsened in Latin America and at the same time improved on the Islands with the boom of tourism, many American-born Canarian descendants sought Spanish passports so that they could settle back in the land of their ancestors. They have further Americanized the Islands and have helped to complicate and enrich a society that by the late 20th century had become, after centuries of mixing, a tight-knit mono-ethnic group.
Despite their invisibility in popular and academic discourse, Canarians represent a peculiar example of a transnational and migrant community that is as old as modern European imperialism. To Northern Europeans they appear Spanish, to the Spanish they are colonial or Latin American voices, to Latin Americans they present an ambivalent image, neither entirely alien nor fully local. In countries like Uruguay or Cuba, even to this day, the terms ‘canario’ or ‘isleño’ are used as slurs for uneducated peasants, which confirms the survival of their socio-ethnic identity as an underclass.
Through their many migrations, however, Canarian communities have succeeded to bargain power and negotiate their sense of dispossession into a deeply pragmatic and ambivalent attitude, something expressed through rebellion and sometimes through strategic accommodation.
New exhibit explores cultures and traditions of Canary Island descendants in Louisiana | Arts
Thenesoya Martin De la Nuez has learned that some traditions can’t be changed by generations or distance.
A native of the Canary Islands, Nuez has been researching Louisiana connections to her home for the past five years with her photographer husband, Anibal Martel. Their findings have been shown in four exhibits.
The fourth and largest, “CISLANDERUS: Canary Islanders in the United States, Canarian Descendants of Louisiana” is showing through March 17 in the Capitol Park Museum in downtown Baton Rouge.
Traveling throughout south Louisiana, the couple interviewed and photographed the descendants of Canary Island immigrants, better known in Louisiana as Isleños, meaning “islander.” Their work aims to bring a forgotten chapter of Spanish American history to life.
And one of these descendants showed them that some of their traditions from back home are still alive and well in Louisiana today.
“After the interview, he said he was going to cook for us,” Nuez said. “He made us banana fries. They were the same kind of banana fries that my family ate in the Canary Islands. I can’t prove how this family got this tradition, but he cooked them the same, and it was a beautiful moment.”
Nuez said she was surprised. She hadn’t expected to find things in common with Louisiana Canarians.
“They’ve been living in the United States for so long, so their first identity is as Americans,” she said. “But they’re Americans who have this legacy.”
Nuez is a native of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. She came to the United States as a doctoral student in Harvard University’s Department of Romance Languages and Literature. She also is a scholarship professor at the university and currently teaches at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
While studying in Spain, she learned about Louisiana’s Canary Island settlements.
“I read every book I could find on them,” she said.
The first Canary Islanders arrived in Louisiana between 1778 and 1783, recruited by Gov. Bernardo de Gálvez to defend the Spanish colony from British attacks, she said.
“They needed the people for defense,” Nuez said, “but they also wanted them to settle in the area.”
Some 2,500 immigrants established communities in Galveztown, where Bayou Manchac meets the Amite River near Baton Rouge; Valenzuela, near the confluence of Bayou Lafourche and the Mississippi River; Barataria, near Lake Barataria; and La Concepción, now known as St. Bernard Parish.
Today, descendants of the Canarian settlers are dispersed throughout southeast Louisiana. Galveztown settlers, after weathering years of hurricanes and flooding, relocated to Baton Rouge, where they established Spanish Town.
The biggest and best known Canarian settlement is in St. Bernard Parish, where, in the 1970s, parish historian Frank Fernandez called attention to the region’s connection with the Canary Islands. His efforts created a cultural revival, resulting in the Los Isleños Fiesta to honor these settlers and preserve their cultural traditions.
Nuez said while academic books outlined the history of a people who came to Louisiana in search of a better way of life, they failed to put faces on this community, to show who these people really are, their traditions and how they live.
She and her husband, a documentary photographer who works for international press agencies, began their project by calling the Los Islenos Museum and Cultural Center in St. Bernard, which put them in touch with people in the community.
The couple began traveling to Louisiana to meet the Canarians here and earn their trust.
“The books talked about them as poor people, but when I talked to them, they talked about what rich lives they had,” Nuez said. “They talked about how they grew up on the bayous and hunting with their parents and the food they ate and the community they lived in. And today they work in all professions.”
She said the people they’ve met here “have become family to us.”
Nuez and Martel titled their project “CISLANDERUS,” a word that combines the cultures of Canary Islanders and the United States.
The bilingual exhibition includes large-scale projections, prints on fabric, immersive education space and a 16-foot panel on the history of the people, their landmarks and their names.
Also included are a traditional boat, trapping and hunting tools, the original baptismal record of the decedents of the Los Isleños community in St. Bernard Parish and artifacts uncovered by the LSU Department of Archaeology’s dig at the early Galveztown settlement.
For more information, visit cislanderus. com.
CISLANDERUS: Canary Islanders in the United States, Canarian Descendants of Louisiana’
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sundays. Through March 17.
WHERE: Capitol Park Museum, 660 N. Fourth St.
ADMISSION: $7; $6, students, seniors, active military. Free for age 6 and younger. Groups of 15 or more with reservations get a 20% discount.
INFORMATION: (225) 342-5428 or louisianastatemuseum.org/museum/capitol-park-museum
Misconceptions or “legends and myths of tourism” of the Canary Islands
Misconceptions or “legends and myths of tourism” of the Canary Islands
In various guidebooks and on sites about the Canary Islands in Russian (and not only) languages, there are often “facts” that have appeared out of nowhere, which have already become tourist “legends and myths”. Here, for example, from what I remember:
Once the Teide volcano was much higher, about 5000 m. However, in 1706, as a result of a strong eruption, the top of the volcano collapsed, and it “shortened” to 3718 m.
Actually , Las Canadas collapsed and formed a caldera 150-200 thousand years ago, not 150-200 years ago. There was another volcano later – Las Canadas II, which also collapsed. It was next to the modern summit of Guajara. Modern Teide is also called Las Canadas IV (there was also III in the Diego Hernandez area). That is, the top of the volcano (but not Teide) really was about 5000 m high and collapsed, but not in the 18th century, but 150-200 thousand years ago.
The island owes its name to the Volcano. Tenerife (“snow mountain”) – that’s what the Guanches, the ancient inhabitants of the Canary Islands, called it hundreds of years ago. nine0016
Actually , the Guanches called the volcano the word Echeyde, which means “hell”. Echeyde eventually evolved into the “Spanish” Teide. The Guanches called the island Achinet, and the modern name Tenerife was given to the island by the Spaniards, who arrived from La Palma, which they conquered earlier. On the island of La Palma, the Spaniards have already become acquainted with the words of the natives Tene (mountain) and ife (white). The natives on all the islands were called differently and spoke different languages. The original inhabitants of La Palma were not called guanches, but benehaoritas. nine0005
Garajonay Park and the legend of Gara and Honai. The full version is here, for example: http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garajonay . In short, this is about the love of the “Guanches” – Princess Gara from the island of Gomera and Prince Jonay from Tenerife, who fell in love with each other, but could not be together and committed suicide on the mountain. The Garajonay was named after this couple.
In fact, , it is hard to imagine how the young man Honay sailed from Tenerife to Homera and back, because he had to swim about 30 kilometers each time and overcome strong ocean currents, and this is very difficult to do even under sail. By the time of the appearance of Europeans, the islands were long and reliably isolated, and the different peoples who inhabited the islands did not know how to build any kind of swimming facilities. However, let this tale remain on the conscience of those who first told it. nine0005
Fred Olsen – “man and boat”. Commonly cited as Heyerdahl’s friend who financed FERCO (known from the Guimar pyramids).
Actually , there is some confusion here. Fred company. Olsen was owned at various times by different people named Fred Olsen, but Heyerdahl mentioned other people from this company. At the same time, Fred. Olsen did fund many of Heyerdahl’s endeavours, including sailing on the Kon-Tiki raft and founding the Foundation for Exploration & Research on Cultural Origins (FERCO). nine0005
In order to climb the Mount Teide, you need to get a special permit.
Actually , it depends on when and how to climb to the top. I saw one path closed with a chain and a watchman checking permits, but this is during the day. And you can climb not only along this path, and it is most interesting to do it at dawn or in the evening, when the Teide is not guarded at all, and no permits are needed. But when and how to climb, and whether to get permission is a personal matter for everyone. The locals treat everyone who treats the island well. nine0005
The Canaries are sun, sea, golden sand and palm trees
In fact, , there are no jungles on the islands, and golden sand with palm trees are found only in places (golden sand is either imported or brought by the wind from Africa), the ocean is a little “prickly” and nothing like the Caribbean, and the sun is often obscured by clouds. All the charm of the islands is different, and everyone finds his own here.
The Auditorio de Tenerife in Santa Cruz de Tenerife was designed by Leonardo da Vinci. nine0016
Actually , this building was created by the architect, artist and engineer Santiago Calatrava.
What misconceptions and facts do you know?
P.S. I do not provide links to guidebooks and tourist sites in order to avoid advertising and anti-advertising. The language and history of the peoples who once inhabited the Canary Islands are almost but not completely lost, so I used the names and spelling of words that can be found a lot of interesting information in Spanish and other languages. nine0005
Update after comments on what was written
The tower is notable for the fact that in 1492 Christopher Columbus met his mistress Beatrice de Bobadilla, the ruler of Homera, a very attractive lady.
Actually , this belated gossip about Columbus’s personal life is actually found in some guidebooks on Homer’s island in Russian. I did not meet her in Spanish sources, but I did not specifically look for her, so I cannot name the author. What was actually there, and what was not, no one will tell. Columbus had many objective reasons for starting his voyage from Homera and stopping on this island, but I don’t think that lust was such a reason. By the way, here is Homera’s website (the language is Spanish and the page about Columbus, but nothing about love)
To climb the Teide “you can forget about the rules and climb somewhere or give the guard a good treat. .Or sneak through at night”
. The rules for tourists are quite soft, and none of the above needs to be done. Information is available to everyone, but not everyone wants to receive it. Yesterday’s “shuttles” of the former USSR, forever stuck in the past, can still be found in the Canary Islands. nine0005
Sometimes there are quite amazing people among tourists. It seems that they are not banned on Google, and they are trained in languages, but with a “scoop” at the ready they rush to defend their right not to know.
The indigenous inhabitants of Tenerife and other islands of the Canary archipelago are the Guanches. The origin of this people is shrouded in mystery, there are several versions of their origin, but none of them has been proven. They were tall, fair-skinned, fair-haired and had blue eyes. nine0005
The name of the tribe “Guanches” in translation means “children of the volcano”. Ancient legends of Tenerife tell how people came out of the depths of the fire-breathing mountain and settled on the island. The Guanches lived in caves specially carved into the rocks, were engaged in agriculture, cattle breeding and hunting. Brides weighing more than 100 kilograms were especially successful among the men of the tribe; it was not easy for more slender women to find a husband. Each island was inhabited by several tribes, headed by the leaders of the Mensei. nine0005
The Europeans who arrived on the island were amazed at the way the natives communicated, who could perfectly understand each other by soundlessly moving their lips, and at a distance transmitted information with the help of a whistle. Like the Egyptians, the Guanches mummified their dead, and then placed them in special caves located next to the dwellings.
The end of the prosperity of the Guanches tribes was put in 1360, when the Spaniards landed on one of the islands of the archipelago, sailing here on two ships. This invasion was followed by many others, and in a war that lasted over 130 years, the Spaniards subjugated the local tribes, selling many captives into slavery. The island of Tenerife was the last to fall, and, according to eyewitnesses, the Guanches who survived the battle with the Spanish troops preferred to commit suicide by throwing themselves into the abyss and thus avoiding capture. The few natives who remained on the island soon died of an unknown disease. nine0005
The conquest of the Canary Islands is an important stage in the history of Tenerife
Europeans have played an important role in the history of Tenerife. The Genoese were the first to land on Tenerife, they sailed to Tenerife in the 14th century, a little later the Portuguese and Spaniards appeared here.
The modern history of Tenerife began with the conquest of the Canary Islands by the Spanish conquistadors in the 15th century. But the arrival of Europeans, who played such a significant role in the history of Tenerife, occurred much earlier. nine0005
In 1344, the Pope gave the Canary Islands to Prince Luis de la Seda, along with the royal title, but he never visited his domain. after him, the next king in the history of Tenerife was a native of Normandy, Robert de Bracomont, but he never set foot on the land of the Canaries.
Difficult times in the history of Tenerife came in 1402, when the title of king passed to Jean de Betancourt, he, together with the Castilian Gadifer de la Salle, took Lancerot from Castile and ensured that Henry III of Castile recognized him as the sole ruler of the Canary Islands. nine0005
Three years later he captured the islands of El Hierro and Fuerteventura, but he failed to conquer De Palma and Gran Canaria. Homera was conquered in 1445, and Tenerife, the largest island of the archipelago, could not be conquered for another 50 years. The main defeat of the Guanches in the history of Tenerife occurred in 1496, when, after long and exhausting battles, they could not stand the pressure and surrendered the island. Then almost one and a half thousand Guanches threw themselves from high cliffs into the sea, and those who survived fell into slavery to the conquerors. nine0005
From that moment the history of Tenerife is closely connected with the Spaniards, after the abolition of slavery by the Pope, many of them, led by their leaders, converted to Christianity and their rapid assimilation began. Very quickly, almost nothing remained of the language and culture of the Guanches.
In the XVI-XVII centuries, the history of Tenerife is the settlement of the island by the Basques, Galicians and Andalusians, with whom the first vineyards appeared on the island and the production of Canarian wines began.
B 179In the year 7, the famous Captain Nelson attempted to conquer the Canary Islands, but was defeated. It was in this campaign that his arm was torn off by a cannonball.
The history of Tenerife, as an autonomous entity, began in the 19th century. In 1852, Tenerife received the status of a free port.