THE CANARY ISLANDS
THE CANARY ISLANDS FLAG
A great majority of Canarians don't like to hear somebody saying: "I just arrive from Spain" or "I'll fly tomorrow to Spain". The answer is "and where do you think you are?". If you are in the Canary Islands, you are in Spain, of course !. Therefore they call the part of Spain which is in the European mainland "the Peninsula" (for the Iberian Peninsula), and the mainland Spaniards are the "peninsulares". When they are arrogant or nasty the Canary Islanders call them "godos" -Gothics-, a pejorative nickname given in the 19th Century to Mainland Spaniards who tried to impress Canarians and acted in the presumption that they were members of the old Castilian aristocracy and direct descendants from the Gothic Kings of the 6th and 7th Centuries.
Many think that the islands received their name from the canary birds. But it is just the contrary. All breeds of canary bird existing in the world descend from the wild canary bird, "serinus canarius", still living and singing in the islands' fields and forests. The wild canary is brown, with some green and yellow shades. The Spaniards caught some of them after the conquest, during the 15th century, and this little singer became -in hundreds of colourful different breeds- a fashionable pet throughout the world.
Roman naturalist Plinius wrote that Juba, King of Mauritania and vassal of Rome in the Ist century B.C., sent an expedition to explore the mythical Fortunate Islands which were in the Dark Ocean beyond the Columns of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar). They gave name to some of these islands. One they called "Nivaria" for the snow covering its mountains (nivea=snow, in latin) -the island of Tenerife. Other was called "Herbania" (herba=grass, in latin) for the meadows they found there. A third one was named "Junonia" for the many doves they saw; the dove was the bird dedicated to goddess Juno. And one of the islands, in which they found a fierce breed of dogs (can, canis in latin), was called "Canaria"...
Regardless of what Plinius wrote in the I century a.C., the fact is that the island called today Gran Canaria was inhabited by a tribe who called themselves the "canarii". The islands were called "Fortunate Islands" or "Islands of Fortune". During the 15th century, the island of Canaria became famous for the brave defense deployed by their natives against the landings of the conquistadores. They started to call all islands "the Islands of Canaria", from which they were later called "Canary Islands" (Canarias, in Spanish).
The legendary *canes* (dogs) of the Canaries are the emblematic figures who held the coat of arms in the official Seal of the islands. Their bronze statues are to be seen in Santa Ana square, between the Cathedral and the City Hall, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
The language of the Canaries is Spanish (Castilian), but their accent is more like
the Spanish spoken in the Caribbean; Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and not like the
Spanish spoken in Mainland Spain. They have not just the accent, but also a lot of words
which are a living proof of the many links established through emigration between the
islands and the Caribbean nations. A bus is a "guagua" -autobús in standard
Spanish-, a silly guy is a "guanajo" -tonto in standard Spanish-, and so on...
The Canary Islands and the Lost Continent of Atlantis
For centuries, even after the Spanish conquest, it was believed that the islands were the uppermost peaks of the lost continent of Atlantis of which Plato wrote in his "Timeos and Critias".
Atlantis was a big island, "larger than Libya and Asia together", located beyond the Columns of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar). It was the dominion of Poseidon, god of the Sea, and it was inhabited by the Atlants, descendants of its first king Atlas, son of the god and a mortal women.
Atlantis was immensely wealthy and the Atlants were the most advanced people of the world. In the center of the continent raised the great capital town with the Palace and the Temple of Poseidon. Its scientists transmitted their skills and civilization knowledges to other peoples, with whom they maintained peace.
Atlants observed their laws of justice, generosity and peace for many generations. But in time they degenerated and became greedy and warlike. Others add that they discovered the secrets of the gods, secrets of cosmic energies and forces which could destroy mankind.
About 11,500 years ago Zeus, king of the gods, punished the Atlants. In the course of a single night volcanoes and tidal waves destroyed the big island in a disaster of cosmic proportions.
According to the legend, only the islands of Azores, Madeira, Canaries and Cape
Verde remain from Atlantis. These were the lost continent's highest summits. But its
palaces and temples are still to be found in the bottom of the sea, a sea which took its
name from Atlantis: the Atlantic Ocean.
The Canary Islands are obviously by their name not part of mainland Spain. But, unlike the Balaeric Islands they are actually a good distance from Spain. Follow the link to see where the Canary Islands are located. Location
Population and Area
Follow the link to obtain information about the relative size and population of the Canary Islands. Population and Area
Volcanos and the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands form a volcanic archipelago. Volcanoes have formed
the islands, thrusting them up from the floor of the sea, "raising them right up to
the heavens" in the words of popular lore and folk songs. Between the islands, marine
trenches descend to depths of under 10,000 feet, and the mountains of the Canaries on
several islands rise to more than 6,500 feet above the sea level! Towering above them all,
the giant of volcanoes, the Teide on the island of Tenerife, is the highest point on
Spanish territory at 12,198 feet above sea level. Read
about a volcano on La Palma in 1971.
The original inhabitants of the Canary Islands were the Guanches. Read more about them by following this link: The Guanches
The Canary Islands have two capitals, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The President of the Canaries must alternate his official seat between the Cities each four years.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
pop. 203,787 (1996)
pop. 355,563 (1996)
Unless otherwise credited, all materials on the Canary Islands
The Canary Balcony
Used with permission