History of Lanzarote

Lanzarote history

The history  of Lanzarote and that of the Canary islands is full of myths and legends. Some writers even thought that these paradise islands in the limits of the "known world" had once been part of Atlantis, the lost continent.

The name of the Canaries comes from the Latin Canis for dogs, since sailors on the 1st century AD reported to have heard dogs in the islands.

Lanzarote was already inhabited before the arrival of the first European explorers.  The natives from the Canary islands are known as Guanches, an ancient local term meaning "man" that is used still today.

The Guanches first arrived to the Canaries around the 1st century BC possibly from Africa.  Guanches used to live and store food in caves which protected them from the heat in summer.

Arab sailors where the first foreigners to visit the island and Europeans arrived later around the 14th century. It was then when the Italian sailor Lanzarotto Marcello arrived to Lanzarote giving his name to the island.

With the arrival of Europeans Lanzarote become a port for slave trading. Later on the baron Jean de Béthencourt in the service of king Henry III of Castile conquered Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

The Canary islands have been an important bridge between the Old World and the New World, in fact Christopher  Columbus came to the islands during his expeditions to find the East Indies.  From then on the islands have kept their link with both the European and the American continents, being an important trade point between both.  Wine has been one of the main exports of the islands, since the black volcanic soil produces unique grapes used in Canarian wines. 
The Canaries became a popular trading point and this brought the attention of European governments who tried to control the islands. One of them was the famous Admiral Nelson who tried to conquer the islands for the British Empire without success.

In the 19th century Canarians became Spanish citizens and free trade was established between the islands and the rest of the Spanish territory.  Since the 20th century the Canaries have their own local governments called “Cabildos” and a tax free policy in some items.

An landmark in the history of Lanzarote takes place between 1730 and 1736 when the Timanfaya volcano erupted changing completely the landscape of the island and originating the idea of respect and cooperation with nature in the island.