HISTORY OF LANZAROTE
Many have searched the Canary Islands for the remnants of the legendary Atlantis, that great civilization that, according to Classical mythology, dared to challenge the Gods through their advanced development.
To uncover the history of Lanzarote, it is necessary to know the history of its people, of its customs and of its art.
Furthermore, we should not forget that the people of Lanzarote have known how to take advantage of their arid lands, and the cultivation of the grape is also part of their history. We recommend exploring the Gastronomy and the Wines of Lanzarote.
- In Antiquity
- XV-XX Centuries
The history of Lanzarote arises from a combination of cultures and races in a constant struggle to overcome the obstacles of island remoteness and the scarcity of water suffered by the island.
Already known in Antiquity to Phoenicians and Romans, Lanzarote was inhabited by people of Berber decent for at least two thousand years. These inhabitants, known as Majos, subsisted with pastoral practices, fishing and very limited agriculture.
Towards the end of the Middle Ages, Genoese and Castillian sailors visited, until the Norman Jean de Béthencourt, under orders from the Spanish Crown, started a process of conquest of the entire archipelago from the south of Lanzarote.
In a geographically strategic position, and incorporated into the vast Spanish Empire of the time, the Canary Islands not only became a key location for the incessant cultural and commercial traffic with the new lands of America, but also increased its relationship with European countries such as Portugal, England and France.
Lanzarote, meanwhile, was consolidated as a feudal society and a timid period of growth began, marked by turbulence caused by the fragile economy and frequent pirate attacks.
The modern history of Lanzarote experienced a momentous change in 1730, when a period of violent volcanic eruptions started, which transformed the island and, although they at first provoked reactions of terror, soon became a source of prosperity.
The island’s inhabitants, sharpened by centuries of struggle to survive, created a model of agriculture that is unique to this part of the world, making use of the volcanic ash that dominates the island’s landscape. This method of cultivation allows for greater productivity and so they achieved an increase in exports. However, the development of the island during these last centuries has been marked by a combination of positive economic cycles (thanks to crops such as orcein and cochineal) and critical periods of acute drought, famine and emigration.
The traditional precarious nature of Lanzarote sees the start of a radical metamorphosis in the second half of the 20th century. This economic take off coincides with the profound political and social changes that the society of the Canary Islands and Spain had experienced in the last thirty years.
This was at first thanks to the engines of a fishing industry able to exploit the marine wealth off the coast of the Sahara, but just as this source of income began to fall, the island started its spectacular tourist development that had the good fortune to follow the model suggested by César Manrique.
The artist led a series of aesthetic actions in unique natural enclaves, combining the power of architecture with respect for the environment. With this, Lanzarote – now a top class tourism destination – not only offers a privileged climate all year round, but it has also managed to highlight all its environmental and cultural heritage. The island features an extraordinary landscape which features all that man and nature have left recorded on the land during the previous centuries.
- 1st millennium BC, first arrival of humans to Lanzarote.
- 1312, first confirmed visit of a European: Lancelotto Malocello. It is likely that Lanzarote owes its name to this Genoese explorer. He stayed for approximately two decades.
- 1402, arrival of Jean de Béthencourt, the Baron of La Grainville, and Gadifer de La Salle, a knight and crusader. These noblemen were received by Guardafía, the King of Lanzarote, and agreed a treaty of friendship and non-aggression.
- 1407, Maciot de Béthencourt, became the first Governor of Lanzarote by order of his uncle, the Baron. He married Princess Teguise of Lanzarote. The origin of all the different branches of Bethencourt, Betancort and Betancor in Lanzarote, the Canary Islands and America can be traced back to them.
- 1584, Agustín de Herrera y Rojas is named 1st Marquis of Lanzarote by King Philip II. He was the prototype of a noble of his time, and stood out for his daring and courage from a very young age.
- 1616, Sir Walter Raleigh attacks Lanzarote, one of many piratical attacks that the island and the archipelago suffered during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
- 1730-1736, first recorded volcanic eruptions. These gave rise to the current appearance of the island, turning Lanzarote into a legendary place.
- 1852, Arrecife becomes capital of Lanzarote. Under the Law of Free Ports of 10th August, Teguise is no longer the economic and political centre of the island.
- 1982, César Manrique created the Foundation that bears his name. Queen Sofía is named the Honorary President. The Foundation becomes a cultural benchmark for the entire archipelago.