Introduction to Tenerife

The island of Tenerife is the largest both in size and in population of the Canary Islands— the ones they named the bird after. It also attracts the most tourists, and has come to be one of the most popular vacation spots in the world, a place where people all over Europe go to spend their holidays. Besides its beaches, Tenerife features the volcano El Teide, a point higher than any in mainland Spain that also ranks as the third highest volcano in the world and now a UN World Heritage Site. (As a warning, the volcano is dormant but not extinct; it last erupted in 1909Tenerife also has a fascinating history. Before becoming part of Spain— an event that did not take place until after Columbus’s first voyage— the island was inhabited by a Berber people called the Guanches, who on their arrival in 200 B.C.E. were still living in caves and using only the most primitive tools. (It was these people who gave the island its name, which means white mountain in their language.) Over the two millennia that followed, they established a monarchy that ruled the island immediately prior to the Spanish conquest.

During the 1600s and 1700s, Tenerife was often the target of British, Dutch, French, and Berber pirates, most notably in the British invasion of 1797 led by the eminent Admiral Horatio Nelson, who lost his arm there. Robert Blake and Walter Raleigh also took part in attacks on the island.

In spite of these invasions, Tenerife prospered as a stopping point for many Spanish ships bound for the New World, who would increase their crew from the inhabitants. A group from Santa Cruz de Tenerife was instrumental in the foundation of St. Bernard Parish, in Louisiana.

Picture: josevandyk – Fotolia