The island

The first inhabitants of Lanzarote came from North Africa and settled in the island around 500 BC

In 1402, Jean de Bethencourt began the process of the conquest of the Canary Islands.

The opening of Lanzarote towards tourism in the second half of the twentieth century had a profound depth thanks to the ideas and projects by local artist César Manrique.

History & culture

The majos, from North Africa, settled in Lanzarote around 500 BC. C. Its agricultural and livestock led them to raise villages in the center of the island.They were monotheistic and complemented the cultivation of land with fishing and shellfishing.

Lanzarote owes its name to the Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello, who rediscovered in the early fourteenth century. The majos suffered the Castilian and Portuguese expeditions seeking slaves, skins and dyes.

Norman Jean de Bethencourt and Gadifer de la Salle began the process of conquest of the Canary Islands Lanzarote in 1402. Henry III of Castile gives the lordship of the island Bethencourt. Turning the island into a feudal lordship.

Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, the island lived fruitful seasons (barrilla cultivation or cochineal) and convulsive stages (droughts and eruption of Timanfaya).Paradoxically, the tragedy of vomiting lava has brought the most powerful transformation of Lanzarote: opening to tourism.

Since the mid-twentieth century, the island was settled as a holiday destination. His reputation was essentially due to Lanzarote artist César Manrique, who managed to differentiate the tourism model settling in nature and art.

The history of Lanzarote and its inhabitants is a story of struggle for survival against a natural setting ungifted in resources, which over time has led to their advantage.

From prehistory to the Conquest

The first inhabitants of the island, apparently Maho or majos called themselves, came from North Africa and arrived around 500 BC They maintained an economy based on agriculture and livestock economy, supplemented with shellfish and fishing. These economic sectors have been preserved to barely half a century ago. The nice people settled in villages, mainly concentrated in the central area of ??the island (known as the Jable): there Zonzamas deposit or the Great Village (today Teguise) is located.

Grabado de la expedición de Jean de Bethencourt para la conquista de Canarias, que se inició por Lanzarote (1402)

According to chronicles, the majos were monotheists with the widespread worship of the sun and moon, as well as some natural elements relevant to them. The island was named after the Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello, who rediscovered in the early fourteenth century and opened an era of raids and Castilian and Portuguese expeditions in search of slaves, skins and dyes.

When in 1402 the Norman Jean de Bethencourt and Gadifer de la Salle reached the island, they found a declining population. This circumstance facilitated his conquest.Henry III of Castile gives the lordship of the island Bethencourt. Lanzarote became a suzerainty. He spent the descendants of Bethencourt other Castilian lords, even for a short period of two years the island was under the control of the Portuguese, who were expelled by the inhabitants themselves.

Until the abolition of the manor, in the early nineteenth century, Lanzarote was under the dominion of the Lord, although this only lived in it during the first centuries.Because of limited resources and geographic proximity, the lords conducted raids on the African continent in search of Barbary slaves during the sixteenth century. This attitude turned against the island itself, as it was attacked three times by Berber pirates in 1569, in 1571 and 1586. However, the most serious attack occurred in 1618. In addition to significant material losses are An estimated one third of the population of Lanzarote was captured for ransom for her. During this period, the island maintained close contacts with Portuguese Atlantic isles, especially Madeira, erecting, along with Fuerteventura, in the barn of the archipelago.

The fire that transformed Lanzarote

The future of the island changed completely in September 1730. On that date, and for six years, the earth cracked and started spewing lava and other volcanic features that changed the landscape and Lanzarote's economy. The eruptions of Timanfaya covered several villages and fertile areas causing the emigration of the population.Also, I brought different periods of famine to destroy large productive spaces dedicated to the cultivation of cereals.

Valle de cenizas de La Geria decidado al cultivo de la vid

During the second half of the eighteenth century, the cultivation of barrilla which resulted in a period of economic expansion was introduced. The growth of the port of Arrecife is due in large part to this commercial boost. At the same time, it begins to put the lapilli ejected by volcanoes for growing grapes. The result of this transformation is the spectacular landscape of La Geria. The first island winery El Grifo began operating in 1775.

This period of growth slowed in the first half of the nineteenth century after the War of Independence. The crisis barrilla as an export unit cycles of droughts famines, and a new volcanic eruption in Timanfaya in 1824, entailed the forced emigration of many Lanzarote.

The introduction of cochineal as new export mid-nineteenth century and the enactment of Free Ports Act in 1852 allowed the island to grow back and enjoy a time of prosperity. Cochineal would be replaced a few decades later by canning and from fishing in the canary-sub-Saharan bank.

1960: César and new Lanzarote

From a series of milestones, the 1960s marked a new turn in the history of Lanzarote.The first occurred in 1965 when the first desalination plant in Europe is installed on the island. This freed the island's traditional dependence on rainfall for its supply, allowing its economy towards other productive sectors beyond agriculture.

The second milestone was in 1966 when the artist César Manrique conejero returns for final settlement on the island after his stay in New York. Along with then president of the Cabildo (Island Government), José Ramírez Cerdá, it is proposed to transform Lanzarote into a tourist destination with these principles: to value the landscape, the volcanic nature, traditional architecture and art. Today, we can say that these assets continue to shape the defining elements of the island.

La apertura de Lanzarote al turismo transformó la isla. La visión de César Manrique resultó vital de cara a distinguirla como destino vacacional

Since then, Lanzarote has turned into a tourist looking for something more than sun, beaches and great weather. A tourism where art and nature are coupled only way an itinerary of resorts that were building up throughout its territory. The Monumento al Campesino, the Mirador del Rio, Jameos del Agua, the International Art Museum of San Jose Castillo, the Visitor Center Timanfaya National Park, next to the Cueva de los Verdes and own house César Manrique constitute the backbone of the distinctive spaces that offer Lanzarote in the sixties and seventies.

This inertia art nature was the germ of sustainable tourism that made creditor title Island Biosphere Reserve. Unesco awarded this recognition in 1993. However, since the early nineties, began to appreciate some aspects of a development model, which has resulted in significant economic growth of the island at the expense of sustainability. The remarkable increase in population, especially attracted foreign tourism development, as well as mastery of services compared to other economic spheres sector has generated substantial changes in the hutch society. Today, Lanzarote is facing a major challenge: making decision on what future you have: one who has made a unique place in the world or another where you can lose the fundamental essences of the island and its inhabitants . The harmonization of economic development and sustainability of the natural environment are the two major challenges of this century for the island.

Note: This article was written by historian Alex Brito, who realizes the most important remains and milestones in the history of Lanzarote in his blog Rubicón (only spanish version).