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Category Archives for History

The Growth Of Tourism On Lanzarote

Like many other parts of Spain that today rely on tourism Lanzarote has undergone the most dramatic and rapid transformation since the advent of package holidays over the last 40 years. Resulting in a massive increase in population and a corresponding expansion in infrastructure. As even as recently as the 1970’s there was only one hotel on the island and little in the way of ‘proper’ roads.

Victorian Values

There were in fact a few intrepid British travellers touring the Canaries during the 19th century. As Britain’s empire and economic expansion created opportunities and interest in many new countries and outposts around the world.

British merchants for example were heavily involved in the trade of fruit and vegetables between the Canaries and the London dock of Canary Wharf and Gran Canaria become quite a base for these expats at that time. Even resulting in the founding of the islands first golf club! Gran Canaria also became home to the first real tourist hotel in the Canaries, the Santa Catalina, which opened in the 1890’s, providing recuperative spa style breaks.

Camel Train

 

Camel with English chair, Timanfaya, Lanzarote

The English Chair...still in use today

 

On Lanzarote these intrepid explorers traversed the terrain on camels, the local mode of transport back then. And their influence still lives on today as they were responsible for the creation of the English Chair, a wooden seat placed atop the camel’s back which helped to combat the chaffing of sensitive Victorian skins by the animals wiry hair.  This basic design is still in use today at the Timanfaya National Park.

Lanzarote´s First Airfield

The First and Second World Wars obviously put paid to international travel for many during the first half of the 20th century. Although we have the German air force to thank for the creation of Lanzarote’s first airstrip at Guacimeta (the site of today’s international airport) in 1941, where the first plane to land was a Junker.

Another remnant of the war years, General Franco, was also key in the creation of modern day tourism on the island as he pursued a policy of opening Spain up to tourism during the 1960´s and 70´s in order to generate much needed foreign currency for his exchequer.

VIP Visitors

As a result Lanzarote started to welcome a trickle of VIP visitors, many of whom were attracted to the island as a result of reading about the creations of César Manrique, whose Jameos del Agua really helped to put Lanzarote on the tourist map for the first time. The first hotel on the island – the Los Fariones – opened its doors for business in 1967 and still remains one of the most popular places to stay today.

Package Holiday Boom

As standards of living and disposable incomes in countries such as the UK and Germany began to improve this trickle soon became a flood and by 1977 around 90,000 tourists took flights to Lanzarote each year. This number then expanded exponentially during the 1980´s and 1990´s as air travel and overseas holidays became the norm. Turning Lanzarote into a mass market package holiday destination that at its high water mark was welcoming over 2 million visitors every year.

These figures have dropped away again since those days as competition from other destinations has increased but Lanzarote still remains a hugely popular holiday choice, especially amongst British tourists, who accounted for over 800,000 visits during the course of 2011 alone.

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What´s In A Name? – A Brief History of Lanzarote

 

Map of Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Old Map of Lanzarote

How did Lanzarote get it´s name?  Plenty of theories have been extended over the years, with some claiming that the island’s title is in fact derived from the Latin for broken lance – Lanza-rote. 

Italian Adventurers

However the truth is in fact much simpler, as the name is really derived from the discoverer of Lanzarote, a Genovese explorer called Lancelotto Malocello, who set sail from his home town in 1312 to search for two other native adventurers, Vandino and Ugolino Vivaldi – who had been trying to find a naval route to the spice islands and India.  Lanzarote first appeared on a ‘modern day´ map of Europe created by Angelino Dulcert in 1339 as the Insula de Lanzarotus Marocelus, or island of Lancelotto Malocello.

Birth Of The Slave Trade

Initially repulsed Malocello returned again from Lisbon in 1336 and this time he created a stronger foothold on behalf of the Spanish crown by overseeing construction of a small fort on Mount Gaunapay, the hill which sits above the former island capital of Teguise, now home to the Castillo de Santa Barbara.  This set the scene for further expeditions from Castille, which resulted in the creation of the slave trade in the islands.

Extinction of the Majo

Prior to this incursion the island was home to a native Stone Age race called the Majo, who were thought to be descended from African berbers, as at one stage Lanzarote was part of the African mainland.  There is also evidence to suggest that they were predated by the Phoenicians and Romans.

They were soon to become all but wiped out by further slaving expeditions, such as the one led by Jean de Bethencourt in 1402, who initially landed in the south of the island before establishing a base in Teguise, the first Spanish settlement in the Canaries which was also named after the last princess of the Majo race.  Bethencourt´s French buccaneers seized many Majo and in 1404 the Castilians arrived to finish off the job, eradicating what was left of these aboriginal inhabitants.

Pirates and Privateers

Lanzarote then became the base for the conquest of the other islands in the Canarian archipelago, falling under the control of Spanish nobility such as the Herrera family.  Who began importing more slaves from North Africa to their now almost entirely depopulated conquest.  This trade in turn ignited an enduring conflict with Moorish pirates who sought to control the North West African coastline, resulting in a series of bloody conflicts.  Whilst English privateers such as Raleigh and Drake also took a growing interest in the galleons shipping slaves and Inca silver and gold between the New World and the Old.

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