History of Tenerife, Spain: Post-Conquest

tenerife landscape

Following the conquest and the early years following the Canary Islands' incorporation into the Spanish kingdom, the monarchy imposed a new economic model based on single-crop plantations. Sugar cane and wine production became two of the most lucrative industries and complemented the wealth provided by its strategic trade route location. Merchants, fishermen, missionaries and conquerors constantly roamed the new towns' streets created a lively atmosphere that the island conserves to this day.

Aside from the pirates, the first signs of trouble hit Tenerife in the 18th and 19th centuries. Failed crops put a dent in the agricultural sector, and the economic crises in the Spanish empire certainly didn't help. As Spain's American colonies began to gain independence in the 19th century, Spain plunged into a constantly worsening economic recession. Tenerife's saving grace during this time was a new crop called cochineal, which can be credited with saving the island's economy. In the early 20th century yet another crop was introduced to Tenerife: the banana plantation. To this day, the north of the island is full of lush banana plantations.

Ironically enough, the darkest period of 20th century Spain began in the sunny Canary Islands. Francisco Franco travelled to the islands as General Commander of the Spanish military in the zone. However, in 1936, the soon-to-be-dictator launched a military uprising and quickly took control of the islands. He then went on to orchestrate the three year Spanish Civil War, establish a Fascist regime in Spain and finally become the country's dictator for 35 years. While the islands never saw a proper war with gunshots, deaths and heroic tales, the post-war repression in the Canary Islands was among the most severe in all of Spain.

Opposition to Franco's regime began to pop up in the islands during the 1950's with the formation of various Communist, leftist and pro-independence groups. Franco's 1975 death restored democracy to Spain with the institution of a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. Just a few years later, in 1982, the Canary Islands were granted status as one of Spain's 17 autonomous communities.