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Fuerteventura History

Fuerteventura's size is approx 52 x 12 miles with a population of approximately 60,000 - Second largest of the Canary Islands but least-densly populated, 100 km away from the Sahara.

The original inhabitants of the Canary Islands were the "Guanches". Carbon dating has placed the earliest settlement at around 200 BC. The Guanches origin, to this day, remains a mystery. Some historians believe them to be from Egyptian origins due to their methods of mummifying corpses. A few wonder if they were the decendents from the last survivors of the lost city of Atlantis, believed to be lost close to the islands. Others say the Vikings as a typical Guanche would have had tanned skin and been tall with fair hair and blue eyes. The Guanches were pastoral and worked the land. Their way of life was very basic - almost 'stoneage' - and the tools which they used were primitive. Wheels were unknown to them. The clay pots which they used were moulded by hand. Most were cave dwellers although a few of them did lay stones, one on top of the other, to form rudimentary houses.

In 1404, the neighbouring island of Lanzarote was conquered by Juan Bethencourt of Spain. In 1408 he went on to conquer Fuerteventura. He built a Hermitage, which today can still be seen and forms part of the Church of St.Mary in Betancuria, the original capital of Fuerteventura and named after the Spanish conqueror. By the mid 15th century, the locals lead an uprising against the Spanish, tired of being treated like slaves. This was thier last (and unsuccessful) attempt at regaining control of the island. However, in 1740 the English decided to try their luck and invade Fuerteventura but they were greeted and defeated in the battle "Tamasite" near the bay of Gran Tarajal. The English were so surprised by the ferocity of the poorly armed locals that they retreated in fear.

Really, little has changed or happened on the island until the 60s when Franco allowed tourism into the Canaries and Fuerteventura started getting ready for a boom which, whilst arriving in Tenerife and Gran Canaria in the 50s and 60s, didn't get to Fuerteventura until the 80s.

Today the island is split into 6 municipalities :- from the north down they are La Oliva, Puerto del Rosario, Betancuria, Antigua, Tuineje and Pajara. Tourism is by far the biggest industry on the island. Other industries include goat farming and cheese making, farming tomatos and fishing.





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