Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Seven Partidas

Alfonso X de Castilla

King Alfonso X of Castile depicted in a miniature included in the Cantigas de Santa María (source: Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes).

Barely having any relationship with the history of the Canary Islands, we could say today we are sneaking an intruder into this project. Not without a good reason, of course.

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The 520 splendours of the Moon

Indigenous pitcher found at Agüimes (Gran Canaria), kept at El Museo Canario, catalogue number 260, featuring two shapes presumably depicting a sun and a solar eclipse (source: El Museo Canario).

To the Canarian historiography the legendary episode of the raid over the indigenous village of Agaldar (Gran Canaria) by Portuguese captain Diogo da Silva de Meneses is a well-known one.

After landing under cover of the night, the Luso-Castilian expedition, composed of about two hundred troops, tried unsuccessfully to raze the islander village at dawn getting trapped in turn by a threefold contingent of fighting men. Sieged inside a large facility surrounded by high walls of dry stone, the invaders remained locked there for two days and one night until the Guanarteme -chieftain- of Agaldar, uncle of the future Fernando Guanarteme, agreed to parley with Diogo da Silva. Chronicles tell that after berating the Portuguese his audacity and contravening the desire of his own warriors to end the lives of all the besieged, the indigenous leader pretended to fall into the hands of the Europeans to facilitate their release, who as a result of this supposedly pious act began to name him Guanarteme the Good.

But here we are not interested in describing the different versions of this story, from the shortest, most sober offered in the Cronica Ovetensis[1]MORALES (1978), pp. 116-119. to the novelistic rewriting by Leonardo Torriani,[2]TORRIANI (1959), pp. 120-126 but to draw attention to a curious datum provided by this Cremonese engineer in the baroque speech he makes the islander leader pronounce. This particular passage is as follows:

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The Essentials (VI): History of Our Lady of Candelaria

Front cover of History of Our Lady of Candelaria (source: Memoria Digital de Canarias).

This is what on the customs of the natives, with great difficulty and labor, I have could acquire and understand; for them old guanches are so shortsighted and crouched that if they know them, they do not want to tell about them, thinking that divulging them is to lessen their nation.

Brother Alonso de Espinosa (On the origin and miracles of the Holy Statue of Our Lady of Candelaria […] (1594), Book I, Chapter IX – This translation by PROYECTO TARHA) 

In the absence of a chronicle specific to the conquest of Tenerife, the work of the Dominican friar Alonso de Espinosa (Alcalá de Henares, 1543 – c. 1600)  can be regarded as the first written history on the island of Mount Teide, as well as the second book went to press devoted to the Canary Islands.[3]The first printed book dealing with the Archipelago dates back to 1583 and is titled A Pleasant Description of the Fortunate Ilandes, being its author the English merchantman Thomas Nichols.

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