The Essentials (XI): The Guanarteme Report

Idealized statue of Tenesor Semidán or Don Fernando Guanarteme by sculptor Juan Borges Linares, located at Gáldar, Gran Canaria (source: PROYECTO TARHA)

[…] He told them things of Castile and the Court and the great power of their Highnesses and that he did not recognize his lordship as worthy, nor those on this Island because that of their Highnesses was true […][1]Witness Alonso Hernández de Arévalo’s answer to the ninth question of the interrogation.

As we indicated in one of our Essentials, only three merit reports related to the conquest of the Canary Islands are preserved. This time we deal with the second of these important public documents: Don Fernando Guanarteme’s merit report, also known as the Guanarteme Report.

The last daughter

Fernando Guanarteme, with its variants, was the Christian name of the Grandcanarian leader that eighteenth century genealogist Brother Juan Suárez de Quintana identifies as Tenesor Semidan. Various sources and authors attribute to this chieftain the title of guadnarteme or guanarteme, rank of maximum level in the ancient indigenous social pyramid on Gran Canaria, although the legitimacy in the assumption of the charge by this person is object of controversy among historians. In any case, it is unquestionable that Fernando Guanarteme’s intervention was decisive for the success of the royal conquest of the islands of Gran Canaria, La Palma and Tenerife.

The document in question was opened in Gáldar (Gran Canaria) on May 10th, 1526 at the request of Doña Margarita Fernández Guanarteme and her husband, Miguel de Trejo Carvajal, declaring that she was the last living daughter of our protagonist and his universal heiress, as the other known daughter of the deceased Don Fernando, Catalina Fernandez Guanarteme, had died in Agüimes (Gran Canaria), probably a few days before. Margarita is the woman that Suárez de Quintana himself testifies to carry Guayarmina Semidan as her indigenous name, a fact probably referred to by ensign and historian Pedro Agustín del Castillo y Ruiz de Vergara. The writing of the file was carried out by notary Alonso de San Clemente.

Idealized representation of Guayarmina Semidan or Margarita Fernández Guanarteme pertaining to the monument The Three Princesses, a piece of work by sculptor Juan Borges Linares, at Gáldar, Gran Canaria (source: PROYECTO TARHA).

The interrogation

The nine witnesses presented by the interested party, being all of them men who had participated in the royal conquest, plus two additional witnesses whose statements are not preserved, were subjected to an interrogation composed of fifteen questions:

  1. Whether they know Doña Margarita Fernández de Guadnarteme and Don Fernando de Guadnarteme, her father, who was the King of this island.

  2. Whether they know Doña Margarita is a legitimate daughter of Don Fernando.

  3. Whether Don Fernando left Doña Margarita as universal heiress and that at present there is no other son, daughter or heir alive.

  4. Whether Don Fernando was the King and Lord (guadnarteme) of the island at the time of the Canarians.

  5. Whether during the conquest Don Fernando went to Castile and stayed at the Court from where he came as a Christian and conquered the Island because he promised Their Majesties so.

  6. Whether they know Don Fernando was conquering the rebellious Canarians by war and/or by his advice.

  7. Whether Don Fernando gave warnings to the captains of the conquest to make war to the rebellious Canarians and was there as a conqueror, putting his own life at risk.

  8. Whether Don Fernando was a major scout, esteemed by captains and conquerors.

  9. Whether Don Fernando was obeyed and feared by the Canarians, being a custom that they could neither hurt, kill or offend their King, and that they sent messengers night and day to the Royal Camp to be favored and communicated him their conspiracies to attack the Royal Camp and that he always revealed these plans to captains and conquerors.

  10. Whether they know the island is very uneven and rough to walk with many mountains and brambles and cliffs, where the Canarians could live long in rebellion, and that Don Fernando worked to attract the rebels.

  11. Whether after winning the Island, Don Fernando attracted to the service of the Monarchs certain Canarian knights and people raised in the roughest of the land.

  12. Whether Gran Canaria was the first land conquered by the Catholic Monarchs before the Kingdom of Granada.

  13. Whether Don Fernando went before the Catholic Monarchs to ask to be baptized, these being his godparents and the Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo, Pedro González de Mendoza.

  14. Whether Don Fernando spent some time in the Court and the Monarchs had him with them at their service with the Younger King of Granada.

  15. Whether by a royal document, the Monarchs sent Don Fernando to conquer Tenerife and La Palma along with the Adelantado, Captain Alonso de Lugo with 60 Canarian relatives where he spent most of his assets, and due to the efforts that he suffered in the conquest, when he was preparing his departure for the Court, he died of illness, poor and needy.

The responses of the witnesses are impregnated with dramatic dyes that undoubtedly seek to extol the performance of Fernando Guanarteme in favor of the invaders. However, there are statements that show that our character and his fighting men saved the conquering hosts from suffering at least two serious debacles, one on Ajodar (Gran Canaria), still settled with the death of contino Mikel de Muxica next to dozens of Basque crossbowmen who came to the campaign under his command, and another in La Laguna (Tenerife) where Adelantado Alonso Fernández de Lugo himself was about to lose his life.

The manuscript and its transcription

As usual in these cases, what is preserved is not the original document but a copy signed on February 12th, 1706 by notary José Rodríguez Ferrer at the request of Captain and Councilor of Gran Canaria, Blas Carvajal Aguilar y Quintana, in order that he could demonstrate his noble origins. This manuscript was part of the personal archive of Dr. Gregorio Chil y Naranjo, founder of El Museo Canario, where it is currently kept under catalogue number ES 35001 AMC/GCh-1825, although it is not available for its public download.

However, we have the transcript published by Dr. Chil and Naranjo himself in the third volume of his Historical, Climatological and Pathological Studies of the Canary Islands in 1891, a work that can be obtained free of charge from Memoria Digital de Canarias.

Let us note that, a few pages before the transcription, the Doctor and Historian from Telde also shows us the will of a certain Fernando Guanarteme, identified by some experts as a homonymous relative of the indigenous leader, although Dr. Chil y Naranjo himself confuse him in his presentation with the protagonist of this post. Without further ado, enjoy this most important testimony about our ancient history.

Antonio M. López Alonso



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