Category Archives: Cultura colonial

The conquest of the Canary Islands in TV historical fiction: the cases of "Isabel" and "Conquistadores Adventum"

An idealization of a Canarian indigene according to lithographer A. de Saint-Aulaire, created to illustrate the first volume of the Histoire Naturelle des Iles Canaries, published in 1842 by botanist Philip Barker-Webb and ethnologist Sabin Berthelot (source: Archive.org).

The ancient history of the Canary Islands and, especially as best documented, the period that comprises the European conquest of the Archipelago have had little treatment in both historical novel genre as in cinematography, and almost invariably by the hand of either local authors or foreigners who have maintained some kind of relationship with the Islands, whether residential, sentimental or family.

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The Pact of Calatayud (3/3)

Northeast view of Gáldar Mountain, Gran Canaria. Was it by surprise or his own free will, in an unknown cave near the ancient indigenous capital Guanarteme Tenesor Semidan was captured by Castilians (source: PROYECTO TARHA).

In this third and last part of our series devoted to the so-called Pact of Calatayud we are dealing with one of the mysteries this event raises: the identity of the anonymous guanarteme who paid obedience to the Catholic Monarchs. Let us note that, for the moment, the lack of official documentary evidence –starting with the petition letter presented by the Grandcanarian embassy arrived to the Aragonese town in May 1481– makes it impossible at present to dispel such anonymity. However, in this post we present a list of four names we consider to be the most likely candidates to embody this enigmatic character.

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Mareta: the elusive origin of an imported word

Parque de la Mareta in 2016. This playground for the children was built upon the old Gran Mareta’s site at Teguise, Lanzarote (source: PROYECTO TARHA).

The Spanish we speak in the Canary Islands owes its exceptional wealth not only to the contributions of the different languages that make it up –fundamentally Castilian, Portuguese, French and Island Tamazight– but also to the preserving action that the relative physical isolation has given to the Archipelago for centuries, unfortunately put in danger in relatively recent times by a phenomenon that, in personal opinion, we tend to interpret as the result of a desire for recognition and modernity in some misunderstood ways.

It is precisely this preservation that has allowed the survival of numerous archaesms that have disappeared, in whole or in part, from their original languages and, as an example, today we want to offer a modest and brief study of a term closely linked to the field of island agriculture and society. We refer to the word mareta.

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The Essentials (X): The Accounts on the Conquest of Gran Canaria

In 1966, as a result of an investigation encouraged by Professor Antonio Rumeu de Armas, then doctoral student Miguel Ángel Ladero Quesada published in Anuario de Estudios Atlánticos the transcription of some surprising documents that shed new light on the royal conquest of the Canary Islands which at the same time raised new questions. This valuable information appeared in three expense accounts, a kind of document whose arid and routine nature does not invite to presage any interesting data. Nothing further from reality.

The first account, dated between 1481 and 1482, right in the middle of the conquest of Gran Canaria, was signed by Pedro de Arévalo, supplier of the conquering army. The second relation of expenses was signed by Juan de Frías, Governor of the Palace of Córdoba –not to be confused with his namesake Bishop of Rubicón–. Finally, the third account showed the rubric of Antonio de Arévalo, son of the former, designated payer of the Castilian hosts that participated in the War of Canaria after its ending.

Puerto de Las Nieves (Agaete, Gran Canaria) in 2015.  In the distance, Mount Amagro, a sacred place to the ancient Canarians. On the right, Roque de Las Nieves, known in the past as Antigafo, likely an indigenous toponym. The Tower of Agaete was built at the foot of this geological landmark between July and September of 1481 (source: PROYECTO TARHA).

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Tarha: new database on the Ancient History of the Canary Islands

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QOX4balxGE&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

On the verge of celebrating PROYECTO TARHA‘s first anniversary, we could not but celebrate publishing the first prototype of which we announced as one of …

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The solar eclipse of 1478

Visibility of the solar eclipse happened on July 29th, 1478. Yellow ovals determine the areas in which part of the eclipse took place below the horizon. The blue curve path “flies” over locations from where maximum occultation of the solar apparent surface could be observed (source: Xavier Jubier).

[…] They got into a fortress called the Ansita, which is in the parts of Tirajana. As the Governor knew it, he left with all the people on horseback and on foot that he could take, and went to the said fortress and surrounded it; and he had it surrounded in such a way they came to an agreement to save their lives and keep them from captivity and go to Castile, which were agreed. And the next day the faycán and the other Canarians came out of the fort, and brought them, and became Christians, on which day the Sun made a great eclipse, and afterwards it rained and a great wind blew; and over that island flew many birds that they had never seen before, which were cranes and storks and swallows, and many other birds they do not know their names.[1]MORALES (1978), p. 508. Translated and adapted from old Castilian by PROYECTO TARHA.

This curious passage, at the end of Chapter XXXVII in the Chronicle of the Catholic Monarchs written by Diego de Valera, shortly narrates the end of the conquest of Gran Canaria associating it with an astronomical phenomenon of undoubted transcendence for most of the ancient cultures: a total eclipse of the Sun.

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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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Canarian slaves at Valencia (A tribute to Vicenta Cortés Alonso)

Professor Vicenta Cortés Alonso in Colombia among some yagua indigenes in 1959 (source: Archivo Histórico Nacional – Archivo Vicenta Cortés).

As it has been repeatedly emphasized, the conquest of the Canaries is like the test tube in the first reaction between two elements that were to intermix very soon and in greater proportions as the large oceanic routes unfold: the European and the aboriginal, each with its own material and spiritual baggage.

Vicenta Cortés Alonso[2]CORTÉS (1955), p. 501. (This translation by PROYECTO TARHA)

Past the International Archives Day‘s celebration, we would like to pay a humble tribute to Professor Vicenta Cortés Alonso (Valencia, 1925), a tireless master of archivists, recalling one of her most significant work for the Canarian historiography: The conquest of the Canary Islands through the sales of slaves in Valencia.

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Diego García de Herrera's signature

Signature by Diego García de Herrera, consort Lord of the Isles of Canaria, in 1457 (source: Archivo Municipal de Burgos, catalogue number C3-3-16-27, fol. 5v.).

Studying public documentation is extremely useful when reconstructing historical events, since it provides us with an officially attested vision thereof. Unlike chronicles and histories, being these accounts written from the subjectivity of either an observer or, at most, a remote-in-time inquirer, public documents, being drafted by such a group of professionals in writing data down –scribes and notaries–, offer a direct testimony by those events’ main persons or at least by firsthand informants.

This is why in the course of our research we try to locate a larger quantity of public deeds, and although some of them are not directly related to the history of the Canary Islands, the possibility that these end up providing unknown, unnoticed or at least curious data always does exist. This is the case of the testament of Pedro García de Herrera, Marshal of Castile and father of the last consort Lord of the Isles of Canaria, Diego García de Herrera.

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The Essentials (IV): Description and History of the Kingdom of the Canary Islands

mapa-canarias-cancer

The notorious map of the Canary Islands related to the zodiacal sign of Cancer, by Engineer Leonardo Torriani in the late sixteenth century (source: Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra, catalogue number Ms. 314, folio 8r.)

In 1584, King Philip II of Spain commissioned one of his trusted technicians, Engineer Leonardo Torriani (Cremona, Duchy of Milan, c 1560 -. Coimbra, Kingdom of Portugal, 1628), to design and build a keep and a dock on the island of La Palma. This mission, which lasted about two years, was extended by re-hiring the Cremonese in 1587 to carry out a more ambitious project: the inspection of all defensive infrastructure of the Archipelago with the drafting of a comprehensive report on them including expansion and reform proposals.

His stay in the Archipelago lasted about twelve years, until 1596, during which he was provided with the opportunity to acquire a deeper insight on various aspects of its culture and history. Fortunately, in line with the prevailing Baroque style in Italian culture, Torriani decided that a simple technical report would be too arid for the monarch’s taste:

Having been ordered by Your Majesty, in past years, to make the description of the Canary Islands, I felt such small lands, detached from Africa and so lonely, by the smallness of the case, could not be more than scarcely welcomed by You. And so, finding in the monuments of letters how to embellish them, I determined myself to add the story and events that happened on them, until our times, with the views and drawings of their strongholds.[3]TORRIANI (1959), p. 1. This translation by PROYECTO TARHA.

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