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State structure

In 1821, the Canary Islands became a province of Spain with Santa Cruz de Tenerife as its capital. Since 1927, the archipelago has been divided into two provinces: Santa Cruz de Tenerife with the four western islands of Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, also called "Canarias Occidennales".

The province of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria consists of the three eastern islands of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, also called "Canarias Orientales".

Since 1983, the two provinces have been united in the Autonomous Region of the Canary Islands or 'Comunidad Autónoma de Canarias'. The Canary Islands are then granted limited autonomous status and a regional constitution. The parliament has sixty members, equally divided between both provinces. The Canarian Parliament includes 15 members from Gran Canaria, 15 from Tenerife, 8 from La Palma, 8 from Lanzarote, 7 from Fuerteventura, 4 from La Gomera and 3 from El Hierro.

The civil administration of the island is based in the capital San Sebastián de La Gomera and La Gomera, like all the other islands, has an island council, the 'Cabildo Insular'.

The Canary Islands are represented in the Spanish Parliament with 14 of the 350 seats and in the Senate with 11 of the 255 seats. Each island is divided into municipalities ('municipios') headed by a mayor ('alcalde') who sits in the 'ayuntamiento', the town hall. In total there are 77 municipalities; Tenerife has the most with 31 municipalities, El Hierro the least with 2, La Gomera has 6. For the current political situation in Spain see chapter history.


All children have compulsory education between the ages of 6 and 16, but many attend school from the age of two. They are taught from half past eight until two in the afternoon.

For the small children, school is finished then; the older children have a few more hours of lessons after the siesta.

Most children attend school for free, but there are also parents who take their children to a Catholic public school.

Typical for the Canary Islands


Lucha Canaria is a Canarian 'Guanche' wrestling sport practised only in these islands. Twelve wrestlers ('luchadores') from two teams compete in pairs in a circle (15 metres in diameter) delimited by sawdust. The aim is to bring the opponent to the ground within three minutes, using 43 prescribed holds. The loser is the person who has touched the ground twice with a part of his body other than his feet. Whoever wins two out of three matches wins.


Gofio is the oldest surviving staple food of the Canarian primitive people. This highly perishable dish consisted of flour made from barley grains, but nowadays only from maize. Gofio is still sold in supermarkets, but is not so common on the menu in traditional restaurants.


Evers, K. / Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote

Reisenegger, V. / Lanzarote

Scialdone, V. / Lanzarote

Weniger, S. / Lanzarote
Van Reemst

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated March 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info