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The original inhabitants of the Canary Islands are the Guanches. The Guanches are believed to have been around 3000 BC. settled in the Canary Islands from North Africa, especially Tenerife. The external characteristics of the Guanches are also found in North African Berber tribes. The first islanders were herders and fishermen who also used primitive farming methods.

Miniature of a Guanche village in TenerifeMiniature of a Guanche village in TenerifePhoto: R Libau CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

At the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, the Guanches of Tenerife were divided into nine "menceynatos", led by kings, the so-called "menceys". The king was advised by a council of old men, the "tagoror", who, among other things, chose the mencey. Tenerife society was divided into three groups: the "achimency", descendants of the king, the lower nobility or "cichiciquitzo", and the peasants or "achicaxna".

The language of the Guanches consisted of different dialects because the inhabitants of the various islands had little contact with each other. The Guanches mixed with the Spanish conquerors at the end of the 15th century, causing the Guanche language to become extinct in the 17th century. The descendants of these two groups were the ancestors of the current population.

The population was further mixed with the arrival of North African slaves who worked the sugar cane plantations. Later Portuguese and Majorcan Jews were added.

Some figures

About 1.5 million people live on all the Canary Islands together. Tenerife has approx. 891.11 inhabitants (2017) and has a population density of approx. 440 inhabitants per km2. The indigenous people, mainly fishermen and farmers, are called the Tinerfeños. Throughout the year a stream of tourists comes to Tenerife as temporary residents.

Tourists TenerifeTourists TenerifePhoto: Foxbasealpha at English Wikipedia in the public domain

Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the largest city in Tenerife with approximately 204,000 inhabitants.


Gruschwitz, B.F. / Canarische Eilanden
Het Spectrum

Klöcker, H. / Tenerife
Zuidnederlandse Uitgeverij

Krause, D. / Tenerife

Nowaczyk, D. / Tenerife
Van Reemst

Rokebrand, R. / Reishandboek Tenerife

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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