Short description

When the Europeans began to explore the islands in the late Middle Ages, they encountered several indigenous peoples living at a Neolithic level of technology. Although the prehistory of the settlement of the Canary Islands is still unclear, linguistic and genetic analyses seem to indicate that at least some of these inhabitants shared a common origin with the Berbers of Tamazgha.

In 1402, the Castilian conquest of the islands began. The natives of La Gomera, and of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and La Palma, resisted the Castilian invaders for almost a century. The Castilians finally dominated the islands, but due to the topography and the resistance of the native Guanches, they did not achieve complete control until 1495, when Tenerife and La Palma were finally subdued by Alonso Fernández de Lugo. After that, the Canaries were incorporated into the Kingdom of Castile.

After the conquest, the cities of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria became a stopping point for the Spanish conquerors, traders, and missionaries on their way to the New World. This trade route brought great prosperity to some of the social sectors of the islands. The islands became quite wealthy and soon were attracting merchants and adventurers from all over Europe.

Casa de Colón (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), which Christopher Columbus visited during his first trip.

During the 189h century, the sugar-based economy of the islands faced stiff competition from Spain’s American colonies. These economic difficulties spurred mass emigration, primarily to the Americas, during the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Between 1840 and 1890 as many as 40,000 Canary Islanders emigrated to Venezuela. Also, thousands of Canarians moved to Puerto Rico where the Spanish monarchy felt that Canarians would adapt to island life better than other immigrants from the mainland of Spain. Deeply entrenched traditions, such as the Mascaras Festival in the town of Hatillo, Puerto Rico, are an example of Canarian culture still preserved in Puerto Rico. Similarly, many thousands of Canarians emigrated to the shores of Cuba.

The Canary Islands are located in the Macaronesia region and have a volcanic composition and 7500 km2 of the 8 islands are populated. Thy islands count with many different habitats (and micro-climates), and are a global hot-spot of biodiversity (world top-25) with high endemism density:

  • 1 endemic species per 2 square kilometers of area.
  • 43% of the declared territory of the Biosphere Reserve
  • More than 17,000 terrestrial and marine species
  • Among the 15 bioclimatic regions richest in biodiversity on the planet.


  • Varied Subtropical Oceanic
  • 365 days of spring
  • 22ºC average annual temperature

The Canary Islands are considered “The best weather in the World” endorsed by the Department of Climatology of the University of Syracusa (USA), comparing more than 600 regions around the world for 3 consecutive years, last in 2016.

  • Population: 2,1 million people, younger than the Spanish and European average. High density: 270 h/km2. Very multicultural population;
  • Average growth rate over 3% (2014-2016);
  • Rate of unemployment: 22% (IIITr. 2017);
  • Unemployment under 25: 41%;
  • 44% of the population lives under the Spanish poverty threshold and is at risk of social exclusion;
  • More than 16 millions of visitors: 8 per inhabitant; 2.133 per square Km;
  • Approximately 450.000 tourism beds;
  • 34,3% regional GDP;
  • High presence of low paid, temporary employment.
Local Working group

Local Working group

The following partners are involved in the study of the Canary Islands: The following local stakeholders have declared their interest in participating in the local study of the Canary Islands in the frame of the Soclimpact project:...

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