The conquest of Tenerife

The Adelantado Alonso Fernández de Lugo began the conquest of Tenerife on 1 May 1494, after a series of failed attempts. By then, Tenerife was the only Island that remained unconquered after Fernández de Lugo succeeded in taking over Gran Canaria and La Palma. The Catholic Monarchs themselves encouraged the campaign, which went on for two years. It started with the Spaniards disembarking on the coast of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, close to the city's historic quarter. At the time, the Island was divided into nine kingdoms governed by Guanche Menceys, Four of whom made pacts with the conquistadors, whilst the others stood strong. The Castilian expedition comprised several hundred men, including Spaniards and Canarians from other islands, who together succeeded from the very beginning in reaching amicable agreements with the so-called peaceful realms: Güímar, Adeje, Abona and Anaga. Based in their camp in La Laguna de Aguere, which has since been known as the district of Gracia (meaning Grace), they conferred with the leader of the war realms, Bencomo. In response to the Adelantado's orders to surrender, Mencey Bencomo replied that he would be welcome as long he came in peace, but that he would otherwise have to leave the Island or prepare to fight.

Disregarding the Guanche king's advice, the Spaniards set out into the Valley of La Orotava in search of livestock. On their return, they were ambushed and defeated by the aborigines in the fight known as the Battle of the Acentejo Ravine. This forced the conquistadors to retreat to Gran Canaria, though they returned in 1495 and took claim of the Island by force, defeating the Guanche people in the battles of La Laguna and La Victoria de Acentejo. An epidemic of the plague had broken out among the Guanches, which significantly decreased their population. Finally, in February 1496, the Island of Tenerife fell under the Castilian Crown. Many of its inhabitants were turned into slaves, despite the fact that in 1434 Pope Eugene IV had banned the slave trade with the inhabitants of the Canary Islands. The last operations of the conquest were limited to quashing the scarce resistance that remained in Tenerife, capturing slaves and gathering livestock. In 1511, it was ordered that all Guanches who were being held prisoner be released.