Las Palmas de Gran Canaria since 1478

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria has celebrated founding festivities since June 24, 1478.  The city, with more than five centuries of history, was at its birth a military camp, with the name “Real de Las Palmas” – from which began the conquest of Gran Canaria led by Juan Rejón, a captain of the Crown of Castile

The fierce all out war, against the aboriginal native Guanche-Canarios who were defending their island, lasted five years. The Canarios lacked sufficient means to defend themselves against the armies commanded by the Catholic Monarchs but even so, their resistance was prolonged, with many bloody battles and casualties. The official end of the conquest came in Spring of 1483, with the incorporation of the island into the Crown of Castile by Pedro de Vera, who succeeded in subjugating the Canario capital of Gáldar on the northwestern coast of the island.

Plaque commemorating the foundation of the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria by Juan Rejón. Ermita de San Antonio Abad, district of Vegueta, city de Las Palmas.

The 24th of June in 1478 has thus been the registered date of foundation for the capital of the island of Gran Canaria. In a short time, the city transformed from military stronghold to a merchant port town full of life. The little Hermitage of San Antonio Abad and the Museum of the House of Columbus, today stand at the site of the original military encampment and where the Castilians began gradually to settle.

El Real de Las Palmas, now called Barrio de Vegueta, was built on the southern bank of the Guiniguada ravine, the dividing line between the two kingdoms of Gran Canaria, Gáldar and Telde. It was the first marine urban centre of its kind, in Europe, and served as a template from which to create hundreds of colonial cities in America, from Patagonia to the United States.  Las Palmas, and The Canary Islands, served as the original model for administrative, agricultural and cultural transfer from the newly unified peninsular Kingdom of Castile to a conquered native population. It acted as the model for conquest in the soon to be discovered New World.

When the conquest of the island was officially concluded after five years, colonisation began with the distribution of land among Spanish settlers, the introduction of sugar cane and the manufacture of sugar destined for European markets, were their first major industries. It is this crop, thought to have been imported by Genoese merchants, that became the most important economic, demographic and urban development driver of the city.  The labour intensive crop saw also the rise of indentured and enslaved plantation workers, from here both trades were transplanted to the New World.

The growing town managed to make the jump to the other side of the Guiniguada and gave rise to the formation of Triana. This neighbourhood lay between the original port, San Telmo, and from its first beginnings was important for trade and commerce.

For centuries, Gran Canaria’s capital was limited to one zone or the other, behind walls that served for its defence in the face of the multitude of pirate attacks experienced throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.

In October 1595 Canarian militias repelled the onslaught of 27 ships led by  British corsairs John Hawkins and his nephew Francis Drake; In June 1599, the Dutch Vice-Admiral and Privateer, Pieter Van der Does, staged one of the most tragic invasions in the city’s history, with the looting and burning of the most representative buildings.

The Battle of El Batán Monte Lentiscal by Carlos Morón.

On the morning after the 121st founding day celebrations the residents of Real de Las Palmas awoke to an unusual spectacle: a huge fleet of 73 ships, thousands of men, under the Dutch flag were anchored in the Bay of La Luz.  Just 200 soldiers were stationed in the Las Palmas garrison, and though outnumbered by nearly 40 to 1, they valiantly resisted and laid down their lives to give the towns people enough time to escape into the hills.  The invaders were defeated in the famous battle of El Bátan, between Montelentiscal and the settlement of Santa Brigida, just two weeks later after native islanders united with the Castillian settlers in response to their call to “Hunt Dutch”.  At the time those peasants who remembered Hawkin’s and Drake’s attack four year’s earlier confused them with the new invaders erroneously crying “Vienen los Ingléses!” “The English are coming!”,  it is thought that this is why from then on any north European stranger becoming known as El Inglés to working Canarios.

The Cochineal industry and the construction of the new port in the nineteenth century brought to an end much of the impoverishment of previous centuries. The colonial settlement, by then extending to the bay of La Isleta, where the current Puerto de La Luz now is, having become, by then, an already influential tri-continental gateway, between Europe, Africa and the Americas, and whose British merchant-funded extension and reconstruction, in 1883, helped modernise the capital city.

By Matti Mattila – Las Palmas, CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1927, a Royal Decree from the infamous Miguel Primo de Rivera ended what was then known as the Province of the Canary Islands, giving birth to the two current provinces of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria became the capital of the latter, which integrated administratively the islands of Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

539th Foundational Celebration of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

See our article later this week regarding program highlights for the planned festivities

Friday 9 June
20:30 Pregón, the opening ceremony by Elena Acosta, director of the Casa de Colón Museum, followed by performances by Olga Cerpa and Mestisay, Omara Portuondo at Plaza de Santa Ana
11:00-02:00 3rd Edition of Gran Canaria Gastrofest.
Show Cooking, Cooking Contests, Tastings, Courses, Concerts, Restoration Area and Chill Out in the back of Parque Santa Catalina

Saturday 10 June
Music in the heart of Vegueta. Live music in the courtyards of the historic “downtown”.
Patio de Los Naranjos: Cuarteto Partiella
Patio casa regental: The Latonius
San Martín centro de la clutura contemporánea:Orquesta del Atlántico
Patio casa familia pinto: Natalia Machín
Patio casas consistoriales: Benabas
Patio Opispado: Súbito Koral
Patio fundación Mapfre: Hara Alonso y Kalma Visuals
Patio del colegio de Abogados: Grupo Nao
Patio fundación Negrín: Orquesta de Cámara de Gran Canaria
Casa de Colón: Yairi Rosas.
at 22:30 Concierto de “Pájaro” at Plaza de Santa Ana

11:00 – 02:00  Gran Canaria Gastrofest at the back of Parque Santa Catalina
Show Cooking, Cooking Contests, Tastings, Courses, Concerts, Restoration Area and Chill Out

Sunday 10 June
20:00 The Municipal Symphonic Music Band concert at Las Canteras beach (at Plaza Saulo Torón).
11:00 – 17:00 Gran Canaria Gastrofest at the back of Parque de Santa Catalina
Show Cooking, Cooking Contests, Tastings, Courses, Concerts, Restoration Area and Chill Out

Saturday 17 June
Canarian wrestling and traditional club fighting at Las Canteras beach (Saulo Torón).
10:00-13:00 Traditional Stick Fighting Championship
18:00 Foundational Fiestas
19:00 Canarian stick fighting workshops and traditional Canarian martial arts combat techniques
20:30  VI Cycle of concerts of historical organs of Gran Canaria. Recital by Joan Boronat in Chapel of San Telmo
21:00 9th edition of Nights of Boleros at Plaza de Santo Domingo

Friday 23 June
22:00 – 02:30 Night of San Juan in Las Canteras
Midsummer night Live Music at the Plaza de Sauo Torón with Viltown, Neo Pinto and Mondo Diávolo
and at 24:00 firework show from PLaza de La Puntilla 

Saturday 24 June 
17:00 Regatta Sailing Contest (between the tunnel of La Laja and the mouth of the Muelle Deportivo).