Canary Islanders Article

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Canary Islanders
Total population
c. 1,614,596 [1] [2]
Regions with significant populations
  Canary Islands 1,547,611 (2009) [3] [4]
  SpainTotal unknown
Venezuela Venezuela42,671 [2] [5]
  Cuba40,602 [6]
Argentina Argentina2,390 [2]
  United Kingdom2,114 [7]
  Germany1,471 [7]
  Uruguay628 [7]
  Brazil620 [7]
  Puerto RicoTotal unknown [7]
  Dominican RepublicTotal unknown
Canarian Spanish
Roman Catholic (85%) [8]

Canary Islanders, or Canarians ( Spanish: canarios), are the inhabitants of the Canary Islands, an autonomous community of Spain near the coast of northwest Africa. The distinctive variety of the Spanish language spoken in the region is known as habla canaria (Canary speech) or the (dialecto) canario ( Canarian dialect). The Canarians, and their descendants, played a major role during the conquest, colonization, and eventual independence movements of various countries in Latin America. Their racial[ citation needed] and cultural presence is most palpable in the countries of Uruguay, Venezuela, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.


The original inhabitants of the Canary Islands are commonly known as Guanches (although this term in its strict sense only refers to the original inhabitants of Tenerife). They are believed to be either Berbers in origin or a related group.

The islands were conquered by Normans, Portuguese, and Castilians (mainly Andalusians) at the beginning of the 15th century. In 1402, they began to subdue and suppress the native Guanche population. The Guanches were initially enslaved and gradually absorbed by the Spanish colonizers.

After subsequent settlement by Spaniards and other European peoples, mainly Portuguese, the remaining Guanches were gradually diluted by the settlers and their culture largely vanished. Alonso Fernández de Lugo, conqueror of Tenerife and La Palma, oversaw extensive immigration to these islands during a short period from the late 1490s to the 1520s from mainland Europe, and immigrants included Galicians, Castilians, Portuguese, Italians, Catalans, Basques, and Flemings. At subsequent judicial enquiries, Fernández de Lugo was accused of favoring Genoese and Portuguese immigrants over Castilians. [9]

Modern-day Canarian culture is Spanish with some Guanche and Portugueses roots (the lusitanian heritage being more pronounced on some islands, like La Palma). Some of the Canarian traditional sports such as lucha canaria (Canarian fight), j uego del palo (stick game) or salto del pastor (shepherd's jump), among others, have their roots in Guanche culture. Additionally, other traditions include Canarian pottery, words of Guanche origin in the Canarian speech and the rural consumption of guarapo gomero and gofio. The portuguese heritage is noteworthy, in family names (such as Brito, Acosta, Almeida, Santos, Abreu, etc.) and in the Canarian dialect (mojo, tupir, arveja, millo, etc.), a phenomenon again, more pronounced and frequent on certain islands. Moreover, many elements in traditional architecture, music and folklore show clear links to the Portuguese and other Macaronesian islanders.

The strong influence of Latin America in Canarian culture is due to the constant emigration and return over the centuries of Canarians to that continent, chiefly to Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and coastal Venezuela and Colombia. To a lesser extent, they also went to the US states of Louisiana (mostly the southern portion) and Texas (mostly in and around San Antonio), and some areas in eastern Mexico including Nuevo León and Veracruz. [10]


The inhabitants of the Canary Islands hold a gene pool that is generally of predominant Iberian ancestry, with some Berber extract. Guanche genetic markers have also been found recently in Puerto Rico and, at low frequencies, in peninsular Spain after later emigration from the Canary Islands. [11]

Population genetics

Canarian girls singing in Gran Canaria 1972.

The most frequent (maternal-descent) mtDNA haplogroup in Canary Islands is H (37.6%), followed by U6 (14.0%), T (12.7%), not-U6 U (10.3%) and J (7.0%). Two haplogroups, H and U6, alone account for more than 50% of the individuals. Significant frequencies of sub-Saharan L haplogroups (6.6%) is also consistent with the historical records on introduction of sub-Saharan slave labour in Canary Islands. However, some Sub-Saharan lineages are also found in North African populations, and as a result, some of these L lineages could have been introduced to the Islands from North Africa. [12] [13] A 2009 study of DNA extracted from the remains of aboriginal inhabitants found that 7% of lineages were haplogroup L, which leaves open the possibility that these L lineages were part of the founding population of the Canary Islands.. [14]

A 2003 genetics research article by Nicole Maca-Meyer et al. published in the European Journal of Human Genetics compared aboriginal Guanche mtDNA (collected from Canarian archaeological sites) to that of today's Canarians and concluded that "despite the continuous changes suffered by the population (Spanish colonization, slave trade), aboriginal mtDNA lineages constitute a considerable proportion [42–73%] of the Canarian gene pool".

Although the Berbers are the most probable ancestors of the Guanches, it is deduced that important human movements (e.g., the Islamic-Arabic conquest of the Berbers) have reshaped Northwest Africa after the migratory wave to the Canary Islands and the "results support, from a maternal perspective, the supposition that since the end of the 16th century, at least, two-thirds of the Canarian population had an indigenous substrate, as was previously inferred from historical and anthropological data." [15] mtDNA haplogroup U subclade U6b1 is Canarian-specific [16] and is the most common mtDNA haplogroup found in aboriginal Guanche archaeological burial sites. [15]

Y-DNA, or Y-chromosomal, (direct paternal) lineages were not analysed in this study; however, an earlier[ which?] study giving the aboriginal y-DNA contribution at 6% was cited by Maca-Meyer et al., but the results were criticized as possibly flawed due to the widespread phylogeography of y-DNA haplogroup E1b1b1b, which may skew determination of the aboriginality versus coloniality of contemporary y-DNA lineages in the Canaries. Regardless, Maca-Meyer et al. state that historical evidence does support the explanation of "strong sexual a result of a strong bias favoring matings between European males and aboriginal females, and to the important aboriginal male mortality during the Conquest." [17] The genetics thus suggests that native men were sharply reduced in numbers due to the war, large numbers of Spanish men stayed in the islands and married the local women, the Canarians adopted Spanish names, language, and religion, and in this way, the Canarians were Hispanicized.[ citation needed]

Indeed, according to a recent study by Fregel et al. 2009, in spite of the geographic nearness between the Canary Islands and Morocco the genetic ancestry of the Canary islands males is mainly of European origin. Nearly 67% of the haplogroups resulting from are Euro–Eurasian ( R1a (2.76%), R1b (50.62%), J (14%), I (9.66%) and G (3.99%)). Unsurprisingly the Spanish conquest brought the genetic base of the current male population of the Canary Islands. Nevertheless, the second most important haplogroup origin is Northern Africa. E1b1b (14% including 8.30% of the typical berber haplogroup E-M81), E1b1a and E1a (1.50%), and T (3%) haplogroups are present at a rate of 33%. Even if a part of these "eastern" haplogroups were introduced by the Spanish (they are well represented in Spain), we can suppose that a good portion of this rate was already there at the time of the conquest. [18] [19] According to the same study, the presence of autochthonous North African E-M81 lineages, and also other relatively abundant markers (E-M78 and J-M267) from the same region in the indigenous Guanche population, "strongly points to that area [North Africa] as the most probable origin of the Guanche ancestors". In this study, Fregel et al. estimated that, based on Y-chromosome and mtDNA haplogroup frequencies, the relative female and male indigenous Guanche contributions to the present-day Canary Islands populations were respectively of 41.8% and 16.1%. [18]

An autosomal study in 2011 found an average Northwest African influence of about 17% in Canary Islanders with a wide interindividual variation ranging from 0% to 96%. According to the authors, the substantial Northwest African ancestry found for Canary Islanders supports that, despite the aggressive conquest by the Spanish in the 15th century and the subsequent immigration, genetic footprints of the first settlers of the Canary Islands persist in the current inhabitants. Paralleling mtDNA findings, the largest average Northwest African contribution was found for the samples from La Gomera. [20]

Island N Average NW African ancestry
La Gomera 7 42.50 %
Fuerteventura 10 21.60 %
La Palma 7 21.00 %
El Hierro 7 19.80 %
Lanzarote 13 16.40 %
Tenerife 30 14.30 %
Gran Canaria 30 12.40 %
Total Canary Islanders 104 17.40 %
Island/NW African mtDna N % U6 %L Total Study
La Gomera 46 50.01 % 10.86 % 60.87 % Fregel 2009 [21]
El Hierro 32 21.88 % 12.49 % 34.37 % Fregel 2009
Lanzarote 49 20.40 % 8.16 % 28.56 % Fregel 2009
Gran Canaria 80 11.25 % 10 % 21.25 % Fregel 2009
Tenerife 174 12.09 % 7.45 % 19.54 % Fregel 2009
La Palma 68 17.65 % 1.47 % 19.12 % Fregel 2009
Fuerteventura 42 16.66 % 2.38 % 19.04 % Fregel 2009

Ancient Canarians

Population history [22]
Year Population
1768 155,763
1787 168,928
1797 173,865
1842 241,266
1860 237,036
1887 301,983
1900 364,408
1920 488,483
1940 687,937
1960 966,177
1981 1,367,646
1990 1,589,403
2000 1,716,276
2010 2,118,519
2011 2,082,655 [23]
2014 2,104,815 [24]
2015 2,128,647 [25]
(Most recent Census was 2011)

The Guanches are related to the indigenous Berbers of neighboring Morocco. The Guanche language is firmly in the Afro-Asiatic family of languages, and is a dialect of the Berber subfamily therein. In 2017, the first genome-wide data from the Guanches confirmed a North African origin and that they were genetically most similar to modern North African Berber, peoples of the nearby North African mainland. It also showed that modern inhabitants of Gran Canaria carry an estimated 16%–31% Guanche autosomal ancestry. [26]


Demographics of the Canary Islands (2009) [1] [3]
Nationality Population Percent

Canarian 1,547,611 73.7%
Mainland Spanish ( Peninsulares) 178,613 12.0%
Spanish total 1,799,373 85.7%
Foreign-born nationals 299,220 14.3%

Total 2,098,593 100%

The Canarian population includes long-tenured and new waves of Spanish immigrants, including Andalucians, Galicians, Castilians, Catalans, Basques and Asturians of Spain; and Portuguese, Italians, the Dutch people or Flemings, and French people. As of 2008, the total Canarian population is 2,075,968. Over 1,541,381 people are native Canarian-born, and another 178,613 people from the Spanish mainland with a total 1,792,121 Spanish population. Most of the 283,847 foreign-born citizens are Europeans with 155,415, such as Germans (39,505), British (37,937) and Italians (24,177). There are 86,287 from the Americas, with Colombians (21,798), Venezuelans (11,958), Cubans (11,098) and Argentines (10,159) being the most numerous. [27]



Catholic Church

The majority of native Canary Islanders are Roman Catholic with various smaller foreign-born populations of other Christian beliefs such as Protestants from northern Europe.

The appearance of the Virgin of Candelaria (Patron of Canary Islands) was credited with moving the Canary Islands toward Christianity. Two Catholic saints were born in the Canary Islands: Peter of Saint Joseph de Betancur [28] and José de Anchieta. [29] Both born on the island of Tenerife, they were respectively missionaries in Guatemala and Brazil.

The Canary Islands are divided into two Catholic dioceses, each governed by a bishop:

Other religions

Around 5 percent of Canarians belong to a minority religion. Separate from the overwhelming Christian majority are a minority of Muslims who are usually foreign-born. [30] At present, there are in the Canary Islands a figure of approximately 70,000 Muslims and 40 mosques and places of worship throughout the archipelago. [31] Other religious faiths represented include Jehovah Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as Hinduism. [2] Minority religions are also present such as the Church of the Guanche People which is classified as a neo-pagan native religion, [2] it also highlights Buddhism, [2] Judaism, [2] Baha'i, [2] Chinese religions [2] and Afro-American religion. [2]

Among the followers of Islam, the Islamic Federation of the Canary Islands exists to represent the Islamic community in the Canary Islands as well as to provide practical support to members of the Islamic community. [32]


The distribution of beliefs in 2012 according to the CIS Barometer Autonomy was as follows: [33]

  • Catholic 84.9%
  • Atheist/Agnostic/Unbeliever 12.3%
  • Other religions 1.7%

Among the believers 38.7% go to religious services frequently.

Canarian diaspora

Historically, the Canary Islands have served as a hub between Spain and the Americas; favoured by that circumstance, large groups of Canary islanders have emigrated and settled all over the New World as early as the 15th century, mainly in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Uruguay.

Notable Canarians

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See also


  1. ^ a b Total population by region.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "How many Canarians in other countries". Archived from the original on 2012-08-03. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  3. ^ a b "Native and foreign residents in Canary Islands (Spanish) 2009". Archived from the original on 2009-09-21. Retrieved 2017-07-30.
  4. ^ 73.7% of the total Canary Islands population
  5. ^ "Canarians in Venezuela". Archived from the original on 2011-07-13. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  7. ^ a b c d e EMIGRANTES CANARIOS EN EL MUNDO[ self-published source?]
  8. ^ Interactivo: Creencias y prácticas religiosas en España
  9. ^ History of La Palma
  10. ^[ full citation needed]
  11. ^ Maca-Meyer N, Villar J, Pérez-Méndez L, Cabrera de León A, Flores C (November 2004). "A tale of aborigines, conquerors and slaves: Alu insertion polymorphisms and the peopling of Canary Islands". Annals of Human Genetics. 68 (Pt 6): 600–5. doi: 10.1046/j.1529-8817.2003.00125.x. PMID  15598218.
  12. ^ Rando JC, Cabrera VM, Larruga JM, et al. (September 1999). "Phylogeographic patterns of mtDNA reflecting the colonization of the Canary Islands". Annals of Human Genetics. 63 (Pt 5): 413–28. doi: 10.1046/j.1469-1809.1999.6350413.x. PMID  10735583.
  13. ^ Brehm A, Pereira L, Kivisild T, Amorim A (December 2003). "Mitochondrial portraits of the Madeira and Açores archipelagos witness different genetic pools of its settlers". Human Genetics. 114 (1): 77–86. doi: 10.1007/s00439-003-1024-3. PMID  14513360.
  14. ^ Fregel R, Pestano J, Arnay M, Cabrera VM, Larruga JM, González AM (October 2009). "The maternal aborigine colonization of La Palma (Canary Islands)". European Journal of Human Genetics. 17 (10): 1314–24. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2009.46. PMC  2986650. PMID  19337312.
  15. ^ a b Maca-Meyer N, Arnay M, Rando JC, et al. (February 2004). "Ancient mtDNA analysis and the origin of the Guanches". European Journal of Human Genetics. 12 (2): 155–62. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201075. PMID  14508507.
  16. ^ Pereira, L; MacAulay, V; Prata, M.J; Amorim, A (2003). "Phylogeny of the mtDNA haplogroup U6. Analysis of the sequences observed in North Africa and Iberia". International Congress Series. 1239: 491–3. doi: 10.1016/S0531-5131(02)00553-8.
  17. ^ Maca-Meyer, Nicole; Arnay, Matilde; Rando, Juan Carlos; Flores, Carlos; González, Ana M; Cabrera, Vicente M; Larruga, José M (2003). "Ancient mtDNA analysis and the origin of the Guanches". European Journal of Human Genetics. 12 (2): 155–62. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201075. PMID  14508507.
  18. ^ a b Fregel, Rosa; Gomes, Verónica; Gusmão, Leonor; González, Ana M; Cabrera, Vicente M; Amorim, António; Larruga, Jose M (2009). "Demographic history of Canary Islands male gene-pool: Replacement of native lineages by European". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 9: 181. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-9-181. PMC  2728732. PMID  19650893.
  19. ^ Zurita AI, Hernandez A, Sanchez JJ, Cuellas JA (March 2005). "Y-chromosome STR haplotypes in the Canary Islands population (Spain)". Forensic Science International. 148 (2–3): 233–8. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2004.05.004. PMID  15639620.
  20. ^ Pino-Yanes, María; Corrales, Almudena; Basaldúa, Santiago; Hernández, Alexis; Guerra, Luisa; Villar, Jesús; Flores, Carlos (2011). O'Rourke, Dennis, ed. "North African Influences and Potential Bias in Case-Control Association Studies in the Spanish Population". PLoS ONE. 6 (3): e18389. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018389. PMC  3068190. PMID  21479138.
  21. ^ Fregel, Rosa; Pestano, Jose; Arnay, Matilde; Cabrera, Vicente M; Larruga, Jose M; González, Ana M (2009). "The maternal aborigine colonization of La Palma (Canary Islands)". European Journal of Human Genetics. 17 (10): 1314–24. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2009.46. PMC  2986650. PMID  19337312.
  22. ^ "Official census statistics of the Canary Islands population". Archived from the original on 2010-03-26. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
  23. ^ Censos de Población y Viviendas 2011.
  24. ^ Desciende la población en Canarias.
  25. ^ La población en Canarias.
  26. ^ Ricardo Rodríguez-Varel et al. 2017, Genomic Analyses of Pre-European Conquest Human Remains from the Canary Islands Reveal Close Affinity to Modern North Africans
  27. ^ Native and foreign residents in Canary Islands (Spanish) Archived March 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^ Pedro de San José Betancurt, Santo
  29. ^ José de Anchieta, Santo
  30. ^ Un 5% de canarios profesa una religión minoritaria
  31. ^ Entrevista al Señor Tijani El Bouji Presidente de FIDC
  32. ^ Los musulmanes de la Isla constituyen la primera Federación Islámica de Canarias
  33. ^ Barometro Autonómico del CIS Canarias (2012); preguntas 47 y 48
  34. ^