Canary Islanders, or Canarians (Spanish: canarios), are a subgroup of Spaniards and 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 ethnic and cultural presence is most palpable in the countries of Uruguay, Venezuela, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and the United States territory of Puerto Rico.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Canary Islands 1,547,611 (2009)|
|Spain (other)||Total unknown|
|Puerto Rico||Total unknown|
|Dominican Republic||Total unknown|
|Canarian Spanish, Silbo|
Roman Catholic (85%)
|Related ethnic groups|
|other Spaniards and other Iberians (Andalusians, Castilians, Extremadurans, Galicians, Catalans, Basques, Portuguese), Berbers|
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, mostly Spain and Portugal, and immigrants included Galicians, Castilians, Catalans, Basques, Portuguese and Italians. At subsequent judicial enquiries, Fernández de Lugo was accused of favoring Genoese and Portuguese immigrants over Castilians.
The native inhabitants of the Canary Islands hold a gene pool that is of predominantly Iberian ancestry, with some Guanche Berber extraction. 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.
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. 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..
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". According to this article, both percentages are obtained using two different estimation methods; nevertheless according to the same study the percentage that could be more reliable is the one of 73%.
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." mtDNA haplogroup U subclade U6b1 is Canarian-specific and is the most common mtDNA haplogroup found in aboriginal Guanche archaeological burial sites.
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 asymmetry...as a result of a strong bias favoring matings between European males and aboriginal females, and to the important aboriginal male mortality during the Conquest." 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.
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. 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%.
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.
|Island||N||Average NW African ancestry|
|La Gomera||7||42.50 %|
|La Palma||7||21.00 %|
|El Hierro||7||19.80 %|
|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|
|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|
Another recent study that took as a reference 400 adult men and women of all the islands, except La Graciosa, and whose intention was to determine the relationships of Canarian genetic diversity with the more frecuent complex patologies in the archipielago, detected that Canarian DNA shows a distinctive genetic, result of a combination of factors as the geographic isolation of the islands, the adaption to the environment of its inhabitants and the historic mixture of the Pre-hispanic population of the archipielago (coming from North Africa), with European and from Sub-Saharan area individuals. Specifically, was estimated that Canarian population is, at an autosomal level, 75% European, 22% North African and 3% Sub-saharan.
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.
Modern-day Canarian culture is Spanish, with some Guanche influences. Some of the Canarian traditional sports such as lucha canaria (Canarian fight), 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 inhabitants of La Gomera also retain an ancient way of communicating across deep ravines by means of a whistled speech called Silbo Gomero, which can be heard up to 3 km (2 miles) away. This indigenous whistled language was invented by the Guanches, and was then adopted by the Spanish settlers in the 16th century after the Guanches were culturally assimilated into the population. The language was also formerly spoken on el Hierro, Tenerife and Gran Canaria 
The holidays celebrated in the Canary Islands are of international, national and regional or insular character. The official day of the autonomous community is Canary Islands Day on 30 May. The anniversary of the first session of the Parliament of the Canary Islands, based in the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, held on 30 May 1983, is commemorated with this day. The most famous festival of the Canary Islands is the carnival. The carnival is celebrated in all the islands and all its municipalities, perhaps the two busiest being those of the two Canarian capitals; the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Tourist Festival of International Interest) and the Carnival of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. It is celebrated on the streets between the months of February and March. But the rest of the islands of the archipelago have their carnivals with their own traditions among which stand out: The Festival of the Carneros of El Hierro, the Festival of the Diabletes of Teguise in Lanzarote, Los Indianos de La Palma, the Carnival of San Sebastián de La Gomera and the Carnival of Puerto del Rosario in Fuerteventura.
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.[dead link]
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 and José de Anchieta. 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:
- Diócesis Canariense: Includes the islands of the Eastern Province: Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Its capital was San Marcial El Rubicón (1404) and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (1483–present). There was a previous bishopric which was based in Telde, but it was later abolished.
- Diócesis Nivariense: Includes the islands of the western province: Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. Its capital is San Cristóbal de La Laguna (1819–present).
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. 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. Other religious faiths represented include Jehovah Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as Hinduism. Minority religions are also present such as the Church of the Guanche People which is classified as a neo-pagan native religion, it also highlights Buddhism, Judaism, Baha'i, Chinese religions and Afro-American religion.
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.
The distribution of beliefs in 2012 according to the CIS Barometer Autonomy was as follows:
- Catholic 84.9%
- Atheist/Agnostic/Unbeliever 12.3%
- Other religions 1.7%
Among the believers 38.7% go to religious services frequently.
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.
|(Most recent Census was 2011)|
|Demographics of the Canary Islands (2009)|
|Mainland Spanish (Peninsulares)||178,613||12.0%|
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.
- José de Anchieta, Jesuit priest, saint and missionary in Brazil.
- Carla Antonelli, LGBT rights activist and actress
- Rosana Arbelo, singer
- Mary of Jesus de León y Delgado, Dominican lay Sister and mystic.
- Amaro Pargo, one of the most famous corsairs of the golden age of piracy.
- Rafael Arozarena, writer
- Carolina Bang, actress
- Bencomo, pre-Hispanic King
- Beneharo, pre-Hispanic King
- Agustín de Betancourt y Molina, engineer, Russian General
- Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur, saint and missionary in Guatemala.
- Manolo Blahnik, fashion designer
- Jose Campeche, artist
- Olga Cerpa, singer
- José Comas Quesada, painter
- Óscar Domínguez, painter
- Ana Guerra, singer
- Agoney, singer
- Doramas, pre-Hispanic warrior
- José Doreste, sailor, yacht racer and Olympic champion
- Luis Doreste, sailor, yacht racer and world champion and Olympic champion
- Ruslan Ela, soccer player
- Nicolás Estévanez, politician
- José Franchy y Roca, journalist and politician, Minister of Industry in the Second Spanish Republic
- Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, filmmaker
- Pedro García Cabrera, poet
- Antonio González y González, scientist, chemist
- Fernando Guanarteme, pre-Hispanic king
- Pedro Guerra, music composer and singer
- Ángel Guimerá, writer
- Emeterio Gutiérrez Albelo, poet
- Nancy Fabiola Herrera, mezzo-soprano opera singer
- Ignatius Farray, comedian
- Manolo Hussein, professional basketball coach
- K-Narias, reggaeton pop duo
- Alfredo Kraus, opera singer
- Fernando León y Castillo, politician
- Juan Fernando López Aguilar, politician and jurist, former Minister of Justice
- Domingo López Torres, painter, writer, poet and Marxist revolutionary
- José Miguel Luján Pérez, sculptor
- Maninidra, pre-Hispanic warrior
- César Manrique, artist
- Cristo Marrero Henríquez, professional footballer
- Manolo Millares, painter
- José María Millares Sall, poet
- Francisco de Miranda, Venezuelan general, politician and precursor of South America independence
- María Montez, actress, Hollywood "Queen of Technicolor"
- Manuel Mora Morales, writer and filmmaker
- Tomás Morales, poet
- Juan Negrín, politician
- Pily Nieblas, singer-songwriter and painter
- Leopoldo O'Donnell, General and statesman
- Frances Ondiviela, telenovela actress, former Miss Spain and model
- Benito Pérez Galdós, writer
- Domingo Pérez Minik, writer
- Sara Da Pin Up, hip hop artist
- Alonso Quesada, writer
- Narciso Rodriguez, American fashion designer born to Cuban parents with Canarian origins
- Sergio Rodríguez, NBA basketball player
- Pedro, professional footballer
- Aythami Ruano, judoka
- Daida Ruano, six time windsurfing world champion, twin sister of Iballa Ruano
- Iballa Ruano, professional windsurfer, twin sister of Daida Ruano
- Jerónimo Saavedra, politician, mayor of Las Palmas and two times president of Canaries
- Mary Sánchez, Grammy nominated folk and bolero singer
- Victoria Sanchez, actress in American and Canadian movies and TV series
- Caco Senante, salsa singer and actor
- David Silva, football player
- José Manuel Soria Lopez, politician, Minister of Tourism and Sport
- Carla Suárez Navarro, tennis player
- Tanausu, pre-Hispanic King of Aceró
- Tinguaro, pre-Hispanic warrior General
- Goya Toledo, actress and model
- Jose Toledo, model and TV host
- Danny Vain, professional photographer and lyricist
- Juan Carlos Valerón, football player
- Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa, writer
- José Vélez, singer
- Juan Verde Suárez, politician
- Manolo Vieira, comedian
- José Viera y Clavijo, historian
- Rosanna Walls, actress
- Eduardo Westerdahl, painter, art critic and writer, member of the Surrealist movement
- Wenday Wyrk, singer
- Pedro Zerolo, LGBT rights activist, lawyer and politician
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