Technically, the Canary Islands are part of Europe because they have been part of Spain since the 1400s. About two million people live in this Spanish province.
The islands are just off the African coast, close to Morocco. The Canaries were known to the ancient world, but remained on the periphery until Europeans started colonizing them in the 1300s. French, Spanish and Portuguese fought each other for control, with the Spanish winning out.
The aboriginal people of the islands were called Guanches. They were related to the Berber peoples of North Africa. The Guanches stoutly resisted, and it took many years before they were finally defeated. During the long era of Spain’s colonial empire, the Canaries served as a repair and watering stop on the way to the Americas. More recently the Canaries have become a major tourist destination, with more than 12 million tourist visits a year.
Among the oddities of Canarian history is that the famed British admiral Horatio Nelson lost his arm in the islands in a battle with Spanish defenders. The common cage bird called the canary is native to the Canaries, and adjacent areas of Africa. The little birds are named for the islands, but the famous yellow color is primarily an achievement of breeders.
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