How Los Cristianos Got Its Name

Fri, August 8th, 2014 - By Linda

Do you ever wonder about place names? As a child, I remember being fascinated to learn the origin of my hometown, Blackpool’s name, (yep, it had been a black swamp). When I first came to Tenerife there were all these mysterious names, like Las Galletas or Guia de Isora. What did they mean, I wondered.

 

Los Cristianos

 

One name easy to understand was Los Cristianos. The word is so similar to the English  “the Christians” – but why? Cristianos is obviously a Spanish word, so why single out this place as being Christian? Why not Candelaria, with its story of the Guanche worshipping the Black Madonna even before the Conquest?

Place names on Tenerife, I learned, come, either directly or indirectly, from either the original, aboriginal Guanche, like Adeje, or from names given by the Conquistadors, like Santa Cruz.

So much Canary Island history has been lost over the last five hundred years, or was never fully documented, and I found that several stories linked to today’s popular family resort. All go back to the Conquest.

As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, the Guanche were brave and noble fighters, and the island was the last to succumb to the power of the Spanish crown in 1496. Place names in the north are reminders of the fierce battles waged there. If you drive from Santa Cruz to Puerto de la Cruz, you pass by La Matanza (The Killing) or La Victoria (The Victory).

 

Los Cristianos

 

When the northern kingdoms fell, the Guanche of the south mostly made peace treaties with their conquerors, but there were still pockets of resistance. It’s said that these cells of freedom fighters were made up of refugees from the north, who had refused to surrender, and had fled south, as well as southerners who were against the treaties signed by their leaders.

Determined, to wipe out these terrorist cells, Alonso Fernández de Lugo, leader of the Conquistadors, entrusted Flemish mercenary, Jorge Grimón, who had distinguished himself in the wars which drove the Moors from Spain, with the task of heading south to finish the job, and ensure that the entire Canary Islands were loyal to Spain.

 

Los Cristianos

 

There were, remember, no roads. The invaders came from the ocean, which gave them some element of surprise as well as not tiring the troops with a long march over Tenerife’s rough, volcanic landscape. And so in September of 1496 Grimón’s troops disembarked on the beach close to Montaña Guaza.

Although there was, again, fierce resistance, it was no contest, really, the Spanish had gunpowder and muskets, not that common at this time. Grimón himself, as well as other historians, writing in later years attributed their easy victory to superior weaponry. Mopping up operations continued for a while inland, but this was the point at which Tenerife finally became Spanish.

 

Los Cristianos

 

And the beach became known as “ the place where the Christian conquistadors disembarked,” and over the years this became shortened to simply Los Cristianos.

These days, watching children playing on the beach, sitting enjoying an ice cream on the Promenade, or taking a dip, it’s hard to believe that this beach had such a violent history. The history of Los Cristianos has other surprising elements, perhaps more another day.

Posted : Friday, August 8th, 2014 at 11:29 am
Category : about tenerife
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