In Praise of Low Key History

Tenerife (where I’ve just been on holiday, as I said in my last post) wears its history lightly – but it is there. The lovely old houses and churches and streets (I’m talking about the north of the island here, in the wonderful towns of Orotava, La Laguna, Santa Cruz, Puerto de la Cruz, Garachico; the south’s a built-up hedonistic hotspot) testify to a past which is still very much alive; a mix of past-in-present which I find so attractive.

For me, one of the things which I found most interesting is how quickly the Spanish built their towns on their new territories. Admittedly, it took a hundred years or so for them to subdue the native population, back in the 15th and 16th centuries. However, no sooner had they secured a piece of land, then up went a full-blown town, complete with splendid churches, monasteries, convents, mansions, city hall, bus station (well, maybe not), and so on. By the late 16th century, with the conquest of Tenerife barely complete, La Laguna, Orotava and other towns were quite imposing and well-established urban settlements.

Exactly the same thing occured on a much more widespread scale in Spain’s huge empire in South America and Central America.

Ah, actually, I forgot – there were two incidents when Tenerife hit the headlines – I’ll have to blog about these another day.


Peter Britton

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