March 6, 2021

The works that will clarify the mystery of the Guanches – La Provincia


His finding would shed a lot of light on the riddles of the first settlers of the Islands

In the fifteenth century, the cleric Alfonso de Palencia wrote the first monographic study on the culture and religion of the Guanches, but he also authored a chronicle of the conquest and another work on indigenous culture now lost, and that would help resolve some of the multiple enigmas that ballast the knowledge of island history. Who expresses it this way is Antonio M. López, promoter of the Tarha Project for the dissemination of the ancient history of the Canary Islands and who explains to EFE that "just in case a single documentary treasure is not enough", there are quite solid indications of the existence of two " Jewels "written by Palencia, one of them a complete chronicle of the conquest of the Canary Islands referred to Gran Canaria, because the chronicler died in 1492 and La Palma and Tenerife were submitted later.

This work, already indicated by Professor Juan Álvarez Delgado and more recently by the researcher Ángel Ignacio Eff-Darwich, is mentioned in at least two catalogs, one from the 16th century and the other from 1804, and the volumes are titled, respectively, Conquests of the islands of Canary and Conquest of the Canary Islands, and in both cases the author is indicated by Alfonso de Palencia. If we live in our time, says the researcher, Alfonso de Palencia would be an accomplished master of the historical novel and the journalistic chronicle and its production "contributes and has yet to provide an invaluable information flow" for the historical reconstruction of events. that marked the fate of the Canary Islands during the second half of the fifteenth century.

The first study

Given its relationship with the conquest of the Canary Islands, no one would suspect that Alonso or Alfonso de Palencia (Palencia, 1423-Seville, 1492) was the author of the first monographic study devoted entirely to the culture and religion of the ancient Canaries. He negotiated on behalf of the Catholic Monarchs the capitulations that preceded the realenga invasion of Gran Canaria, supervised and coordinated the logistics of the conquest expeditions placed under the command of Juan Rejón in 1478 and 1479 and, shortly thereafter, personally proposed to Pedro de Vera as the most qualified man to end the Canarian war, stunted since its inception by the interpersonal quarrels of the Castilian captains and the energetic indigenous resistance.

"In his lines dedicated to the Archipelago, Alfonso de Palencia contextualizes and expands part of what is narrated in the chronicles and stories that describe the beginning of the realengue conquest of the Canary Islands and vividly recounts some aspects of interest," says Antonio M. López. These aspects include the geostrategic reasons why Ferdinand the Catholic had ordered to conquer Gran Canaria, set his sights on controlling the gold routes of Guinea and the firm opposition of the indigenous Grancanarians to submit to Portugal or Castile, whether by Peaceful or warlike. He also related the strong segregation that characterized Guanche society, the continuous volcanic activity of Teide, the physical strength of women palm trees and the existence of nine rivers or large permanent waterways – ravines – in Gran Canaria.

Lost forever?

The majority of written works are preserved in Palencia and a few remain unaccounted for, if they have not been irretrievably lost, and of the latter there were two specifically dedicated to the Canary Islands. The first, undoubtedly the most valuable from an ethnographic perspective, is named by Palencia himself in an appendix inserted at the end of his Universal vocabulary work, in which he reviews his handwritten production already finalized, and which he mentions as "Customs and rites Idolátricos of the natives of the Fortunate islands that say of Canaria ". Undoubtedly, this is the first purely ethnographic study on island indigenous people, López adds.

Questions without answer

"Is it overlapped, as it has happened with other old documents? Destroyed, either by natural deterioration, neglect, or by the action of some orthodox censor? Did it go on to swell the funds of an unknown collector? Questions all still without satisfactory answer "says López.

For the promoter of the Tarha Project, it is unquestionable that the recovery of the lost documents of Palencia on the conquest of the Canary Islands and the ethnographic manifestations of the ancient natives would help solve some of the multiple enigmas that still ballast the precise knowledge of this essential part of The island history.

For now it is not an impossible mission, as evidenced by the recovery in 2013 of one of the "lost" decades of the author, the second part of the Antiquities of Spain. Therefore, the researcher encourages them to actively participate in the search for these "paper treasures", taking advantage of the enormous advantages offered by the use of social networks, public access documentary databases and document digitalization.

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