Fuerteventura is the oldest island of the Canary archipelago. Formerly known as Erbania, the island is the second largest of the Canary Islands and the longest. The conquest of the archipelago began in the early 15th century. The colonization by the Castilian crown caused the aboriginal population, the Guanches, to mix with Spaniards, Portuguese, French, Flemish and Italians. It is precisely this process that gives rise to the most famous legend of Fuerteventura, that of a curse that condemned it to disappear.
Fuerteventura was conquered by the Normans of Jean de Bethencourt and Gadifer de la Salle. In 1402, after settling in Lanzarote, the expedition carried out raids on the neighboring island. Just two years later, in 1404, they founded the first settlement of Fuerteventura, Betancuria, which would eventually become the capital. The island was controlled by Gadifer in 1405, after a period of coexistence between conquerors and aborigines. Finally, in 1476 the territory became a territorial lordship, dependent on the Catholic Monarchs.
Around this time, the Crown of Castile appointed Pedro Fernandez de Saavedra governor of the fortunate islands. This lord was as much a conqueror of battles as he was of women and after setting foot on Fuerteventura he became famous among the aboriginal girls for his adventures and his excessive seductive eagerness. However, Don Pedro soon married Constanza Sarmiento, with whom he had 14 children. Although it is worth mentioning that he also left behind a large number of illegitimate offspring.
Legend has it that one of Pedro and Constanza’s sons, Luis Fernández de Herrera, became over the years a handsome young man very similar to his father. He inherited from him all his bad vices and none of his virtues. He was arrogant, with no talent for fighting, but he did seduce the young island girls who admired him as a hero.
One day, the son of the lord of the islands, took up with a beautiful Guanche maiden, named Fernanda. She resisted his flirtings for a while, until one day she accepted Luis’ invitation to attend a hunt organized by her father. After the extensive banquet, the gallant man invited her for a walk. When the moment seemed right, he tried to hug her. Fernanda, frightened, defended herself by shouting loudly, to which the hunters witnessed the scene between the couple.
However, before any of the participants in the hunt could reach them, an indigenous Labrador tried to defend her. This provoked the wrath of Luis, who, offended and annoyed, unsheathed his dagger to try to kill the farmer. After a few seconds of struggle for control of the dagger, the farmer managed to snatch the dagger from him. However, just as he was about to stab him, the governor of the islands arrived, ready to do anything to save his son. Don Pedro, at full gallop, rammed his horse into the farmer and knocked him down, killing him on the spot.
After the murder of the young farmer, an old Indian woman appeared from among the trees, who turned out to be the farmer’s mother. The old woman, her eyes clouded by the sight of her dead son, realized what had just happened. She raised her head to recognize the person who had caused the death and found Don Pedro. She recognized him instantly, that man had seduced her during her youth and as a result of this romance she had had the son who had just died. The old woman, blind with grief, let him know that she was Laurinaga, and that the man she had just killed was also her son. Then, she raised her eyes to heaven and invoked her Guanche gods to curse with a voice broken by pain the land of Fuerteventura and its lord for being the cause of all her misfortunes.
The islanders say that, from that moment on, fiery winds from the Sahara desert began to blow. The land of the island and its flowers began to wither, turning Fuerteventura into a dying skeleton, which, according to Laurinaga’s curse, will eventually disappear.
The aborigines of the islands, also known as ‘ancient Canarians’ or mostly ‘Guanches’, encompass the various peoples of Berber origin who inhabited the Canary Islands before the Castilian colonization in the 15th century. At the time of the conquest, Fuerteventura was divided into two Guanche cantons. Maxorata, to the north, was ruled by Guize and Jandia, to the south, was ruled by Ayoze. The territories of both tribes were separated by a wall of which vestiges are still preserved in the isthmus of La Pared.
The Guanches had their own gods, which were different on each island, but they had common concepts. The main religious festival of the ancient Canary Islanders was the Beñesmer or harvest festival. In , they worshipped the mountain of Tindaya, where gifts were offered in a solar type cult. A series of cave engravings, the so-called podomorphs, have also been found on this mountain. Be that as it may, its folklore is still alive in legends such as the one in this article, which condemns this peculiar island.
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