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When the first Conquistadores arrived on Fuerteventura in the 15th Century, they encountered the local inhabitants (Mahos) almost completely nude. "Males only had a hairy goat or sheep skin that was fixed on the men's back and women additionally had two extra pieces – one in the front and one in the back – which were fixed at the waist and reached till their knees. Pieces of skin were connected to each other by threads of finely cut leather. They had no shoes and walked the island on bare feet." (Bontier y Leverrier. 16th Century)
The ability of mankind to work natural fibres for basketry was one of the fundamentals for the development of human activity. It allowed for transportation and conservation of goods and made them less dependable of nature and local conditions."
The original inhabitants of Fuerteventura – Mahos – knew about the benefits and technology of using natural fibres for baskets and bags. At that time palm leaves and reed were used mostly. The colonisation of the Canary Islands brought new transformation and manufacturing technologies.
The Majorero Cheese of Fuerteventura.
The name "Denominación de origen Queso Majorero" is protected by the Spanish State in 16-05-1996 and by the European Union since 20-02-1999 and applies to the types of cheese that are made of goat milk and in a specified artisan way. The "Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Protegida Queso Majorero", part of the "Gobierno de Canarias" is constantly monitoring the quality of the listed products.
The Canarian Pastor (or Shepherd's) Leap is a tradition of the Canarian Islands and consists of using a long wooden pole to cross the countryside and to jump over gulley’s and cliffs. The origins of salto del pastor may date back to the Guanches, the aboriginal inhabitants of the islands prior to the Castilian conquest period of the early 15th century. In the past all kinds of people used this pole to walk across the fields, but recently it is only used by shepherds. There are initiatives to revive this kind of country-walking and to include it in local competitions.
Once the New Empire was being established in South-America many new agricultural products began to flow back to Europe. One of these was the tomato. "Tomatl" means plump fruit in the Aztec language and, indeed, it is a fruit. It was possibly brought back by Cortez in 1519. It was much smaller and yellow, and initially named by the Italians the "pomo d’oro" or golden apple.
The Orchilla or roccella canariensis is a black lichen with white spots which grows around the rocky coast because of the presence of marine humidity and the salty environment. The plant has been used for colouring textile since the beginning of ancient times. The Orchilla is a product of symbiosis between a fungus and an algae. It takes the plant about 6 years to mature. The value of the plant is in the purple colour that can be extracted from its branches.
It is not unusual on Fuerteventura to find stones with strange shapes, gouges and lines clearly seen on them. Legend has it that these were forms of art from the stone age when the island was inhabited by the original settlers – the guanches . There are many relics on all of the Canary Islands of their existence but as of now the legend of the mysterious stones is still unsolved.
This picture of a farming group from the late 1950s appear as a rural scene and when you look behind them you will see a grand marble angel. This statue can be seen as you go past the cemetery at La Oliva, in the North of the island. The farming group is standing in what is now the cactus garden, opposite the petrol-service station in La Oliva. This cemetery is less than inspiring with very little info. Nowadays the coffin is placed in a wall and bricked up but there are many traditional graves. One of the most interesting and the most ancient ones lies
beneath that very same angel.
One of the constructions tourists frequently wonder about are the strange round structures all over the island that now are abandoned. Some are quite fantastic and apparently they seem to have played an important part in the former economic activity of Fuerteventura.
Many hundreds of years ago it was discovered that a certain plant, when burned, will produce sodium carbonate, used for the production of glass and soap.
Pájara is one of the oldest towns in Fuerteventura and was a very early settlement from Betancuria. It survived complete destruction during the Arab invasion of 1593 when all of Betancuria was reduced to dust. The town takes its name from the hen pheasant, as the coat of arms shows. Look carefully and you will see a very ancient symbol, the 2 serpents. These have been slightly adapted but are named Oroborus or tale devourer. It shows a snake eating its own tale, which has a mystic meaning of “the circle of death and re-birth”, which is thousands of years old.
The estimated age of Fuerteventura as an island is some 18-20 million years. The earliest formation is thought to be Tindaya, reckoned by its material which differs significantly from that of the rest of the island. The mountain Tindaya is a large lump of Trachite, whereas the Betancuria massif is Basalt based. One million years is along time and although not populated by humans, Fuerteventura was the home to many species of plants and animals that we will never guess how they looked or grew. However, there is one instant that has left its traces.
The Canary Islands had been known for many centuries and have been visited by the Phoenicians, Romans, Carthaginians, and Egyptians and very much later by the Portuguese. The original inhabitants of Fuerteventura remained in between isolated from Europe and the rest of the world for almost 1500 years.
The term for the original settlers is Guanche. Evidence from archaeological findings indicates a close link with the Cro Magnons of N. Africa and more specific to the Barbary and Libyan areas.
20 Dec 1978. Tourist Boat sinks close to Fuerteventura.
The tourist boat “Poseidon” sunk on its way back to Lanzarote, overwhelmed by high waves due to stormy conditions. The boat carried 30 passengers and 2 crew members; only 21 survived.
The tourists were returning from a one-day visit on Fuerteventura. Weather conditions were bad and wind gusts of 7 Beaufort were hitting the sea. Upon their way back the rudder broke due to an overload of high waves and shortly after that a stern wave capsized the 15ton vessel (see picture). As the security measures failed, all passengers had to swim for about 3 km to the shore. Many of the survivors suffered injuries.