San Antonio, Texas
March 9, 1731
One of the few remaining possessions of Spain, the Canary Islands lie in the Atlantic Ocean about 60 miles (95 kilometers) from the northwest coast of Africa. Their total area is 2,796 square miles (7,242 square kilometers). The Canaries are divided into two provinces of Spain Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. They comprise seven principal islands Tenerife, Grand Canaria, La Palma, Hierro, Gomera, Lanzarote, and Fuerteventura and several smaller uninhabited ones. They were called Fortunatae Insulae (Fortunate Islands, or Isles of the Blest) in ancient Roman legends.
The name Islas Canarias is likely derived from the Latin term Insula Canaria, meaning "Island of the Dogs", Canis, is the Latin word for "dog". Sometime between 30 and 25 BC, explorers from the African kingdom of Mauretania sent by King Juba II named the islands for the huge wild dogs they found on the island of Gran Canaria.
Pliny, the ancient Roman scientist and historian, described the discovery. He wrote that the Canaries received this name for their dogs, two of which were sent to King Juba. The name originally applied only to Gran Canaria but later used for the collective group of Islands. King Juba regarded the island as the land where the sun never set. Some researchers say that the Canaries received their name from the “Canarii” tribe who inhabited the island of Gran Canaria. The Canarii called the island Tamarán at the time of their historic defense of their islands during the 15th Century. The Canarii tribe eventually became known as Guanches. Guanches was the name given to the natives living in Tenerife only, but it was later applied to all the first known inhabitants of the Canary Islands from the tribes of Canarii, Ben Bashir and the Benahuare tribes. The Spanish began to refer to the islands as the "Islands of Canaria." The wild canary ‘serinus canarius’ was introduced from the Canary Islands into Europe in the 16th Century. The canary bird was named after the islands, not the other way around.