|The Canary Islands
an autonomous province of Spain
The Canary Islands are an archipelago
of 13 islands in the Atlantic Ocean about 60
miles (97 kilometers) off the northwest coast of
Africa. The islands' name comes from canaria,
the Latin word for "dogs," and was
given to them by the ancient Romans because they
found large, fierce dogs living there. Canary
birds were so named because they were first seen
on the islands.
The islands have a total land area of 2,808
square miles (7,273 square kilometers). All of
the islands are volcanic in origin, and some of
the volcanoes are still active. The highest peak
in the Canaries is 12,162-foot (3,707-meter) Pico
de Tenerife, on Tenerife, the largest island in
the archipelago. The volcanic soils are very
fertile, and the climate is mild year-round.
Seven of the thirteen islands are inhabited,
with a total population of approximately
2,117,500. The majority of the islands'
inhabitants are of Spanish descent.
The Canary Islands were visited by the ancient
Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans.
Arab mariners reached the islands in the 12th
century, and they were visited by French
navigators in 1334. The islands were claimed by Portugal in
1341, but awarded to Castille (present day Spain)
by Pope Clement VI in 1344. Portugal and Spain
disputed "ownership" of the Canaries
until 1479, when Portugal agreed to recognize
Castilian control over the Canary Islands in
exchange for Castille's recognition of Portuguese
control over the Azores, Madeira, and Cape Verde
islands. The Canary Islands have been a province
of Spain since then.
The Canary Islands were divided into two
provinces in 1927 -- Santa Cruz de Tenerife
includes the islands of Tenerife, La Palma,
Gomera, amd Hierro, and its capital is Santa Cruz
de Tenerife; Las Palmas includes Gran Canaria,
Lanzarote, and Fuerteventura, and its capital is
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The Islands as a
group have 13 seats in the Spanish Senate. Of
these, 11 seats are directly elected, 3 for Gran
Canaria, 3 for Tenerife, 1 for each other island;
2 seats are indirectly elected by the regional
Autonomous Government, which is presided over by
a popularly elected President.
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