Identification. The Canary Islands were known in the past as the Fortunatae Insulae and Hesperis. There is some Disagreement on the origin of the name "Canaries," but generally it is thought to come from the Latin word canis, because of the large number of dogs that lived in the islands. Since their conquest by Spain in the fifteenth century, the islands have belonged to Spain, and since 1982 they have been an autonomous community in the Spanish state.
Location. The archipelago is located between 27° and 29° N and 13° and 18° W, and it belongs to the Macaronesian Region, which also includes Cape Verde, Madeira, and the Azores. The islands are of volcanic origin, though at one time some believed that they formed part of the submerged continent of Atlantis. There are seven main islands (Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Palma, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and Lanzarote) and several smaller islands with a total area of 7,541 square kilometers, spread over an ocean surface of 100,000 square kilometers off the coast of northwest Africa. The climate is characterized by alternating subtropical anticyclones, which produce a stable weather pattern with few storms. The prevailing climate is determined by the trade winds, which produce mild temperatures, although on occasion the islands experience the effects of Saharan and polar winds. The annual average temperature is 20° C on the coast. Despite the steady climate, the islands have a complex Ecology, with various microclimates found even on the same island.
Demography. The Canarian population numbered more than 1,600,000 in 1990. The core population consists of People descended from indigenous inhabitants and the Spanish conquerors. To this basic nucleus later European immigrants were added, mainly from Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, England, and France. The demographic evolution of the Islands is linked strongly to their economic history and emigration to America. Canarian emigrants settled in several South American countries and the United States, but mainly in Cuba and, more recently, in Venezuela, where people of Canarian origin number more than 500,000. In these Countries Canarians are called isleños (islanders).
linguistic Affiliation. Canarians speak Spanish, but the pronunciation is considerably different than Castilian Spanish. The lexicon includes words taken from the indigenous languages—especially place names and names of Individuals—as well as Portuguese and English.