Very little is known about the first inhabitants of Fuerteventura, though it is believed that they were Cro-Magnons from North Africa.
The term Guanche is often used to describe the aboriginal people of the islands (pre Spanish Conquest) although technically the Guanches were the natives of Tenerife.
Although there is some debate as to the origin of these people, the natives of Fuerteventura were more than likely of Berber (North African) origin.
These natives of the Islands were generally Cave-dwellers, but they also built some very basic stone structures. It is said that the Guanches had no knowledge of Boats or Navigation, which is all the more strange when you consider that all of the Canary Islands were inhabited. There are not a great deal of archaeological remains except for a few Cave sites and the strange podomorph (feet) carvings at Tindaya (which is said to have been a sacred place).
When the first Europeans arrived they found the island divided into two Kingdoms, Maxorata and Jandia, divided at La Pared (literally The Wall), unfortunately nothing remains of this wall today.
The Island first appears on a Map by Angelino Dulcet from 1339 under the name Forte Ventura.
No one seems to agree on what the name means with various explanations being offered. They all agree that Forte/Fuerte means ‘strong’, but differ on the meaning of ventura – Luck/Happiness/Wind/Adventure – take your pick!
Though the island was known to Europeans prior to 1339, it was not until 1405 that it was conquered by the Spanish.
Fuerteventura was the second of the Canary Islands to fall to the Spanish under the leadership of the Norman nobleman, Jean de Bethencourt.
Settlements were first established at Vega de Rio Palmas and Betancuria (which was the first Capital of the Island). A census taken during the 1440’s recorded a population of around 1200.
The island suffered many pirate attacks and in 1593 Xaban de Arraez took control of the Island for several months and destroyed Betancuria along with it’s church and records.
By the 18th century, the Island had fallen under the control of a Heredity Militia (Los Coronoles) based in La Oliva who were eventually removed in 1834.
Miguel de Unamuno
In 1924, Spanish Author and Philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno, was exiled to Fuerteventura following his criticism of King Alfonso XII dictator, Primo de Rivera. He spent just a few months on this, at the time, very remote Island before fleeing to France.
There is much rumour and legend concerning the Jandia Peninsula during the 1930s and 1940s, when it was controlled by German Engineer, Gustav Winter. Stories and speculation about German Submarines, Holidaying War-time Generals and a stopover for fleeing Nazis centre around the mysterious and isolated Villa Winter near Cofete.
Fuerteventura’s current Airport opened in 1964 (replacing the old ex-military installation at Tefia) and the first tourist hotels were built shortly afterwards heralding the beginning of Fuerteventura’s tourist-based economy.