As was often the case, the salvation of pagan souls and the hope of discovering the source of Saharan gold, provided the motive for the conquest.

The island's conquest began in earnest in 1402, commanded by Norman knights Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle. They arrived with only 63 sailors out of the original 283, as many had deserted along the way. After arriving and settling in neighbouring Lanzarote, the invaders made some first excursions to Fuerteventura. In 1404, Bethencourt and La Salle founded the town of Betancuria, the first European settlement built in the Canary Islands. After numerous difficulties, Gadifer took charge of the invasion, while Bethencourt returned to Spain to seek the recognition and support of the Castilian king.

This is when the island's Spanish heritage truly begins, with the French influence being reduced to a few Castillianised versions of French place names such as Morro Jable (from the French ‘sable’ meaning sand) and Betancuria, the inland capital founded by Jean de Bethencourt. Indeed the island’s name itself is said to be a Spanish adaptation of Bethencourt’s exclamation ‘Que forte aventure!’

It was not until 1405 that Fuerteventura was finally fully conquered by Castile, largely due to the influence of the two Guanche priestesses, who persuaded Guise and Ayose, the two kings of Maxorata and Jandía, to surrender and accept baptism. The first to surrender was Guise, and he was baptised with the name of Luis. A few days later, after presenting himself before Béthencourt, Ayose would be baptised with the Christian name of Alfonso. Whether the rest of the native population was assimilated or sold into slavery is disputed as there aren't many historical documents to confirm what happened, however, many native words of the majo people live on today, having been transformed and adapted over time into the Canarian Spanish dialect. Even the names of some towns across the island have aboriginal names: Tamaragua, near the town of Corralejo in the north, receives its name from the Guanche word meaning "Good morning".

In 1424 Pope Martin V ordered the creation of the Diocese of Fuerteventura which encompassed all the Canaries except Lanzarote, with its central cathedral being the church of Betancuria. This was when the Franciscan Convent of San Buenaventura, also located in Betancuria (today in ruins), was built.
However, this diocese only last seven years. This meant that, in essence, the town of Betancuria was practically the capital of the Canary Islands for a brief period.

After Béthencourt left for Normandy, the island was left under the control of his nephew, and eventually, the island was inherited by the noble Herrera-Peraza family. Fuerteventura remained under their feudal rule for the next three centuries, during which many of the local populace would take part in many (unsuccessful) violent revolts against them because of their poor living conditions under the family's feudal regime.

In the 16th century, pirates from nearby Africa would take a special interest in Fuerteventura's ideal location and in their slave market. Moorish pirates would begin to sail across to the island's east coast and attack. In 1593, one such attack razed the island. The church at Betancuria was burnt down, villages were plundered, captives taken and hefty ransoms demanded to release them from the dungeons of Fez.

After many decades of heavy resistance, the natives on the fertile island of Gran Canaria were eventually conquered in 1483, coming under the direct rule of the Crown of Castile. Fuerteventura, mostly a barren, desert island still under the control of feudal lords, started to not receive as much interest from their conquerors as the now more prized possessions of Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Gran Canaria and Tenerife enjoyed an economic boom and became the gateway for trade between the Americas and Europe, while Fuerteventura would eventually start to depend heavily on its richer neighbours. For more detailed information check Zebcast Historia below.


Jean de Béthencourt
Jean de Béthencourt discovering the island of Lanzarote in 1402
 Barbary pirates

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