After the conquest of the island, in 1483, a new society emerged, characterised by racial mixing. The original inhabitants were joined by colonists from Hispanic and Portuguese kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula, and Italy and Flanders. Black African and Arabic inhabitants were used as slave labour.

Land and water resources were divided among the conquerors and the colonists who came to the island drawn by the opportunity for a better life. The economic structure of the island’s first inhabitants disappeared, and Gran Canaria joined the European trade route after sugar cane became established as its first export crop.

Sugar cane and its associated processing industry was the basis of Gran Canaria’s economy until the early 18th century. Competition from American sugar devastated sugar cropping, which gave way over the centuries to a succession of highly profitable crops such as grapevines and cochineal and, from the late 19th century, bananas and tomatoes.


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