The single biggest factor behind Arrecife’s lack of pizzazz is that it only became the island’s capital in 1852. Until then, Teguise ruled supreme. In 1574 the Castillo de San Gabriel was first constructed (it was subsequently attacked and rebuilt) to protect the port. Its shorter and squatter younger sibling further up the coast, the Castillo de San José, was built between 1776 and 1779.
By the close of the 18th century, a semblance of a town had taken uncertain shape around the harbour. As commerce grew and the threat of sea raids dropped off in the 19th century, the town thrived and the move of the island’s administration to Arrecife became inevitable.