By the time Christopher Columbus passed by on his way to the Americas in 1492, the busy little historic centre had already been traced out by the Spanish. The city benefited greatly from the Spanish conquest of Latin America and subsequent transatlantic trade but, inevitably, became a favourite target for pirates and buccaneers. In 1595 Sir Francis Drake raided Las Palmas with particular gusto.
In 1822 Santa Cruz de Tenerife was declared capital of the single new Spanish province of Las Islas Canarias, which left the great and good of Las Palmas seriously disgruntled; redress didn’t arrive until 1927, when Las Palmas became capital of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.
The fortunes of the port city continued to fluctuate until the end of the 19th century, when prosperity arrived thanks to the growing British presence in the city. In early 1936 General Franco was appointed General Commander of the Canaries – a significant demotion and a posting he considered to be a form of banishment. While staying in the city – reportedly at the Hotel Madrid in Triana – Franco planned and launched the coup that sparked the Spanish Civil War.
Since the 1960s tourism boom, Las Palmas has grown from a middling port city of 70,000 to a bustling metropolis of close to 400,000 people. And, while it shares the status of regional capital evenly with Santa Cruz de Tenerife, there is no doubt that Las Palmas packs the bigger punch in terms of influence and size.