The first settlers of Fuerteventura, the Phoenicians, were reported in the 10th century BC. Centuries later, around the 2nd century BC, Berbers from Northern Africa, the Guanches, settled on the island. The Guanches wore shoes made of goatskin, so-called ‘mahos’. This is where the name of the current inhabitants of Fuerteventura, Mahorero (or Majorero), comes from.
Following the decline of the Roman Empire, the islands were ignored by Europe for more than a thousand years. They were then newly discovered by sailors from the Mediterranean. In 1312 Captain Lanzarotto reached the most north-eastern island. Later, this island was named after him –Lanzarote.
Around 1340, various Spanish and Portuguese expeditions took place, followed by Moorish and European slave trade. Towards the end of this Iberian conquest, Fuerteventura was divided into two ‘kingdoms’. The territories belonging to these were called Maxorata (in the north) and Jandia (in the south). They were separated by a wall situated on the isthmus La Pared. A few remnants of this wall can still be seen. The old name of the island, Erbania, has been derived from the name of this wall (‘la pared’ is Spanish for ‘the wall’).
Gradually, people started to discover and appreciate what the islands had to offer. In 1402 Lanzarote saw the beginning of the conquest of the Guanches. Two years later, the ‘conquistadores’ Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle conquered the sparsely populated islands El Hierro and Fuerteventura, encountering little resistance as they did so. On Fuerteventura they founded Betancuria, the first settlement on the island. The Portuguese vied with the Spanish for ownership of the Canary Islands. This rivalry lasted till 1479, when it ended with an agreement assigning the Canary Islands to Spain. A few years later (1483 – 1496) the rest of the islands suffered a gory conquest. All of them —Gran Canaria, La Gomera, Tenerife and, finally, La Palma — fell into the hands of Spain.