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It was the indigenous hunting hounds with their long-eared lugubrious expressions that gave the Canary Islands their name, and not the little yellow bird. Around the year 80 A.D., in ancient Rome, author Pliny heard tell from explorers of the Atlantic Ocean of the archipelago and adopted the Latin word for dog, Canis, by which to identify them.

There are seven main dots of land in the complex lying about one hundred miles west of Africa, roughly level with the Sahara in Morocco. Indeed, Saharan sand has drifted further west and now forms the extraordinary golden dunes of Maspalomas, the ten-mile beach with its highrise hotels, villa, and general holiday paradise on my island, Gran Canaria.

In the fifteenth century, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, whose fleet already controlled the Atlantic, conquered the Canaries, realizing with their favorable trade winds, currents, and remarkably agreeable subtropical climate that the islands were a strategic prize worth fighting for. Spain has governed them ever since, the language is Spanish, and their seaports are among the largest linking America with Europe.

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This story appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of MILIEU.