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What we know as San Cristóbal de La Laguna was part of the kingdom or Menceyato of Tegueste, in an area the aboriginals called Aguere. It was a strategic place before the Conquest of Tenerife, as every season these people would come here with their livestock because of its fertile lands surrounded by woods and its small lagoon.

Aguere was the scene of the last battle the Castilian troops, led by Don Alonso Fernández de Lugo, fought against the aborigines; it was here where the final conquest of the Island was achieved. The victory, after defeating Mencey Bencomo and his brother Tinguaro in 1496, led to the definitive incorporation of Tenerife to the Crown of Castile. The event took place on the day of San Cristóbal, so the town was named after him, who also became its patron saint along with San Miguel, a protecting saint worshipped by Don Alonso.

To commemorate these historic events the Ermitas de Gracia, de San Cristóbal and the Convento de San Miguel de las Victorias were built.

In payment for the conquest, Don Alonso Fernández de Lugo received from the Crown (the Catholic Monarchs), the title of Adelantado and the rule over these territories. He held full powers to administer justice, appoint different administrative, judicial and military positions, grant land, issue ordinances and be the head of the “Cabildo de Tenerife”. The first government meeting was on 20 October 1497. This was to be the main and only ruling body for a long time.

The descendants of Fernández de Lugo inherited his title of Adelantando, which led to San Cristóbal de La Laguna being known as the town of the Adelantados.

Throughout the 16th century the Villa gradually took shape around two population centres which came about differently. The first settlement chosen by the Adelantado, in the area of the Nuestra Señora de la Concepción Church did not have a planned urban layout. It just consisted of some houses made of rough stone and straw roofs making up a small hamlet. Towards 1500, a second, thought-out centre emerged, encouraging people to settle in the south starting from the Santo Espíritu (Convent of San Agustín).

The two villages, Villa Veccia or Villa de Arriba and Villa de Abajo, would eventually become one. A new city was founded following Renaissance concepts based on mathematical formulas and laying out the streets by using navigation tools. An urban grid system, in straight streets that make up blocks. Its layout is the first example of an unfortified town, an example of City of Peace, a territory-town limited by its natural boundaries: the Chamarta ravine and the Carnicerías or Gonzalianes ravine, as well as the lagoon and the surrounding mountains, which were its natural defence systems. Also, being inland protected the town from the constant attacks of pirates on the Canarian coasts. This model was later exported to American cities.

In Villa de abajo, which follows the Castilian model, stand the main square, around which the houses of the Adelantado, Justice and Government buildings were erected. The Queen Juana I of Castile, sent a Royal Letters Patent on 3 February 1510, granting the village the title of Villa and a coat of arms depicting Archangel San Miguel in military attire; under the saint, the castle and the rampant lion representing the kingdoms of Castile and León watching over a flaming mountain that represents El Teide, and surrounded by the sea. Around the coat of arms, the inscription: MichaelArcángel beni in aditorium populo dey Tenerife me fecit, segung.

The town grew quickly during this century to the point that in 1588 the military engineer Leonardo Torriani, sent to the islands by Felipe II to improve the defence systems and their descriptions, drew a map of the Villa de La Laguna depicting three convents, six country churches, the “Cabildo de Tenerife”, churches, two hospitals, squares and streets that still stand today. It is described as the biggest city built after the Conquest. The quick growth of the Villa led Carlos I to grant it the title of “Ciudad” on 20 January 1531; and it was also endowed with “de Noble y Leal Historia” [of Noble and Loyal History] on 8 September 1534.

In the 17th century there is a boost in exterior trade with the Low Countries, England and America thanks to the consolidation of local vine growing. Tegueste, La Punta del Hidalgo, Geneto or Taganana are the main farming areas. As a result, a commercial bourgeoisie emerged that sought to have a prominent position.

Around the middle of the century, the uncontrolled production of these wine products brought a shortage of land to grow cereal and pasture for livestock. The high price of bread led the Town Council to force a price cut on grains and to regulate -by means of ordinances- the organization of farming lands.

In the 18th century the Canary Islands and La Laguna enjoyed great prosperity and underwent many socio-economic changes. It is the time of the Enlightenment which encourages education, administration, agriculture, fine arts and applied arts, and thanks to free trade the islands experienced an economic upturn. Under the protection of freethinking and a critical view of the country, cultural gatherings emerged with reforming intentions and the social, religious, cultural and economic issues of the islands were discussed.

In La Laguna, the Tertulia de Nava was the most important of these gatherings. It was promoted by Don Tomás Lino de Nava Grimón y Porlier (1734-1779), a man with great intellectual interests and broad political responsibilities. His successor, Don Alonso de Nava-Grimón y Benítez de Lugo (1759-1832), promoted the foundation of the Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País de Tenerife (1777), and encouraged the establishment of the Universidad de San Fernando (1792).

In the mid-1800s La Laguna started to lose power in favour of Santa Cruz, due to the transfer of the Captain Generals and to the growth of the Port of Santa Cruz. The new century also brought the division of the dioceses of Tenerife and Las Palmas; on 1 February 1819 La Laguna received the permission of Pope Pius VII to elect the new Bishopric.

The War of Independence and the creation of an alternative government in the shape of the Junta Suprema de Canarias, set the political pace in La Laguna. A new period of instability began, and it is worth noting the administrative reorganization that resulted from the Cádiz Cortes (1812), and the loss of a single capital city for the Canary Islands (1833).

In the late 19th century, there was a notable improvement in communications in La Laguna.  From the public point of view, landscaped boulevards, streets and squares were covered in cobblestones and most important of all, the road to Santa Cruz was improved as the new capital needed to be connected with the rest of the island.

The tram started working in Santa Cruz in 1901 and as early as 1911 it went as far as Tacoronte.

From a social perspective, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries there were a few migration surges to America, particularly to Cuba and Venezuela. La Laguna was one of the towns that most suffered a decrease in population.

The historical ups-and-downs of San Cristóbal de la Laguna have not led to substantial changes in its buildings and urban layout. The co-existence of the old large houses in Mudejar tradition, the convents, the eclectic architecture and the new urban planning are the main features of this period which led UNESCO World Heritage Committee to recognise the singular and authentic values of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, granting it the title of World Heritage Site of Cultural Interest on December 2, 1999 in Marrakech.