El hierro – history and geography


El Hierro, nicknamed Isla del Meridiano („The Meridian Island”) is a Spanish island. It is the smallest and furthest south and west of the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. It is situated at 27°45′ north, 18°00′ west.



The name of the island is derived from the Guanche language toponym Hero, though by the process of folk-etymology was transformed into „Hierro,” meaning iron in Spanish, due to its similarity to that word. Thus, Ferro (Latin ferrum, „iron”) was and is used as a name for the island. It is the name for the island in other languages, including French, German, and Danish). Pliny the Elder, who used Juba II as his source, names a series of Canary Islands, and it is believed that his Capraria may have been Hierro. The ancient Guanche people on the island, called bimbaches, were conquered by Jean de Bethencourt –more through the process of negotiation than by military action. Bethencourt had as his ally and negotiator Augeron, brother of the island’s native monarch. Augeron had been captured years previously by the Europeans and now served as mediator between the Europeans and the Guanches. In return for control over the island, Bethencourt promised to respect the liberty of the natives, but he eventually broke his promise, selling many of the bimbaches into slavery. Many Frenchmen and Galicians subsequently settled on the island. There was a revolt of the natives against the harsh treatment of the governor Lázaro Vizcaíno, but it was suppressed.


Like the rest of the chain, the island is sharply mountainous. It has an area of 278 km². Maximum high is situated in the middle of the island, in Malpaso, with 1.501 meters high. Like all the Canary Islands, El Hierro is a tourist destination. It is served by a small airport at Valverde and a ferry terminal, both of which connect to Tenerife.





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