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Demographics

The Demographics of the islands has seen what could be considered as reverse migration over the past 25 years. This is set to continue throughout 2009-2012 due to the recently approved (29 Dec 2008) law known as “Law on Historical Memory”. Over 200,000 Cuban´s whether in Cuba, USA or elsewhere in the world could be allegeable for Spanish citizenship under this new law. Previously the law did not include grandchildren but offered similar citizenship status. Currently, the Canarian population includes long-tenured and new waves of Spanish immigrants, including Galicians, Castilians, Catalans, Basques, and Portuguese, Italians, Flemings. As of 2008, the total Canarian population is 2,075,968. Over 1,541,381 people are native Canarian-born, and another 178,613 people from the Spanish mainland with a total 1,792,121 Spanish population. Most of the 283,847 foreign-born citizens are Europeans with 155,415, such as Germans (39,505), British (37,937) and Italians (24,177). There are 86,287 from the Americas, with Colombians (21,798), Venezuelans (11,958), Cubans (11,098) and Argentines (10,159) being the most numerous. An indisputable influence in the formation of Latin American Spanish, often overshadowed by discussion of the `Andalusian' contribution, is the Canary Islands. Beginning with the first voyage of Columbus, the Canary Islands were an obligatory way-station for Spanish ships sailing to the Americas, which often stayed in the islands for several weeks for refitting and boarding of provisions. Canary Islanders also participated actively in the settlement and development of Spanish America. With Columbus's discoveries, the Canary Islands became obligatory stopover points en route to the New World, and much of the islands' production was dedicated to resupplying passing ships. The islands were ideally situated for influencing trans-Atlantic trade, and Canarian merchants began to implement their own agenda, fitting ships to sail directly to the Americas. Many islanders signed on as sailors, in providing Spain with a trans-Atlantic seafaring class. The Canary Islands were also the site of the first Spanish-owned sugar plantations, and when sugar was introduced into the Antilles, it was from the Canary Islands, complete with Canarian experts in sugar cultivation. The flourishing Caribbean sugar industry overtook the originally prosperous Canary Island production, initiating the economic decline of the islands which would ultimately result in heavy emigration to the Americas.

With the coming of independence to most of Latin America in the early 19th century, Spanish trade with the New World diminished considerably. The Canary Islands increased their commercial traffic with the United States, and emigration concentrated on the two remaining Spanish-American colonies, Puerto Rico and particularly Cuba. Alvarez Nazario (1972a) has traced the successive waves of Canary Island immigration to Puerto Rico, where entire villages were formed of relocated islanders. In Cuba, the isleño became a well-known personage, characterized by a combination of industriousness and peasant superstition, and the speech and behavior of Canary Islanders figure prominently in Cuban literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Some representative figures hint at the magnitude and linguistic importance of the Canarian presence in Latin America. In 1714, for example, the governor of Caracas observed that half the white population of the city was composed of Canary Islanders (Béthencourt Massieu 1981: 18). Following the wars of colonial independence and until 1853, official Spanish policy allowed islanders to emigrate only to the remaining Spanish possessions: Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Few took the last option, but emigration to Cuba grew steadily during the remainder of the 19th century. In 1853, a royal decree permitted emigration to all American territories, whether Spanish colonies or free nations. This increased Canary emigration to other Latin American areas, especially Argentina and Uruguay, as well as providing more immigrants for Venezuela, but the majority continued to head for Cuba. Accurate figures for immigrants during the 19th century do not exist, but an approximate picture can be reconstructed (Hernández García 1981). In the 20-year period from 1818-1838 for example, more than 18,000 islanders emigrated to the Americas, most to Cuba and proportionately fewer to Venezuela and Puerto Rico. This represents a significant proportion of the islands' population, and given the relative size of cities in Latin America in the early 19th century, a not inconsiderable shift in the linguistic balance of such places as Caracas, Havana and Santiago de Cuba. In the half century from 1840 to 1890, as many as 40,000 Canary Islanders emigrated to Venezuela alone. In the period from 1835-1850, more than 16,000 islanders emigrated to Cuba, a rate of approximately 1000 per year. In the 1860's, Canary emigration to the Americas took place at the rate of over 2000 per year, at a time when the total islands' population was perhaps 240,000. In the 2-year period 1885-6, more than 4500 Canarians emigrated to Spanish possessions (including the Philippines and Fernando Poo), of which almost 4100 went to Cuba and 150 to Puerto Rico. During the same time period, some 760 Canary Islanders emigrated to Latin American republics, with 550 going to Argentina/Uruguay and more than 100 to Venezuela. By the period 1891-1895, Canary emigration to Argentina/Uruguay was slighly more than 400, to Puerto Rico was 600, immigrants arriving in Venezuela numbered more than 2000, and to Cuba more than 17,000. By comparison, in the same half century or so, emigration to Cuba from other regions of Spain included: 14,000 from Barcelona, 18,000 from Asturias and more then 57,000 from Galicia. During the same period more than 18,000 Galicians arrived in Argentina/Uruguay, but only a handful arrived in Venezuela. These are only official figures; when clandestine emigration is taken into account, the numbers would be much larger. For example, Guerrero Balfagón (1960) has documented the illegal but significant immigration of Canary Islanders to Argentina and Uruguay in the first half of the 19th century.

The linguistic contributions of Canary Islanders are difficult to separate from those of Andalusia, given considerable similarities as well as the close linguistic and cultural contacts between Andalusia and the Canaries. Few exclusively Canary lexical items penetrated Latin American Spanish, so the fact that a given term is used in the Canary Islands and also in Latin America does not automatically entail direct transfer. Sometimes the choice of competing variants can be influenced by migratory trends. Thus, for example, Laguarda Trías (1982: 50) suggests that the preference for durazno instead of melocotón `peach' in the Southern Cone may reveal a Canary influence. Cubans and Venezuelans know the word gofio, although the word no longer designates the same mixture of ground toasted grains as in the Canary Islands. The word was once used in Argentina and Uruguay, especially by the canarios, a term coming to mean all rural dwellers regardless of origin (Guarnieri 1978: 32-3). The term guagua is used in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Puerto Rico to refer to a city bus. At the turn of the 20th century, the term referred to a horse-drawn wagon, and viajar de guagua meant `to ride for free.' The same term is found in the Canary Islands, with identical meaning, and is used even in the most remote regions, on all seven islands. Most analyses of Canary Spanish attribute this term to Cuban influence, brought back by returning islanders who had lived in Cuba. The use of guagua in Equatorial Guinea (formerly Fernando Poo) has also been attributed to the Cuban exile and slave population which was sent to the island in the mid 1800's (González Echegaray 1959: 64). The form, however, bears the characterstic shape of Guanche words, and the existence of this word among the Isleños of Louisiana, whose ancestors left the Canary Islands in the late 1700's, suggests the opposite route of transfer. The general absence of the word in the Spanish of Venezuela, where the Canary Island presence was also strong, adds to the confusion concerning the origins of guagua.

Several syntactic patterns found in the Caribbean region may be of Canary origin, or may have been reinforced by the arrival of large numbers of Canary Islanders (Gutiérrez Araus 1991). One such case is the combination más nada `nothing else,' más nunca `never again,' más nadie `no one else,' used very frequently in Caribbean and Canary dialects. Other Spanish dialects prefer the reverse word order, although combinations beginning with más are occasionally found in Andalusia and elsewhere in Latin America. These combinations bear a close resemblance to Galician-Portuguese constructions, and in view of the documented Portuguese/Galician influence in the Canary Islands, may be part of the Galician/Portuguese contribution. In Cuba and Venezuela, the Canary influence cannot be entirely separated from the direct influence of Galician Spanish speakers. Non-inverted questions of the sort ¿qué tú quieres? `what do you want?' are usual in Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican Spanish, somewhat less so in Venezuelan and Panamanian Spanish, and quite uncommon in the remainder of Latin America, as well as being extremely rare in the Iberian Peninsula. In the Canary Islands, non-inverted questions are not as common as in the Caribbean, but among older speakers in rural regions, the frequency rises appreciably, indicating a higher rate of usage in the past, when the Canary influence on Caribbean Spanish was strongest. Galician/Portuguese also employs non-inverted questions, but not due to the cliticization of subjects but rather to the general lack of subject-verb inversion. The tight concentration of non-inverted questions in Latin American Spanish, limited to the Antilles and a few coastal Caribbean regions, correlates neatly with Canary Island influence, and also with recent Galician arrivals. Found throughout the Caribbean are combinations in which an infinitive is preceded by an overt subject, usually following a preposition, with para being the most common preposition: para yo salir `in order for me to leave,' para ellos entender `for them to understand,' antes de yo venir `before I came,' etc. Unlike noninverted questions or the word guagua, preposed subjects of infinitives are not limited to the Antilles or the Caribbean, although they are most common in that area. On the other side of the Atlantic, such constructions are usual in the Canary Islands. In peninsular Spain, infinitives with preposed subjects are not unknown in Andalusia, although never common. In Galicia, such combinations occur in Spanish as translations of Galician patterns. In Latin America, the Canary/Galician contribution converged most strongly in the Caribbean, which is where infinitives with preposed subjects are most frequent. This distribution provides circumstantial evidence in favor of a Canarian contribution in the Caribbean zone (cf. Lipski 1991). Phonologically, Canary Island Spanish could easily be confused with Cuban, Panamanian or Venezuelan Spanish by the casual observer (cf. Almeida 1989a, 1989b, 1990; Alvar 1959, Catalán 1960, 1964; Lorenzo Ramos 1976; Samper Padilla 1990). Even members of these speech communities are not always able to distinguish between a Canary Islander and a speaker of Caribbean Spanish. Although some have seen a direct Canary Island influence in Caribbean Spanish pronunciation (e.g. Alvarez Nazario 1972a), this cannot be objectively verified. The phonological patterns of the Canary Islands continue the patterns of consonantal weakening found throughout southern Spain, but do not differ qualitatively from Andalusian and Extremaduran dialects. Canary Island immigration to the Caribbean added to phonetic tendencies which were already well-developed, but the overall Canarian contribution is largely supportive rather than innovative.

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