Castle Castillo de Mata
A 16th century castle
Having the shape of a square, the castle was built in 1579 between two hills on which the districts San Antonio and San Nicolas are today. It used to be a huge fortress that included almost all parts of downtown Las Palmas. Today, the walls and towers that are left are quite small in comparison to the original complex.
Under the direction of Gran Canaria’s governor Diego Melgarejo the castle’s massive walling was constructed in order to protect the island’s capital against attacks of pirates or conquerors. The Castillo de la Mata itself was thus only a part of the original fortress. It played an essential role during the attacks of the Dutch pirate Van der Does and his partner Drake in 1599. Right next to the castle an impressive monument reminds of the battle when General Alonso de Alvarado fought bravely against Van der Does. In the battle, Alvarado sacrificed his life defending his home town.
During these battles a first sense of identity independent from Spain developed among the Canarian population. The city had been severely damaged under the pirates’ attacks but after being freed Canarian people grew stronger and more self-confident.
At the moment the Castillo is being rebuilt since a new historic museum will find its home there and display the castles important role in defense of the city.