San Cristóbal de La Laguna is a city and municipality in the northern part of the island of Tenerife in the Province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on the Canary Islands (Spain). The city is the third-most populous city of the archipelago and the second-most populous city of the island. La Laguna’s historical center was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. La Laguna lies right alongside the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, thus the two cities and municipalities form a single large urban center, linked by tram.
The city is home to the University of La Laguna which is home to 30,000 students; these are not included in the population figures for the city. La Laguna is considered to be the cultural capital of the Canary Islands. Also there is in the habit of being calling the “Ciudad de los Adelantados”, for having been the first university city of the archipelago.
Its economy is business-oriented while agriculture dominates the northeastern portion of the city. The urban area dominates the central and the southern parts. Tourism covers the northern coast. The main industry includes some manufacturing. The industrial area is made up of the main subdivisions of Majuelos, Las Torres de Taco, Las Mantecas and Las Chumberas. In this city one finds the legendary house of the spectre of Catalina Lercaro, as well as the incorrupt body of Sor María de Jesús, and the Christ of La Laguna.
Another emblematic building of the city is the Cathedral of La Laguna, which is the Catholic cathedral of Tenerife and its diocese.Other important historical figures of the city were Amaro Pargo, one of the famous corsairs of the Golden Age of Piracy, and José de Anchieta, Catholic saint and missionary and founder of the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
In 2010, after a survey, La Laguna was listed as the city with the best reputation in the Canary Islands and the third provincial capital city of Spain with the best reputation, behind Gijon and Marbella.
The place where the city is built belonged to the Menceyato de Anaga, which was one of nine aboriginal Guanche kingdoms on the island until the Kingdom of Castile’s conquest. It is also known that the whole valley of Aguere and especially the large lake that was in this place, was a place of pilgrimage for the aborigines of the island.
The Battle of Aguere was fought here in 1494. The city was founded between 1496 and 1497 by Alonso Fernández de Lugo and was the capital of the island after the conclusion of the conquest of the islands. Later the city also became the capital of all of the Canary Islands. The coastal area was later raided by pirates. The University of La Laguna was founded in 1701.
The layout of the city, its streets and its environment are elements shared with colonial cities in the Americas and Old Havana in Cuba, Lima in Peru, Cartagena de Indias in Colombia, or San Juan de Puerto Rico, among others. Since the urban plan of the city of La Laguna was the model for these Latin American cities.
A declining population and economy in the 18th century resulted in the transfer of the capital to Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1723. Santa Cruz has since been the capital of the island of Tenerife and the sole capital of the Canary Islands until 1927, after which the capital of the archipelago has been shared with the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
The Tenerife North Airport at Los Rodeos was opened in the 1930s and is today expanding with low cost airlines using it.
It was declared a World Heritage Site on 2 December 1999. Several streets of historical significance have been closed off to automobile traffic. La Laguna has often been called the «Florence of the Canary Islands», this is due to its large number of churches and convents, as well as its old town and historic buildings. Also due to the fact that the city was the cradle or seat of different artistic and cultural movements then exported to the rest of the Canary archipelago, especially in the religious sphere as in Holy Week, or having been the cradle in the Canaries of the movement of the Enlightenment, also called the Century of Light. This favored the emergence especially in the Baroque period (XVII-XVIII centuries) of notable sculptors, painters and architects who exercised their trade in the city and sometimes exported their works to the rest of the archipelago.
Several tunnels, passages and underground vaults dating from the immediate aftermath of the founding of the city era have recently been found. These tunnels sometimes lie under very iconic buildings such as the Iglesia de la Concepción, the Cathedral of La Laguna and the former Convent of San Agustín, among others. Researchers believe that the present city of La Laguna has been raised, because now it does not have the same ground level as at the time of its founding. In some places it is more than one meter higher and buries what is underneath.