The word Macaronesia comes from the Greek and is formed by two words: makáron, which is equivalent to happiness, and nesoi, which means islands. Therefore, we are talking about an idea that refers to islands understood as happiness. In this case, it is not a concrete archipelago , but five located in the Atlantic Ocean: Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Azores Islands, Madeira and Ilhas Selvagens (in relation to the Canaries they are also popularly known as “lucky islands”, a nickname which connects with the etymological origin of the term Macaronesia).
A laboratory for research
These archipelagos have a number of shared characteristics:
1) all of them have a volcanic origin, as they emerged from the depths of the sea after successive volcanic eruptions;
2) most islands are aligned on the same tectonic plate and, on the other hand, are archipelagos where the same sea currents operate;
3) the fauna, flora and fossil plants have similar characteristics.
These similarities make scientists consider Macaronesia as a perfect laboratory for studying biodiversity.
Although historical references to Macaronesia go back to antiquity, these archipelagos were officially discovered between the 14th and 15th centuries by Portuguese and Spanish navigators.
From a political point of view, they belong to three nations: Cape Verde (former Portuguese colony), Spain and Portugal. Tenerife is the largest island (2034 square kilometers) and Roque del Oeste is the smallest (0.01 square kilometers).
Some islands of the Macaronesia archipelago are unpopulated (eg Alegranza, Deserta Grande, Montanha Clara and Lobos).
The islands that form the Canary Islands constitute the largest archipelago in the Macaronesian region .
These Atlantic Ocean archipelagos not only share the characteristics mentioned above, but they also have something in common: they are first class tourist destinations.
In Greek Mythology and Culture
In the stories of Greek mythology, there is talk of some islands located in the ocean, where men lead a fully happy life and enjoy terrestrial goods. In them, also rest the souls of heroes who led a righteous life. Later, the Greek author Plutarch referred to some paradise islands that were called the Fortunate Islands.
For most scholars, these ancient world references are related to the archipelagos that make up Macaronesia.