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Ancient History

Plato mentions the existence of an ancient continent, Atlantis, dramatically submerged under the ocean. Only its peaks stood out, the Canary Islands, the Azores, Cape Verde and Madeira. In the myth of Hercules, one of his feats was to bring the golden apples of the Hesperides. Hercules had to pass through the pillars of Atlas (Gibraltar) to reach that place which, as it is described, could not be other than the Canary Islands. Homer calls them the Elysée, the paradise for the righteous.

Despite all these mythological references, there is no evidence that the Phoenicians or Greeks visited the islands. It is possible that the Phoenicians and Carthaginians glimpsed the easternmost islands from the African coast. Some historians claim that a Phoenician expedition went to the islands in the 12th century BC, and that the Carthaginian Hanno visited them in 470 BC.

The Roman Empire in its expansion defeated Carthage in 146 B.C., but it does not seem that they were very willing to investigate the mythical islands, known as Insulae Fortunatae (Fortunate Islands) because there were no animals harmful to humans. A later expedition by a North African king, Juba II, was cited in works by Pliny the Elder. Ptolemy, in 150 A.D. estimated the location of the islands and marked an imaginary meridian in El Hierro, which would be the edge of the known world.

The Aborigines

The Chronicles of the Conquest refer to tall, strong and even blond natives with clear eyes. These references created a whole series of speculations about the origin of the Guanches. Finally, the most accepted and plausible theory is that Guanches come from Berber tribes of the Maghreb, and that their first settlement dates from 200 BC. Some words in their dialects resemble Berber languages, and also among the Maghreb tribes light eyes and blond hair are common. Their origin explains, in addition, their scarce interest in fishing or agriculture, and they were gatherers and stockbreeders.

The "Conquistadores"

The first conquest attempts took place at the beginning of the 5th Century. The conquerors found La Gomera divided into 4 kingdoms called Mulagua, Hipalan, Orone and Agana, equivalent to the valleys of Hermigua, San Sebastián, Valle Gran Rey and Vallehermoso (in this order). In the very beginning they welcomed the conquerors as if these were new neighbors. However, the intentions of the new inhabitants soon became clear. Their lack of unity, however, made their resistance ineffective.

La Gomera Culture

The plethora of traditions cannot be summed up in a single phrase. Expressions, food, architecture and music vary among islands. It is possible to affirm that between all the Canaries there is a deep feeling of pride and the conviction of the difference between the archipelago and the rest of the country. This difference is perceived in its unique history and culture.

Of the seven islands, La Gomera is the one that preserves the purest traditions and customs. It is also the one with the most interesting individual features: the dance of the drum and the whistling language.

The Silbo gomero is a manifestation of the efforts of the inhabitants to overcome the difficulties of communication imposed by geography.

The gomera cuisine is similar to that of other islands, but its fertility, traditional poverty and variety of ingredients has given numerous recipes of its own. The dishes that stand out are the watercress soup, almogrote and palm honey.

The rich folklore of the island can be witnessed in its festivals. Festivities in which religious processions are usually accompanied by the traditional dance of the drum, along with the chácaras, a unique instrument whose sound is reminiscent of the ancient settlers. The ancient chants, called endechas, were once in the brink of disappearance, but survived by blending with the music of the conquerors.

The popular fiestas, of great affluence and colour, are celebrated around the religious festivities. The great number of festivities that take place throughout the year has favoured the creation of several local dance orchestras. Well renowned around the Islands, most of their musicians come from family-tradition. Their music is a mixture of local rythms and American influences (salsa, merengue, cumbia…).