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La Gomera is a true volcanic summit rising from the ocean floor and consists of basalt rock from solidified lava. La Gomera rose out of the sea millions of years ago, it is estimated between 10-15 million years ago.
Around 3000 years ago, writers such as Homer already spoke of the 'islands of the blessed'. Between 1100 and 800 B.C., the Canary Islands were discovered by the Phoenicians, coming from present-day Cadiz, and the Carthaginians.
There is still no agreement on the origin of the original inhabitants. According to one theory, there were several waves of immigration of different tribes from the Mediterranean region from around 3000 BC. Usually, the original ones from the Canary Islands are called Guanches. The Guanches lived in the Stone Age and were shepherds and gatherers. They lived in caves and quarries. Around the beginning of our era, La Gomera was visited by an expedition of King Juba of Libya and Mauritania.
In 1312 AD, the Italian Lancelotto Malocello entered the island of Lanzarote and founded the settlement of Teguise. Majorcan and Portuguese traders were also very interested in the Canary Islands in their quest for slaves and natural dyes. The first map of the archipelago (1339), made by the Majorcan cartographer Dulcert, already mentioned the name "Gommaria". It is thought to be derived from the Berber Ghomar tribe, who came to La Gomera from North Africa around 500 BC. In 1402, the Norman Jean de Béthencourt conquered Lanzarote for the Castilian crown and was given the title "King of the Canary Islands".
The people of Lanzarote rebelled against De Béthencourt, but the latter put down the rebellion with the help of his governor Gadifer de la Salle. King Guadarfia was baptised and the chapel of the fortress of Rubicón became the first bishop's seat in the Canaries. By force of circumstance, De Béthencourt conquered Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and El Hierro, but he did not get hold of La Gomera. At that time, four tribes lived on the island: Mulagua, Hipalan, Orone and Agana. In 1414, De Béthencourt gave the Canary Islands to the Iberian Count of Niebla.
From 1440 onwards, the Canary Islands were ruled by the Peraza people in a heavy-handed manner and this period was marked by many rebellions. In 1477, Hernán Peraza the Younger sold a large part of the population as slaves to Spain or North Africa.
La Gomera definitively Spanish territory
In the period 1433-1479, the Spaniards and the Portuguese fought over the Canary Islands. In 1479, the archipelago was granted to Spain in the Treaty of Alcáçovas and Portugal was allowed to annex the Azores, Cape Verde and Madeira. In the last decades of the 15th century, all Canary Islands were conquered successively: in 1483 Gran Canaria, in 1488 La Gomera, in 1495 Tenerife and in 1496 La Palma. During the conquest of La Gomera in 1488, the island suffered the greatest massacre in history: during a revolt against the conquerors from Castile, in which Hernán Peraza was murdered, almost all inhabitants were killed or sold into slavery. By the middle of the 16th century, the Guanches had practically died out. The name 'Isla Colombina' refers to the link between La Gomera and Christopher Columbus the explorer. Columbus landed on La Gomera three times, in 1492, 1493 and 1498. The island was used as a refreshment station and as a base for his expeditions. In 1516, the Peraza family was granted the title 'Counts of La Gomera'.
In the 16th century, the Canary Islands became a major exporter of sugar, which was grown on large sugar cane plantations. However, the sugar industry collapsed due to cheap sugar from South America.
In the 17th century, people switched to producing wine, but due to various reasons, wine production and export declined more and more at the end of the 18th century. However, the wine on La Gomera never reached the same quality as the wine from Tenerife or Gran Canaria. Around 1650 the counts of La Gomera moved to Tenerife and La Gomera was placed under the authority of a ruler. In 1743 an attack by English corsairs on San Sebastián was successfully repulsed. The first university of the Canary Islands was founded on Tenerife in 1744.
In 1797 the Canary Islands were attacked for the last time by Admiral Horatio Nelson, who in that year attacked Santa Cruz de Tenerife. In the 19th century, carmine, a natural dye from the lice that live on fig cacti, became an important export item. But even this lucrative business was not to last. Soon the cochineal received competition from artificial dyes.
Canary Islands province and free trade zone
In 1821, the Canary Islands became a province of Spain, with Santa Cruz de Tenerife as its capital. This led to a flare-up in rivalry between the archipelago's two largest islands, Gran Canaria and Tenerife. In 1836, the feudal system was abolished on La Gomera and on other islands and the island came directly under the Spanish crown. However, the large landowners could keep their rights, which meant little change for the majority of the population.
In 1852, the entire Canary archipelago was declared a free trade zone by Queen Isabella II. When Spain lost its last colonies, the economy of the Canary Islands took a turn for the worse, as a whole market was lost. Many 'Gomeros' left for Cuba, where they still form their own ethnic group, the so-called 'guajiros'. In 1902, Spanish troops put down rebellions of local independence movements.
Meanwhile, Tenerife became so dominant that in 1911 it was decided to do something about it by giving each separate island its own administration (cabildo insular). In 1927 the rivalry between Gran Canaria and Tenerife flared up again so much that the archipelago was definitively divided into two provinces: a western province with El Hierro, Tenerife, La Gomera and La Palma, and an eastern province with Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.
Meanwhile, the production of cochineal had completely collapsed and many inhabitants of the Canary Islands emigrated to South America. The next export product was the Canary Island banana, introduced as early as 1855; around 1900, banana cultivation got off to a good start thanks to initiatives by British companies and the Norwegian shipping company Olsen. The First World War dealt a big blow to international trade and banana exports fell by 80%, again leading to a wave of emigration.
In 1931, the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed, but in 1936, General Franco seized power in the Canary Islands and unleashed the Spanish Civil War.
The Spanish Civil War, however, brought only economic malaise and political isolation. The islands did not escape the acts of war either. For example, mass executions took place in the Barranco del Infierno (Hell's Canyon) on Tenerife. At the time, the Canary Islands were the poorest region in Spain. Just after the Second World War, about 50,000 people still lived on Gomera (now only 16,000).
From 1960 onwards, tourism increased and rapidly replaced agriculture as the main source of livelihood. After the death of General Franco in 1975, there was more political openness and democracy, and tourism experienced a boom.
Canary Islands autonomous and rise of mass tourism
In 1974, the shipping company Olsen started the first regular ferry service between the capital San Sebastián and Los Cristianos on Tenerife. In August 1982 the Canary Islands were granted autonomous status along with several other Spanish provinces, and in 1986, despite joining the European Union, the archipelago retained its separate status as a free trade zone. The status of capital was divided between Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. In Santa Cruz are the headquarters of the Canarian Parliament, and half of all departments and ministries. In Las Palmas are the seat of the executive council of the government, the courts and the other departments and ministries.
A forest fire in 1984 destroyed nearly 10% of La Gomera's total forest area and killed 20 people.
Today, mass tourism accounts for about 80% of the islands' income. However, the economy of smaller islands like La Gomera is still based on agriculture and fishing.
The airport on La Gomera was opened in 1999.
See also the history of Spain.
Evers, K. / Canarische eilanden : Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Palma, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote
Leibl, M. / Gomera & Hierro
Lipps, S. / La Gomera
Lipps, S. / Wandelgids La Gomera en El Hierro
Murphy, P. / Canarische eilanden
Renouf, N. / Canarische eilanden
Rokebrand, R. / Reishandboek Tenerife
Schulze, D. / La Gomera
Simonis, D. / Tenerife & La Gomera
Williams, C. / Tenerife, including La Gomera
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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