La Gomera (pronounced [la ɣoˈmeɾa]) is one of Spain's Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. With an area of 370.03 km2 (142.87 sq mi), it is the third-smallest of the archipelago's eight main islands. It belongs to the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. La Gomera is the third least populous of the eight main Canary Islands, with 22,426 inhabitants.[2] Its capital is San Sebastián de La Gomera, where the cabildo insular (island council) is located.

La Gomera
Satellite view of La Gomera
LocationAtlantic Ocean
Coordinates28°06′54″N 17°13′30″W / 28.11500°N 17.22500°W / 28.11500; -17.22500
ArchipelagoCanary Islands
Area370.03 km2 (142.87 sq mi)[1]
Coastline100 km (60 mi)[1]
Highest elevation1,487 m (4879 ft)[1]
Highest pointGarajonay
Autonomous CommunityCanary Islands
ProvinceSanta Cruz de Tenerife
Capital and largest citySan Sebastián de la Gomera (pop. 9,093, in 2019)
Population22,426 (2020)[2]
Pop. density58.1/km2 (150.5/sq mi)
LanguagesSpanish (specifically Canarian Spanish and Silbo Gomero)
Ethnic groupsSpanish, Canary Islanders, other minority groups
Additional information
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
Volcanic valley of La Gomera
Volcanic plugs in the centre of La Gomera
Laurisilva of Garajonay, in La Gomera.
Los Órganos, La Gomera.

Political organisation edit

La Gomera is part of the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It is divided into six municipalities:

Name Area
Agulo 25.36 1,127 1,148 1,096
Alajeró 49.43 1,465 2,005 2,017
Hermigua 39.67 2,038 2,076 1,832
San Sebastián de la Gomera 113.59 6,618 8,943 9,093
Valle Gran Rey 32.36 4,239 4,547 4,564
Vallehermoso 109.32 2,798 2,961 2,901
Totals 370.03 18,285 21,680 21,503

The island government (cabildo insular) is in the capital, San Sebastián.

Geography edit

The island is of volcanic origin and roughly circular; it is about 22 km (14 mi) in diameter.[6] It is very mountainous and steeply sloping and rises to 1,487 m (4,879 ft) at its highest peak, Alto de Garajonay. Its shape is rather like an orange that has been cut in half and then split into segments, which has left deep ravines or barrancos between them.[7]

Ecology edit

The uppermost slopes of these barrancos, in turn, are covered by the laurisilva – or laurel rain forest, where up to 50 inches of precipitation fall each year.

The upper reaches of this densely wooded region are almost permanently shrouded in clouds and mist, and as a result are covered in lush and diverse vegetation. This area forms the protected environment of Spain's Garajonay National Park, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The slopes are criss-crossed by trails of varying difficulty, offering views of the surrounding area.

The central mountains trap the moisture from the trade wind clouds and yield a temperate cloud forest climate, which contrasts with the warmer, sun-baked cliffs near sea level.

Between these extremes is a variety of microclimates. For centuries, La Gomera's inhabitants have farmed the lower levels by channelling runoff water to irrigate their vineyards, orchards and banana groves.

Natural symbols edit

The official natural symbols associated with La Gomera are Columba junoniae (paloma rabiche) and Persea indica (viñátigo).[8]

Culture edit

The local wine is distinctive and often accompanied with a tapa (snack) of local cheese, roasted pork, or goat meat. Other culinary specialities include almogrote, a cheese spread, miel de palma, a syrup extracted from palm trees, and "escaldón", a porridge made with gofio flour.

La Gomera's inhabitants have an ancient way of communicating across deep ravines by means of a whistled speech called Silbo Gomero, which can be heard two miles away.[9] This whistled language is indigenous to the island, and its existence has been documented since Roman times. Invented by the original inhabitants of the island, the Guanches, Silbo Gomero was adopted by the Spanish settlers in the 16th century and survived after the Guanches were entirely assimilated.[9] When it was threatened with extinction at the dawn of the 21st century, the local government required all children to learn it in school. Marcial Morera, a linguist at the University of La Laguna, has said that the study of silbo may help understand how languages are formed.[9]

In the mountains of La Gomera, its original inhabitants worshipped their god, whom they called Orahan. The summit and centre of the island served as their sanctuary. Many natives took refuge in this sacred territory in 1489 as they faced imminent defeat at the hands of the Spaniards, and it was there that the conquest of La Gomera ended. Archaeologists have found ceremonial stone constructions there that appear to represent sacrificial altar stones, slate hollows, or cavities. It was there that the Guanches built pyres upon which to make offerings of goats and sheep to Orahan, who was known on La Palma as Abora and on Tenerife and Gran Canaria as Arocan. The Guanches also interred their dead in caves. Today, saints, who are worshipped through village festivals, are principally connected with Christianity. But in some aspects, the Guanches’ godlike idealising of Gomeran uniqueness plays a role as well besides their pre-Christian and pre-colonial implication and shows strong local differences.[10]

Christopher Columbus made La Gomera his last port of call before crossing the Atlantic in 1492 with his three ships, stopping to replenish his crew's food and water supplies, intending to stay only four days. Beatriz de Bobadilla y Ossorio, the Countess of La Gomera and widow of Hernán Peraza the Younger, offered him vital support in preparations of the fleet, and he ended up staying one month. When he finally set sail on 6 September 1492, she gave him cuttings of sugarcane, which became the first to reach the New World. After his first voyage of Discovery, Columbus again provisioned his ships at the port of San Sebastián de La Gomera in 1493 on his second voyage to the New World, commanding a fleet of 17 vessels. He visited La Gomera for the last time in 1498 on his third voyage to the Americas. The house in San Sebastián in which he is reputed to have stayed is now a tourist attraction.

Festivals edit

Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of the island of La Gomera.

The festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of the island, is the Monday following the first Saturday of October.

Every five years (most recently in 2018) is celebrated the Bajada de la Virgen de Guadalupe (the Bringing the Virgin) from her hermitage in Puntallana to the capital. She is brought by boat to the beach of San Sebastián de La Gomera, where several people host her, and transported throughout the island for two months.

Notable natives and residents edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Estadística del Territorio" [Territory Statistics] (in Spanish). Instituto Canario de Estadística (ISTAC). Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Real Decreto 1458/2018, de 14 de diciembre, por el que se declaran oficiales las cifras de población resultantes de la revisión del Padrón municipal referidas al 1 de enero de 2018" [Royal Decree 1458/2018, of 14 December, by which the population values resulting from the review of the municipal register of 1 January 2018 are declared official] (PDF). BOE (in Spanish). 29 December 2018. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  3. ^ Census of 1 November 2001: from Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Madrid.
  4. ^ Census of 1 November 2011: from Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Madrid.
  5. ^ Estimate of 1 January 2019: from Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Madrid.
  6. ^ "The Geology of the Canary Islands - 1st Edition". Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  7. ^ Carracedo, Juan Carlos; Troll, Valentin R. (1 January 2021). "North-East Atlantic Islands: The Macaronesian Archipelagos". Encyclopedia of Geology. pp. 674–699. doi:10.1016/B978-0-08-102908-4.00027-8. ISBN 9780081029091. S2CID 226588940.
  8. ^ "Ley 7/1991, de 30 de abril, de símbolos de la naturaleza para las Islas Canarias". Archived from the original on 8 August 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  9. ^ a b c Laura Plitt (11 January 2013). "Silbo gomero: A whistling language revived". BBC News. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
  10. ^ Jaehnichen, G. (2011). Steps into the future: San Isitdro's procession dance. In: Jaehnichen & Chieng, (eds.) Preserving creativity in music practice. Universiti Putra Malaysia Press. 2012

External links edit

  •   La Gomera travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • Green, Lawrence G.: South African beachcomber. Memories of the people of the shore and the stories they told; sand and dunes and treasure, seabirds and creatures of the sea; and personal impressions of certain islands in African waters. Cape Town: Howard B. Timmins, 1958.
  • Cabildo de La Gomera
  • La Gomera - Official Canary Islands Tourism