Cultural Heritage of La Gomera

The Cultural Heritage of La Gomera, both tangible and intangible, is the compendium of the cultural traits of a society that has been elaborated, transformed and inherited throughout a history of more than 2000 years. For 1500 years, the island was occupied by Berber communities from North Africa. In the last 500 years, European culture settled on the island, with contributions from America in the 20th century. 

The island’s archaeological heritage is well preserved, although it is modest in terms of cultural manifestations; the sacrificial altars, shell middens, necropolis and settlements in natural caves, etc. stand out. This heritage is also characterised by a notable phenomenon of survival.

Intangible Cultural Heritage is difficult to distinguish and is made up of different types of elements. Oral Memory stands out as being the most urgent to recover, given its rapid demise at a time of global transformations. Other important areas are folklore (the drum dance connects with ancient manifestations of worship and festivities); the Whistled language of the island of La Gomera, the Silbo Gomero, Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2009; gastronomy, with outstanding elements such as cheese, almogrote, watercress stew, confectionery or palm syrup; the Cercado earthenware is also considered to be of great importance.

Although modest, the Artistic Heritage is considered very important, with great references such as José Aguiar García and Pedro García Cabrera.

The island’s documentary heritage is not very extensive, and is scattered, although relatively well preserved, both on the island and, above all, outside it. The most important historical collection on La Gomera is that of La Casa Fuerte de Adeje, which is divided between Tenerife and Gran Canaria. The most important collection in the General Island Archive is the Luis Fernández collection. The municipal archives are also important for the history of the island in the 20th century. Also of interest are the ecclesiastical documents and those of the San Sebastián Court, which have been transferred to Tenerife.

As is the case in most of the peoples of the world, productive cultures have been of vital importance on the island and have generated an immaterial and very local ethnographic and material heritage: livestock farming, fishing, shellfish farming, polyculture, grain culture – now almost non-existent -, viticulture (which boasts a real jewel, the forastera gomera, a local grape variety), tomato and banana growing. Three elements make up the backbone of the Landscape Heritage: the stone walls, which are the architectural element that has had the strongest impact on the island’s landscape; the domestic architecture (houses, ovens, threshing floors, etc.) and the paths and roads, linked to the island’s transcendental barter and exchange systems.

Lastly, there is Hydraulic Heritage, with elements such as canals, irrigation channels, drains, tanks and dams, as well as water mills, and Industrial Heritage – which has been recently inventoried – with the water treatment plants, the Monforte hydroelectric power station and Los Pescantes in the north of the island.

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