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Canary Islands Cruises
Canary Islands Cruises

Culture

If you have trouble whistling, be glad you didn’t live centuries ago in the Canary Islands. Because of dense vegetation and ravines, which made some terrain impassable, the locals developed a whistling language to get their point across from up to two miles away. Dating back to before the Spanish conquest, the communication technique is based on four vowels, four consonants and various tones.

Called Silbo Gomero, and only used on La Gomera, this unique element of the Canaries’ aboriginal past has begun a revival recently. In an attempt at preservation, elementary schools are now teaching children on the isle the whistling tradition.

Silbo Gomero is an example of part of the Canary Islands’ fascinating culture: the inheritance of the indigenous people who inhabited the island before the Europeans arrived. Nowadays the islands -- El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Grand Canary Island, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote -- showcase a mixture of pre-Colonial traditions and European heritage.

Cuisine here illustrates this blending of cultures perfectly. The region’s gastronomy is influenced by many peoples, including Spanish, Portuguese, American, African and early aboriginal residents. A traditional dish still served on the islands is gofio, doughy balls made from ground corn or wheat and mixed with milk or water. Papas arrugadas are another staple from long ago -- potatoes boiled in salt water until wrinkled.

Local cheeses and wines are a big part of the food scene here as well. Europeans brought over techniques for cheese-making and Canarians have perfected the craft throughout hundreds of years. Cheese made from goat’s milk is particularly popular and has earned international recognition recently.

During the 15th century, the Spanish also introduced wine to the exotic isles. Despite volcanic landscapes, wine-producing has flourished; malvasia is the most famous of the wines from the islands, though the trade has expanded and become more diverse.

Each island has different specialties, from honey to rabbit to fish stew. The Canary Islands are also known for their bananas and tomatoes, grown in ideal conditions, as well as other tasty produce, such as avocados and papayas, and fresh fish.