Let your imagination carry you back to the time when the Canary Islands were inhabited by the aboriginal population. Imagine a landscape covered with ravines and dense vegetation, where even crossing from one side of a hill to another was a challenge... So, at that time, how could people communicate rapidly with each other across the mountains?
They found a way: they put their fingers in their mouths and whistled, creating a language that very few communities use in the whole world. Close your eyes and listen to a whistled conversation. Would you like to learn?
When the first European Conquistadors arrived in the Canary Islands in the 15th century, they were surprised by the whistles emitted by inhabitants of some of the islands, used to communicate across the ravines and over long distances. This was a whistled language, that fortunately has survived to the present day, although during the second half of the 20th century this unique system of communication of exceptional value was almost lost. For this reason it has been declared by UNESCO to be part of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Although you might find it surprising, you can discover for yourself how to express an unlimited range of messages, as this system reproduces, through whistles, the sound characteristics of a language which, in this case, is the variety of Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands, but which, in theory, could be applied to any other language. Do you dare to try it in your own language? Well get ready then, because you need a lot of strength and practice if you want to be heard at any distance.
On some occasions in the past, the whistle was used as a secret language, for example during the Spanish Conquest, as a means of defence by the aborigines against the invaders; or for smuggling activities. However, generally messages sent by the whistling language have been related to daily life or exceptional events, and were heard by everyone in the area, not just the intended recipients of the message.
Although it is believed that this system of communication existed in various islands of the Canarian archipelago, nowadays it is characteristic of La Gomera, where local people have taken care to preserve it for future generations. In fact, whistling is taught in schools and forms part of the educational curriculum of young people from the island. So if you want to hear a conversation in this language, or if you fancy giving it a try, La Gomera is the ideal place to study this remarkable tradition which is both ancient and authentically Canarian.