When you’re on your holiday in La Gomera in the Canary Islands, you may hear people talking about something called El Silbo, or Silbo Gomero. This is the native language of the island. El Silbo is the ancient whistling language developed by the Guanches who first inhabited the island.
The language is unique to the island of La Gomera. It’s suited to the landscape that is characterised by the chasms that fan out from the mountainous interior of the island. The whilstling language was first described by Greek traders as long ago as the 1st century, as being like bird song.
The word Silbo originates from the Spanish verb silbar meaning to whistle. Those who speak (or whistle) the language are known as silbadores.
Originally used by shepherds to communicate to each other from one side of the ravines to the other, the whistles were carried a distance of around 6 miles with ease. Currently, although the language has practically died out, the tradition carried on due mainly to a programme introduced in the late 1990s. This provided tuition to every school child in La Gomera on the language. They would learn the language for 30 minutes a week on how to use and understand it.
To learn more, visitors can go to Las Rosas restaurant located in the mountains above the small town of Agulo. Here you will be entertained by demonstrations of Silbo along with having lunch of traditional dishes of La Gomera. Try the rabbit in spicy sauce.
Above is a photo of the Mirador de Igualero (Mirador meaning viewpoint). Located next to the church of San Francisco, you will see a monument El Silbo.
For an interesting day out, head to Agulo. This is a charming 7th century village perched on a shelf above the sea. Agulo benefits from being in one of the best coastal settings on the island with views over banana plantations, agricultural terraces and out to sea. Walk around the cobbled streets and alleyways with their whitewashed houses. This is where you can wander up to the restaurant for the El Silbo demonstration and some lovely lunch.