Despite the small size of this municipality there is a great variety of landscapes and population centres. However, there are three main sectors in which the neighbourhoods that make up the municipality are distributed.
Ensconced in a small but deep valley of the same name, this tiny hamlet is one of the spots that best captures the entire essence of the Gomeran landscape, with traditional homes of Canarian architecture, numerous plots of terraced land and a splendid palm grove, estimated to have more than 5,000 palm trees.
Somewhere between history and legend, it is said that at the start of the 15th Century a ship sailing on the Trade Winds suffered damage and took shelter on the beach of Guariñén. The crew went in search of water and provisions until they ‘arrived at the Taguluche ravine, where they found such abundant fruit and water that one of the crew members decided to make his residence in this place’. Maciot de Bethencourt was possibly in command of that ship’s crew, since he was one of the first Christians to make contact with the aboriginal population of the Canton of Orone, with whom he maintained good relations for years
Just as in the other ravines with abundant water, Taguluche had a great deal of agricultural production and so became one of the territories most coveted by the European colonists. In the 17th Century, the Hermitage of San Salvador was built on the cliffs from which a trail descended from Arure to Taguluche, ‘for the religious service of the inhabitants of the valley’. The harvest of orchilla, a type of lichen, from nearby cliffs, the production of silk, the collection of cochineal and subsistence farming were the main occupations of its inhabitants until the start of the 20th Century, when the cultivation of tomatoes became an important part of local activity. There were seven tomato packers by the middle of the 20th Century, whose fruit sailed for England from the Pejes Reyes pier, where a small davit was made which operated until roads became the favoured transport method.
During the 1970s, the population of Taguluche entered into crisis as tomato cultivation declined, and today it is the least populated town in the municipality.
Arure y Las Hayas
The hamlets of Arure and Las Hayas are situated at the highest part of the municipality. Due to their location, these neighbourhoods are closely tied with the mountain, so much so that some of their inhabitants were the last working shepherds in the mountains that today form part of Garajonay National Park.
Las Hayas is a small hamlet whose traditional homes and orchards are enveloped in mountain mists. It also has a notable Canarian palm grove, which according to scientific research maintains extraordinary genetic purity.
Arure is a small town consisting of two main hamlets located near each other: the centre of Arure and the hamlet of Acardece, located in the area closest to the mountain.
After the Spanish conquest, intense ploughing in Arure created one of the most fertile areas in La Gomera, which wasinitially used mostly for grains. Threshing floors from this period can still be observed in the area near the small group of homes known as Las Casitas, which is notable for conserving the original architecture of the buildings.
A significant number of vineyards were also established, especially on the land closest to the mountain. Arure has various bodegas in caves that were created when this crop reached the Canary Islands.
The parish church of La Virgen de La Salud is also worth mentioning. This building dates from 1510 or 1515, when a small single-nave hermitage was built with no sacristy or chancel. Later, in the 18th Century, it underwent a renovationthat enlarged it to its current size. Although it has undergone changes due to weather and styles, its interior still preserves some popular pieces, such as the carving if St. Buenaventura, dated to the 18th Century. It also conserves the original staircase to the belfry, which makes the building unique.
Valle Gran Rey
Due to the orography of the valley, the population centres that emerged were somewhat dispersed on either side of the ravine.
Guadá, found in the upper area of the valley, in reality is more than a neighbourhood, it is a complex of eleven population centres. On the left side of the ravine we find, from the top down, el Lomo del Balo, Los Descansaderos, La Vizcaína, Higuera del Llano, El Hornillo, Chelé and Los Reyes, where the hermitage of La Virgen de Los Reyes is located. To the right we have El Retamal, La Rinconada, Lomo del Moral, Lomito Gámez, Las Sábilas and Los Granados.
Guadá is an erosion caldera which makes up the head of Valle Gran Rey, a deep basin that receives water from three ravines. To the south, the cirque is crowned by Ajojar point and La Matanza, a mountain where the Risco de Guadá is located, the largest spring on the island, in which a hanging willow grove grows. The valley is closed to the north by the Lomo de la Laja massif and to the west by the impressive Yorima cliff.
During rainy winters the three largest waterfalls or ‘chorros’ that pour into Guadá are impressive: El Lance, whose water comes from the Lobasco mountains; Los Garañones, which comes from Las Hayas; and finally El Agua, which originates in the mountains of El Cercado.
Guadá is a spectacular landscape made up of terraced plots of lands thatstand as monuments to the tremendous amount of work Gomeran peasants had to endure to overcome the torturous orography of the island and obtain arable land for their crops. After the conquest, the upper part of the valley had the most inhabitants (for example, La Vizcaína was referred to as anagricultural area in a document dated from 1567), while the lower area was almost unpopulated. The abundance of water was the main reason that a significant amount of subsistence agriculture developed, which even today is somewhat important.
In the middle altitude of the valley, where the ravines of Arure and Valle Gran Rey meet, we find the neighbourhoods of Casa de la Seda and El Guro. It appears that the first European inhabitants of the valley settled in this area, tied to the production of silk and the establishment of one of the five sugar mills that were on the island in the first half of the 16th Century. Silk production and its conversion into textiles was introduced at the start of the colonization of the archipelago and it became an important economic activity on the islands that had the largestamounts of water in the Canaries. It was also important in La Gomera and it was in this period that the neighbourhood was named Casa de La Seda (the Silk House). El Guro is located on the other side of the ravine, which today is an exotic neighbourhood where traditional Canarian architecture is mixed with an alternative architectural style associated with the hippie philosophy.
Next we find Piedras Quebradas, Las Orijamas, El Picacho and La Calera. This was the most important administrative and commercial neighbourhood in the valley when on the coast there were only a few fisherman’s houses and fruit packing workshops. The Town Hall was established there at the end of the 19th Century, and nearby the courthouse, the main stores and businesses, and the houses of the most wealthy families of the period when crops began to be exported. Today the neighbourhood is an attractive tourism destination because it has conserved some of its traditional architecture and a part of the town is reminiscent of Arab cities, with intricate side streets filled with flowers.
In the direction of the ocean lies the entire coastal platform created by the alluvial fan from the ravine, upon which the neighbourhoods of La Playa, Borbalán, La Puntilla and Vueltas are located. This was the most active area in cultivating crops for exportation from the end of the 19th Century to the 1970s, with tomato being the predominant crop at first and later banana. In addition, due to its excellent climate it was the area where other tropical fruits were introduced to the island, such as papaya, avocado and, above all, mango.
In the fishing neighbourhoods, especially La Playa and, above all, Vueltas, fishing was combined with agriculture and the local dock bore witness to the unloading of fish and banana shipments until the road was opened; today the port is exclusively used for fishing and recreation.
Tourism developed the most in the area nearest the coast. A wide range of accommodations, many of them family-run, and a wide variety of restaurants allow visitors to enjoy everything the municipality and La Gomera has to offer, making Valle Gran Rey their residence of choice during their stay.