From the beginning of the 15th century the Spaniards tried unsuccessfully to conquer La Gomera. When they finally managed to establish a presence on the island in the middle of the century, it was due to a slow and fairly peaceful infiltration of Christianity and European culture, rather than as the result of a battle. Early on, the original inhabitants were permitted to retain much of their culture and self-rule, but that changed when the brutal Hernán Peraza the younger became governor. The gomeros rebelled against him, unleashing a bloodbath that killed hundreds of islanders.
After the activity of those first years, and the excitement that accompanied Christopher Columbus’ stopovers on the island, there followed a long period of isolation. La Gomera was totally self-sufficient and had little contact with the outside world until the 1950s, when a small pier was built in San Sebastián, opening the way for ferry travel and trade.
Even so, it was difficult to eke out a living by farming on the island’s steep slopes, and much of the population emigrated to Tenerife or South America – including the 170 men and one woman aboard the Telémaco, an infamous sailboat that suffered a terrible journey to Venezuela in 1950 (though all survived). These days the island is the most popular in the archipelago for hiking, which has resulted in a welcome tourism boost for the economy.