About La Palma
The volcanic island of La Palma is part of the Canary Islands (off the northwest coast of Africa). It’s the fifth largest of these islands, the furthest into the Atlantic Ocean, and a modestly-sizes population of just 86,000 residents. Like the rest of the Canary Islands, La Palma was settled by the Spaniards by the 15th century (the island reputedly named after one of the first conquistadors to have arrived there).
Spain’s domination over much of the Americas starting in the 16th century made the Canary Islands a vital stopping point for ships en route to that country’s colonies and other parts of the Americas. Sugar and other agricultural goods became staple products grown in La Palma and neighboring Canary Islands. The prosperity of the Canaries attracted famous pirates and corsairs of the time, particularly the French Jambe de Bois (Peg-Leg) who sacked the port city of Santa Cruz de La Palma in 1553. Most of the older buildings that can now be seen in Santa Cruz date from the subsequent rebuilding of the city. In 1585 Santa Cruz was attacked by an armada of 24 ships commanded by the English pirate Francis Drake, resulting in the destruction of the harbor fort.
From that point on, with Spanish rule over the Canary Islands uninterrupted throughout the centuries, La Palma’s economy survived on the production of various goods (in accordance to periodic market demands) – from wine to cotton, tobacco, silk, etc. Economic hardship during the latter part of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century resulted in high levels of emigration — Cuba being the preferred destination up to the 1930s, and Venezuela afterwards. To this day, many Canarians retain strong family links with Cuba and Venezuela.
The Canarian economy continued to be dominated by agriculture until the early 1960s. Trade liberalization introduced by the Franco regime from 1960 onwards allowed an economic revival, based on bananas, annual exports of which exceed 130 million kilograms, plus other produce, forestry and tobacco. Most important of all was the growth of the tourist industry, from 73,240 tourists in 1960 to over 2 million tourists in 1975. To this day, tourism is a major part of the Canarian economy (including La Palma’s) – making up 32% of the islands’ GDP. The relative underdevelopment of La Palma island is an ideal destination for eco-tourists who are impressed with its natural beauty.