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History of Agulo PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 02 March 2009 13:02

The origin of the name of Agulo is not exactly known. Some authors are inclined to relate it to the Castilian word ángulo meaning an angle, given the geomorphological configuration of the territory. However, others also allude to the pre-Hispanic origin of the place name, with the meaning of “a place open to the sea and with abundant waters”. In fact, the main native nucleus lies under the foundations of the present village centre, and middens are located at the coast, together with engravings and sepulchres in the valley edges.

From a sociopolitical point of view, the community formed part of the indigenous canton of Mulagua, which also included the present municipal district of Hermigua. At the arrival of the Norman conqueror Jean de Bethencourt (1405), all this territory was governed by the indigenous chief Fernando de Aberbequeye. The pacts and alliances between the Gomeran community and holders of the lordship created by the Norman Jean de Bethencourt were truncated when one of the lords, Hernán Peraza, violated the treaties and was killed by his Gomeran vassals in 1488. The excessive reaction of the Castilians lead to the slavery and deportation of a large number of natives.

In Agulo, the water resources and land apt for the cultivation of sugar cane determined the establishment of a plantation and a device to grind the canes of stately property in the lower part of the valley. The plantation and the device were rented to Genoese merchants, who exported the sugar to the European markets. Later the canary sugar crisis, motivated by the competition of the Brazilian and Antillean supply, originated the closure of the sugar mill. The lords then initiated a settling policy that, in the case of Agulo, took shape in the foundation of the place on September 27th, 1607.

The eighteen settlers came in their majority from the zone of Buenavista, in the north of Tenerife. The lords yielded to the settlers a site where to make the town, one hundred fanegadas of land to each neighbor and the necessary volume of water for the irrigation of vineyards, gardens and orchards. In addition, during the six first years they were free of ordinance charges and tax payments. Nevertheless, the settling policy of the counts did not give the awaited results - towards 1620 only one of the eighteen settlers was left.

The history of Agulo is not known during the 17th century. Possibly the grapevines moved to sown lands in the lower sunny part of the valley, whereas the wine was destined to the inner consumption and shipped to the American market. The production of silk and its elaborations reduced seasonal unemployment of small grape growers, while in highlands sown lands progressed with intensive mixed farming of maiz and potatoes. However, the primitive small village did not acquire own relevance until 1739, when a parish was established in Agulo, making it independent from the parish of Hermigua. Six years later the new parish took care of the pastoral demand of 550 inhabitants, distributed in 161 families. The new parochial organization had also civilian authorities, that is to say, an ordinary mayor chosen by the stately authority.

The economy of Agulo during the second half of the 18th century took shape in the production of cereals, wines, potatoes, yams, vegetables and silk. Two brooks having a permanent flow watered most of the arable land and operated six flour mills. The place also had abundant pastures and thick forests, of which palo blanco and barbuzano wood was exported to Tenerife. Nevertheless, the majority of the inhabitants lived on the verge of subsistence, because most of the product derived from the fields belonged to the lord of the island and to other proprietaries who lived outside the town. This reason explains the demographic stagnation of Agulo during this century and the participation of its residents in the emigration to America.

The economy of Agulo did not escape the general crisis of the period 1820 - 1850, when the grain purchases from the market of Tenerife reduced as a result of the ruin in wine production, affected in addition by the plague of oidium, which also ruined the vines of Agulo, which had turned into the second producer of wines of the island. The changes in the fiscal system, new contributions and surcharges together with the crisis explain the demographic stagnation and emigration to young republics such as Cuba and Puerto Rico on the American continent. The migration to Cuba did not cease until the fertile lowlands of Agulo received the cultivation of banana trees in the beginning of the 20th century.

As in the majority of insular municipalities, the economic, social and political modernization of Agulo began with the new century. The lack of a road infrastructure for the transport of fruits was surpassed in 1908 by means of construction of a small wharf and a davit with its corresponding warehouse on the beach of San Marcos. The introduction of banana plantations allowed the municipality to register a considerable growth in the first forty years of the century - from 1900 to 1940 it went from 1,522 to 2,573 inhabitants.

The banana cultivation also created precise conditions for the development of class consciousness among the local proletariat. Later the ruin of the fruit export brought about an economic contraction, that just a few fortunate ones managed to escape by means of their clandestine boarding to Venezuela. Thus, as of the 1960's, the municipality of Agulo began to suffer from the effects of massive emigration like the rest of the island. The recovery of the fruit export, directed now towards the Spanish peninsular market, characterizes the local economy until our time.