History Part 4
In the latter year, the minimum size required for municipalities was reduced to 100 households (about 450 inhabitants) which enabled Puerto de Cabras to become an independent municipality. But in the majority of cases these town councils only existed on paper, as a lack of resources and disorganisation meant that they did not have the basic structures needed to form a fully operational local entity.
The Colonels lost political and military authority but not economic power, which they kept even after their post itself had disappeared. It can now be seen that La Oliva's economic golden age started with the arrival there of the Colonels in 1742 and lasted until the last third of the 19th century, making it the most populated municipality on the island. The start of its economic and political decline coincided with the death of the last Colonel in 1870. During the first half of the 20th century, the population of the municipality decreased.
The drop in agricultural production, the main and only economic resource, led to a population exodus. Some went to Puerto de Cabras, others to Gran Canaria and Tenerife, and the rest emigrated to Venezuela and Cuba. After the Spanish Civil War and up until the 1970s, the lading destinations for emigration were the Spanish colonies of El Aaiún and Villa Cisneros in Africa. Its economy, like that of the rest of the island, was based on grain production which depended on the favorable climate for profitable harvests.
In the 18th century, the main crops were barley and, to a lesser extent, wheat. Also noteworthy was the trade in barilla (a plant from which soda is obtained to make soap), exported through the municipality’s natural ports. Pride of place in livestock was taken by goats and sheep, which were mostly used to provide the indigenous population with meat, milk and cheese. The industrial sector was limited to limestone quarrying, a raw material which had been exported to other islands in the archipelago since the time of the Spanish conquest. It has left its mark in the numerous lime kilns to be found throughout the municipality and the references to it in the old Agreements of the Fuerteventura Cabildo.
The 19th century saw a succession of good and bad periods. From 1820-1850, there was a generalised crisis on the island as a result of a decrease in the grain trade with the capital islands, whose wealth had been reduced by the slump in the wine trade.