History Part 5
This slowdown affected La Oliva, since it produced large quantities of grain for export. Later on came the crisis of 1840, caused by the discovery of artificial soda which impacted on barilla exports. The definitive blow to the grain trade came in 1852 in the shape of trade liberalisation under the Ley de Puertos Francos (Free Ports Act), which allowed foreign grain not subject to tariffs (and hence cheaper) to come into Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Palma. Especially significant was the implementation in 1900 by the then Minister of Finance, Villaverde, of a law which imposed high tariffs on imports of island barley to the Peninsula. LA AURORA, Fuerteventura's newspaper of the time, expressed the concern that this measure caused in its editorial: “With this, tax the markets on the Peninsula are closed off to the production of barley from Lanzarote and Fuertventura, which means major losses for these islands.” The cultivation of nopales (prickly pear) began in the municipality in 1845, and enabled trade in cochineals (the basis for a valuable dye used in cosmetics and textiles). The crop was successful in some parts of the municipality and led to the appearance of new settler families.
At present agriculture, which is mostly dry farming, is in decline because of the low return it gives, water restrictions and a lack of labour with workers going to the tertiary sector: construction, trade and tourism. The island’s largest concentration of sand cultivation, a technique designed to retain humidity, is to be found in Villaverde.
In spite of a decline in the last few decades, La Oliva remains the municipality with the largest number of goats at about 15,000 head. This is due to its large grazing areas, badlands, and alfalfa and fodder crops. Cheese from Fuerteventura is a premium quality culinary product which can be bought straight from the family-run cheese shops to be found throughout our municipality.
Fishing used to be another important activity, especially in El Cotillo and Corralejo due to tradition and proximity to the coast. The number of fishermen has, however, declined dramatically as a result of socio-economic stagnation and lack of technical resources.
Starting in the 1960s, tourism became the driving force of municipal development. La Oliva and Pájara are the municipalities on the island with the most beds, with about 17,000 in La Oliva, most of them non-hotel.
This development has brought with it a significant increase in population, especially immigrants, attracted by the jobs that tourism generates. This strong growth has entailed a rise from 2,900 inhabitants on the municipal census in 1975 to almost 20,000 at present, the de facto population being much higher. In cultural terms, the appearance of this significant number of people from outside the island has created new lifestyles that have left the traditional model in a clear minority.
Information supplied by the official tourist infomation office for La Oliva www.laoliva.es