Ons is the only inhabited island in the archipelago of the Illas Atlánticas National Park. In fact, far from being empty, bucolic or untouched, in 1960 the island’s population stood at around five hundred people, who lived in the ninety houses of the neighbourhoods of Caño, Curro, Canexol, Pereiró, Cucorno, Chan da Pólvora and Centulo. The other islands of the national park were abandoned over the course of the twentieth century, especially during the 1970s. Ons also lost most of its permanent population over a very short period of time. However, its seasonal population increased, as did tourism; both these factors, along with the island’s inclusion within the national park, make it a truly unique place. Here, conflicts and discord as well as empathy, harmony and friendship all make up the particular dynamics of this singular and lively island.
This book focuses on the human presence at Ons over time. The island’s fragility makes it particularly important to deepen our knowledge of the place. This raises questions about how, when and by whom the island was inhabited. We address the questions ‘how, when and who did it belong to? What vestiges remain of the human presence? What is present-day life like for its half a dozen inhabitants? How does tourism affect the island?
We have also paid special attention to the traces left by the human presence on the island over a long period of time. These remnants have been made known to us through the inhabitants’ own accounts. Throughout the pages of the book it is they who tell us about such aspects as daily life, the land, the sea, the legends and beliefs and the recent changes on the island: its abandonment and reoccupation, the Civil War, the post-war period, the effects of the sunken oil tanker Prestige and the impact of tourism on its present-day population.
The traces of the past constitute a set of cultural entities of a unique character; these have been included in the chapter “Places”. The Ons archipelago is not only part of the Islas Atlánticas de Galicia National Park and consequentially, a naturally protected habitat. The archipelago is also the home of a singular cultural landscape, made up of particularly relevant archaeological entities and a traditional landscape. The island has been gradually transformed by a distinct set of arable and livestock farming and maritime activities, all of which were carried out by the inhabitants of the island over time, and are reflected in both material culture and oral tradition. This book presents the results of our research on the Island of Ons, the island’s cultural heritage and the processes of documenting, recording and assessing both the heritage itself and its vulnerability. We would like whoever reads it to dig as deeply into the research as they wish. For instance, the chapter entitled“People” grants us direct access to information collected through the practice of ethnographic fieldwork. The chapter about the history of successive occupation and abandonment explains exactly how this part of the research has been carried out. The historical information offered follows two different time lines: firstly we gain access to the people who inhabited the island over time (occupation line), and secondly, to those who owned the island (property line). It is left up to the reader to decide how far they wish to delve into the information as they travel the pages of this book.
We invite you to listen to the sounds of the island and the words of its inhabitants, to enjoy the riches of its cultural entities and to explore the documents of the Isle of Ons.