La Graciosa was the last of the Canary Islands to be populated, only a little over 100 years ago. It had long been ignored as it was too small and lacked a fresh water supply. During the 19th century it was only fishing industry entrepreneurs that showed an interest as it was a good base of operations for fishing expeditions around the nearby African coast. It seemed a promising business and even the US sought to exploit its potential and made an offer to buy the island from Spain. In the end it was businessman Ramón de Silva Ferro who persuaded the Spanish government to grant him temporary use of the island in 1876 so that he could establish a fish factory and recruit the poorest inhabitants of Lanzarote to work there.
But the business faced many problems which culminated in the death of Ramón de Silva himself. The factory ended up being abandoned, leaving behind redundant workers and considerable challenges. So it was that the harbour village of Caleta de Sebo came into being, followed a few years later by the Pedro Barba settlement which was eventually abandoned by fishermen in the 1970s.
For decades, life for islanders was harder than we could possibly imagine. They drank brackish water (obtained from the cliffs opposite the island), nearly everything they ate was gleaned from the sea and they lived isolated from the world in modest mud and stone houses.
To communicate with the nearby island of Lanzarote they devised a system of bonfires, called tegalas. For example, if someone became seriously ill and had to be transferred to Lanzarote over the Famara cliffs, relatives would be informed of their condition via a code of bonfires on the cliff edge; a single fire meant that the person had improved; two that they had worsened and three that they would never return to the small island, as it had no cemetery.