Silbo Gomero is a whistling language that developed on the island of La Gomera, one of Spain’s Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa. The island is difficult to traverse due to its very steep hills and deep ravines. La Gomera’s inhabitants, tired of yelling at each other, long ago invented a phonetic language based on whistling, and for centuries this form of communication worked very well. Then came telephones, and the whistling language fell into disuse.
Saving Silbo Gomera became the goal of busuu.com, an online community for learning languages, which produced this video as part of a worldwide campaign. Their efforts were successful. Yesterday UNESCO declared the language to be an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Also making UNESCO’s list was the sultry music and moves of the Tango. This is thanks to a bit of cooperation between Uruguay and Argentina, who have long bickered over who laid claim to its origins. The two countries put their arguments aside in order to petition UNESCO for the special status, and they now stand to receive funding to safeguard the cultural tradition. There were 76 designations made this year, and include the Chinese Dragon Boat festival, Aubusson tapestry-making in France, and the traditional Nigerian harvest festival know as the Ijele masquerade. The entire list is fascinating, be sure to take a look.
Thanks to French blogger Kirsten Winkler for the whistling tip!