Ancient Prehistory to the Early European Renaissance
The original settlement of the island chain today known as Isermno is unclear. Archaeological studies thus far have revealed no evidence of human inhabitation prior to the fifteenth century. What does exist, however, is a great deal of recorded avoidance of the island by would-be European colonists for no apparent reason. The earliest such account is found in the logbook of Portuguese explorer João Henriques Duarte. Writing in 1197, Duarte recorded a conversation he had with a junior officer.
Said the captain: "See that island? Let's not stop there. Let's not give it a name. Let's not even record it on our maps. In fact, let's all pretend it's not there at all and say nothing about it when we get home." Admittedly, Duarte was a terrible explorer, which is why he is largely unknown outside of Isermno. Indeed, the only reason he gets so much as a footnote in our history books is to spite him for not discovering our island sooner; and if not for this he would have been forgotten entirely. This aside, the island's existence was something of an open secret to continental Europeans. No one who had seen it from afar had ever been there. Anyone else who suspected it existed could not vouch for the fact.
It was not until 1404 that Spanish merchant captain Anselmo Fortuna Sánchez Cabeza de Toro arrived there completely by happenstance. Sailing from Cádiz, Cabeza de Toro's ship was caught in a fierce storm. He and his crew survived, but with substantial material losses. Making matters worse, his efforts at weathering the storm resulted in his being put out into the Atlantic, far west of his intended course. With no way of knowing when next they would arrive in a friendly port, they made landfall on Isermno to forage for provisions.
The island proved bountiful and welcoming, lush with all sorts of exotic flowering plants. He called the island chain Ysermno, a name he felt called to mind the mythical days of ancient Greece; though his boatswain, Raúl Izquierdo de Cárdenas y Céspedes, relates that "Isermno" was the sound of Cabeza de Toro's snores after drinking himself to sleep.
Recognizing the potential wealth Isermno's natural resources offered, Cabeza de Toro forewent his voyage. He returned to Spain, intent on claiming the newly-discovered island for the crown and a windfall for himself. Spain's colonial aspirations were not lost on him. Two years prior, the crown had funded expeditions into the Canary Islands led by Jean de Béthencourt and Gadifer de la Salle. Unfortunately for Cabeza de Toro, his efforts at securing Spain's backing proved fruitless. Therefore, in 1408, he embarked once more for Isermno, funding the voyage himself. This was a rash gamble. Pragmatist that he was, Cabeza de Toro understood that he had not the slightest idea how to manage an island colony. But, if he succeeded at setting up what appeared to be a thriving enterprise, then he might be able to attract Spain's interest, at which point he would have been more than happy to part with his land for the right price.
In the space of a decade, Cabeza de Toro attracted tens of thousands of European settlers to the island. Its volcanic soil and fair climate were boons to agriculture. Its natural harbors promoted seagoing trade to North Africa and Western Europe. Importantly, it was near enough to Spain to benefit from its defence, and yet far enough away to escape supervision. To mainland Spain, Isermno was a far-flung backwater. No one who was anyone in society wanted to be sent there. This played to Cabeza de Toro's advantage, because he and the inhabitants of the island were becoming wealthy with no one in Europe being the wiser.
Eventually, however, Cabeza de Toro's luck ran out. The crown realized it was spending more on Isermno than the island was contributing to the greater economy. Recognizing this trend had gone on for years, Spain sent a delegation of multidisciplinary experts. The crown's best accountants were dispatched to ascertain the island's earning potential for tax purposes. If the budget shortfall was not the product of financial malfeasance but inefficiencies in production, then a cadre of agriculturalists would be tasked with determining what crops might maximize revenues for the crown.
The agriculturalists' report was completed in short order. It was first to reach the mainland, with the accountancy report coming much later. The agriculturalists concluded what already was known about Isermno. The island's natural fecundity more than sufficed for the cultivation of several cash crops.
As for the tax accountants, despite their best efforts, they were at a loss in explaining the state of financial affairs, chalking it up to witchcraft. They reported back that the island chain exerts a unique and peculiar effect on its inhabitants: any who visit are more inclined to bring wealth there than to withdraw wealth from it. As proof, they cited to contemporary geological studies which observed that gold was found there only in trace amounts, excepting the treasury vaults. All of Isermno's gold was imported; hardly any left its shores. This conclusion coincided with an alarming number of treasure fleets en route for Europe inexplicably changing course to moor in Isermno, their crew and treasure never to return to Spain.
The accountants then closed their report with official notice of their resignation and immediate defection to Isermno, along with their life savings, all at a considerable loss to the Spanish crown.
In response to this fracas, the crown sought to cut its losses, both financial and reputational. It quietly disavowed any ties to Isermno. Since the island never held the status of a Spanish colony, it was all the easier for Spain to hide the fact of its association with the island. As far as mainland European history was concerned, the only connection between Spain and Isermno was Cabeza de Toro, who thenceforth came to be reviled in his native Spain as Cabeza de Mier*a.
--Excerpt from The Approved History of Isermno, by Teófilo Cabezazo dos Xixónes