Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Isleño Life On L'Isle, Delacroix Island, Louisiana, 1915 - Part 4

Blogger's Note:  It doesn't take a Times Picayune journalist long to know he is in foreign territory on his trip from New Orleans to "De La Croix" (Delacroix) Island, Louisiana in 1915.  Despite; or in fact because of, the curt tone of his opening phrases, the overwhelming softening of his words into the familiar descriptions recorded in later passages makes for a fascinating read.   This collection of documents, written in 1915, offers a day-to-day account of the insular community of Canary-Islanders, Los Isleños, established in the 18th century.

From the Times Picayune October 10, 1915 article L'Isle, or De La Croix Island Is Peopled by a Strange Mixed Race with Spanish Dominant:

"Presently, preceded by a rose-glow in the east, the sun comes up like a great red ball.  Before long it  changes to burnished brass, then becomes a scintillating, glittering shining so brightly that it smites the eye with its shafts of light - a spectacle of nature too magnificent for man's feeble eyes to gaze upon.

Human life, too begins its day early on the Island; for a boy with a gun on his shoulder, a barefoot village maiden, and several boatmen are out before the sun is well up.  It seems singular to hear two boatmen singing a Spanish song.  Yes, Spanish is the language of the island; and indeed, until comparatively recent times, English was scarcely understood.  Now though most of the natives will reply to you in the English tongue, still they speak only Spanish when addressing each other.

Dr. Alcee Fortier, Louisiana's distinguished scholar, whose memory is yet, and will always remain green with us, has written, in his 'Louisiana Studies' a most interesting chapter on the Terre-aux Boeufs region, including L'Isle.  He tells us that these "islenos", as they are called, were sent over for the most part from the Canary Islands by the Spanish king to colonize this section of Louisiana.  He gave them grants of land and contributed to their maintenance till they could become established.  When one asks the more intelligent of the islanders about their forebears, they will say that their ancestors came from Portugal, from Spain, or from the Canary Islands.

The third generation back, that is the grandparents of the present youth of the village were mostly born under the Spanish flag.  The isolation and seclusion of the island has tended to preserve the traits and characteristics of the people so that they are still essentially Spanish after a lapse of over a hundred years.  But a glance at the names - Deogracias, Guate, Campo, Silvera, Molero, Diaz and Hernandez shows the origin of the people."

This photograph of a present day Canary Islands, as in the past, shows a strong Spanish influence in architecture, as well as customs and diet.  Photos courtesy of the State Library of Louisiana and WWNO.

Continue Article: | Isleño Life - Part 1 | Isleño Life - Part 2 | Isleño Life - Part 3 | Isleño Life - Part 5 |