Feature Story

The Isleños of Louisiana

The Isleños of Louisiana. Image © https://spanishdilettante.files.wordpress.com

HOUSTON, TX – Our research team, meaning me, took a look around at the Mardi Gras festival here in Southeast Texas and the associated people raised in different cultures that celebrate it here in the Southern States of the US. One unique, almost obscure, story popped up – a people called the Isleños.

The Isleños, like Filipinos, have Spanish and indigenous roots. They are Spanish speaking immigrants from Haiti and Canary Islands that came to Louisiana following the first wave of Filipino immigrants there.

The Isleños of Louisiana settled in Spanish Louisiana during the 18th century, between 1778 and 1783. The Isleños of Louisiana of today are still very family oriented and, like their ancestors and Filipinos of today, strongly profess the Catholic faith.

The Isleños in Louisiana make up three communities that speak Spanish based that include the Isleños of Saint Bernard Parish; the Brulis, who are scattered in southern Louisiana and speak a dialect with French loaned words; and the Adaeseños in the Natchitoches and Sabine parishes who speak a very similar dialect with loan words from the Nahuatl language of Mexico.

Most of the Isleños of Saint Bernard can now only speak English. The eradication of the language was hastened by the compulsory English-only language instruction in the schools through laws passed in the 20th century by the Louisiana government. For example, the my grandparents were forbidden to speak their language at school and only permitted to speak their language at home.

If you are like me who enjoy film and TV, there is a truly wonderful and inspiring film that perfectly encapsulates the complete history of the Louisiana Isleños. “Isleños, a root of America” is a documentary film telling the story of a small American community of Canarian origin. It showcases how this community has managed to maintain a unique identity even after more than 200 years, preserving their culture and traditions from the Canary Islands, that date from the 18th century and struggling to defend their ancestral roots right in the epicenter of globalization.

The film is a journey back in time through the history of the United States under the guidance of a community unknown to the general public that played an influential role in politics, arts and culture, military history and in the American society in a significant and unique way.

It has been a pleasure to connect you with more of the hidden pockets of diversity and culture here in the Southern United States through Beyond Deadlines. Hope you had a Happy Mardi Gras and you are following all your Lenten traditions!

Follow Beyond Deadlines on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @beyonddeadlines.

Enjoy the trailer on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/205527209 .


Daniella Flanagan
Dani, as Daniella is known among her friends, is an actress, production assistant, producer, set designer, casting director, host, and reporter. She is a huge fan of beignet, crawfish, catfish, palabok, pancit, and the great States of Texas and California. Her background is in International Business and TV/Film production.

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