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Canarian American

Isleño Americans
Total population
45,000 - 75,000
Regions with significant populations
Louisiana (mainly Saint Bernard Parish, Valenzuela and Galvestown), San Antonio (Texas), Miami
American English  • Spanish  • French  • Nahuatl
predominantly Roman Catholic.
Related ethnic groups
Spanish, Canarians, Cajuns, Californios, Tejanos, Nuevomexicanos

Isleño Americans are Americans with ancestry that can be traced back to emigrants from the Canary Islands (Spain), particularly those who settled in the Spanish colonies of the Southern United States during the 18th century. The term can also informally be applied to anyone of Canarian descent with US citizenship. This term is to be distinguished from the term "Isleños", which refers to people of Canarian descent now living in any country of the Americas without distinction.

The Isleños make up several communities formed by thousands of people in San Antonio (Texas) and Louisiana, to which other Canarian communities of more recent migration are added (particularly in Miami). These communities constitute a distinct group within the American population, having preserved the culture of their ancestors through to the present date. Most Isleño Americans speak English, with smaller communities that are also fluent in French (in Valenzuela, Louisiana), Nahuatl (in Galveztown, Louisiana), and Spanish. In particular, some members of the Isleño community of Saint Bernard Parish in Louisiana have not only managed to preserve their culture (as the Isleños of San Antonio), but had also retained until recently the Canarian dialect of Spanish used in the 18th century.

The success of Isleño Americans in preserving their culture has led some historians and anthropologists such as Jose Manuel Balbuena Castellano to consider the Isleño American community a national heritage of both of the US and the Canary Islands.


  • History 1
  • Communities 2
    • Louisiana communities of Isleños 2.1
      • St. Bernard (Terre aux Boeufs) 2.1.1
        • History
        • Demography
      • Barataria 2.1.2
      • Valenzuela 2.1.3
      • Galveztown 2.1.4
    • Canary Islanders and the founding of San Antonio, Texas 2.2
    • Isleños in Florida 2.3
  • Culture 3
    • Songs and Popular Poems 3.1
    • Nursery rhymes and riddles 3.2
  • Legacy 4
    • Languages and culture 4.1
    • Others 4.2
  • Notable Isleños in modern United States 5
    • Isleños in Texas 5.1
    • Isleños in Louisiana 5.2
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Canarian emigration to the modern United States started in the 16th century, when Spain had several colonies in the southern portion of the country.

The first Canarians (or people resident there) arrived to South of modern United States came as early in 1539, when the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, recruited some expeditions in the Canary Islands to explore La Florida. Later, in 1569 other group of Canarians farmers embarked to Florida. Nevertheless, colonial Florida remained sparsely populated, with most of the population living at the port of Saint Augustine, which was protected by a military fortress.

However, along to Florida, others Spanish colonies in Americas also remained depopulated, due to the sparsely attention given by Spain since the point of view of the immigration, because these colonies were considered little rich as to metals and wealth refers. So, during the 18th century and basing in the so-called Tributo de Sangre ("Blood Tribute" (1678 - 1764), Spanish law that established that, per hundred tonnes of cargo that somewhere of the Spanish America sent to Spain, this, in turn, sent five Canarian families of five members each to Hispanic America, in order to populate regions having low peninsular populations there - although generally the cargo envoy from Hispanic America to Spain was higher-), the Spanish crown sent several groups of Canarians settlers to its colonies in the South of the modern United States (and in other parts of Americas) with the goal of repopulating these regions.[1] Thus, between 1731 and 1783 many Canarian families emigrated to southern U.S. for founded and populated places, establishing communities there. In 1731, 16 Canarian families were sent to San Antonio, Texas, most of which came directly from the Canary Islands (and some came from Havana), arriving to Veracruz (in the modern Mexico) and crossing the city (and, since here, some few cities more) on foot until up arrived to Texas and under the leadership of Canarian politician Juan Leal Goraz, who eventually would become in first mayor of San Antonio.[2] This community had confrontation with the monks respect to property or consumptive use of some rivers there.[3]

Between 1718 and 1734, Florida was governed by the Lieutenant General Antonio de Benavides, originating from Tenerife (Canary Islands), and Carlos Benites Franquis de Lugo, also from Tenerife, governed Texas between 1736 - 37.[4]

Later, in 1749, La Real Compañía de Comercio de La Habana (The Royal Society of Commerce of Havana), a monopolistic corporation that tried to encourage commercial traffic between Cuba and the peninsula, was require by their statutes to provide annually two vessels bringing 500 Canarian families to Florida. So, between 1757 and 1759, 154 Canarian families were sent to Florida,[1] followed by others 700 (according authors such as Carlos Canales Torres and Fernando Martinez Láinez) in the years following to the loss of Florida[5] (ceded to United Kingdom after of the 7 Year War, although most of settlers of Florida emigrated to Cuba with this assignment, emigration that most of new settlers returned to do when Florida was ceded to United States in the 19th century).

However, still after of the elimination of the Tributo de Sangre law, between 1778 and 1783 were send over 4,000 Canarians to Louisiana (with the half of them staying in Venezuela and Cuba, where the ship stopped over during his trip to Louisiana), when this place was Spanish, settling down, finally, some 2,100 Canarians in it place. In Louisiana, the settlers eventually would originated three communities: St. Bernard Parish, Valenzuela (where the Canarians were mixed with Cajuns, and his descendant speak French) and Barataria (abandoned shortly after because a hurricane in the place, from where the settlers were settled elsewhere in Louisiana and Florida). Also in 1779, other Canarians were established in Galveston, Texas, with Mexican militaries. However, in 1800, after of fast floods and prolonged droughts in this place, those settlers were resettled in Baton Rouge, where founded Galveztown.[1]

Other places of South United States also had Canarian settlers during the Spanish period in these territories. So, some places in Southern California were founded by Canary Island colonists[6] and there are also records of Canary Islanders colonists and their descendants living in New Mexico in the 19th century.[7]

Since his arrived to modern United States in the 16th century, Isleños took part, as community, in many historic events: So, they participated in the American Revolutionary War (in 1782 - 83), fought in the War of 1812 (in 1814), defended the Alamo (in 1836), and after of the incorporation of Louisiana and Texas into the United States, they fought in U.S. wars such as the American Civil War (developed between 1861 and 1865), both World Wars and the Vietnam War. After this war, in the 50s, in Louisiana, the Government forced all students of the Saint Bernard Parish school to speak only English (Hispanics were even to forced not speak Spanish in public in this parish), so losing eventually the Spanish language in the Parish´s community.

Since the 20th century a new Canary emigration different from above was developed, since these migrant can not have the status of settlers - only of migrants -, and they are primarily aimed at Florida. Many of the Canarian living in United States only live there temporality and by labor issues.


Now, several Isleño Communities remain in South United States: This communities are present in Louisiana (Saint Bernard Parish, Valenzuela and Galveztown), San Antonio (Texas) and in Florida (where the Canarian community is of recent immigration).

Isleño culture in San Antonio and Louisiana has been preserved up to the present day, although not in Florida.[note 1]

Louisiana communities of Isleños

In Louisiana, the Isleños are the descendants of Canary Islanders who migrated to Louisiana under the Spanish crown between 1778 and 1783. Until the 1870´s, international wine export was very important for the Canaries; however, due to a commercial crisis there was an increase of poverty. Most of the affected people were farmers and laborers who had lost their jobs and whose only sustenance was in marginal activities like selling coal, mining, begging, etc. Lack of resources and a policy of inadequate land distribution led to popular uprisings. In addition, the mobilization of the army for service in Europe and America impinged negatively on the islands. Army troops from Louisiana recruited soldiers in the Canary islands, offering them, in this situation, an opportunity to seek their fortune in other lands, which explains the high number of families that left for that destination. It was the Spanish military leader Bernardo de Gálvez who recruited the Canarians who would be directed to Louisiana.[8]

Isleño settlements in Louisiana

In 1778, a boat left the Canary Islands for Louisiana with more than 4,000 people on board. However, during the journey, the ship made stops in Venezuela and Havana, Cuba, where half the people disembarked (300 established themselves in Venezuela). In the end, between 2,100[9] and 2,736[10] people arrived in Louisiana and settled near New Orleans in what are today St. Bernard Parish, Valenzuela, Barataria and Galveztown.

In 1782, During the War of 1812 (which lasted between 1812–15).[10]

In 2000, more than 70,000 Isleños lived in Louisiana. Many of them remained isolated from New Orleans and continued to speak a rustic and antiquated Castilian well into the 20th century, as well as preserve traditions like roasting pig and canary hunting. Today, some Isleños still speak Spanish with a Canary Islander accent.[9]

The others communities speak French and Nahuatl dialects due to the influence of the dominant languages in those places. However, recorded interviews have been conducted in the four communities (especially with the elderly, who still conserve the Spanish language) on video and DVD, now in the Museo Canario (Canarian Museum) in Saint Bernard, to prevent the language and culture from being lost.[9]

The Louisiana Isleños still maintain contact with the Canary Islands, and have an annual Caldo festival, named for a native dish. Modern Canary Islanders travel to the United States to take part in the festivities; Canarian dancers, singers, and even the King and Queen of Spain have attended. After Hurricane Katrina, the Spanish government in the Canary Islands donated money to help repair the Canary Islander Museum and historical properties in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.

St. Bernard (Terre aux Boeufs)

Ysclosky, Saint Bernard Parish, after of Katrina Hurricane in 2005

This settlement was first called La Concepción and Nueva Gálvez by the Spanish officials, but was later renamed Terre aux Boeufs (French), Tierra de Bueyes (Spanish), or "Land of Cattle". However, by the end of the 1780s, the name St. Bernard, the patron saint of Bernardo de Gálvez, was being used for the settlement in documents describing the area.[11] The majority of the Isleño population was long concentrated in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, where the most traditional Isleño customs continued. Other Isleños settled throughout Southeast Louisiana and the Greater New Orleans area.

Saint Bernard was populated by two Canarian family groups between 1778 and 1784. The first group, called the El Primer Asentamiento (First Settlement), settled in St. Bernard and Toca villages in 1779, while the second group (originally, El Segundo Establecimiento (Second Settlement)) was established in a region which they named Benchijigua in honor of the village of Benchijigua on the island of La Gomera, the place of origin of this second population. [note 2]

However, with the arrival of French-speaking sugar planters in the region, the name of the village changed to Bencheque, and is currently known as Bencheque-Reggio. After reaching Saint Bernard, the colonists built their own houses, and the Spanish government gave land to each family, the amount depending on the size of each family. The government of Spain gave money, food, tools and clothing annually to the Isleños until 1785, when the settlement was declared to be self-sufficient. Though they tried to preserve their cultural heritage after arriving in Louisiana, in order to survive in these new lands the Canarians began to relate to people descended from French and Indian tribes.

The Isleños, who were mostly farmers, worked in sugar plantations, harvested sugar cane, and cypress.[10] Although the area was settled by people from five of the islands (mostly by people from Tenerife (45%) and Gran Canaria (40%) and to a lesser extent by people from Lanzarote, La Palma and La Gomera)[9]), it was the people of Tenerife who brought cattle to Saint Bernard. The traditional knowledge of these rancher immigrants regarding cattle raising was valued, and ranchers from Louisiana and eastern Texas sometimes brought herds to St. Bernard to be domesticated by the Canarians living there.[3]

After of his fight in the American Revolutionary War, a church was founded in 1785: St. Bernard Church was the first parish church in the New Orleans area. Also, the first permanent church of Saint Bernard was built in 1787 in Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs. Although the islanders also established a cemetery in 1787, burials shortly thereafter took place in a zone located in front of the church.[10] In 1790 sugar cane rapidly replaced indigo as the largest crop in Louisiana. Farmers purchased the land of the Isleños, and many Isleños worked as employees on these new farms. In addition, Saint Bernard supplied the market in New Orleans with much of the garlic, onions, beans, potatoes and poultry that the city consumed between the late 18th and early 19th century.

While many worked in the sugar plantations (basically in the 19th century),[3] duck hunting, gathering moss, horticulture, cattle breeding and carpentry were other common activities.[9] Between 1800 and 1900 an important trade developed in seafood and fish caught by Isleños fishermen and sold to New Orleans restaurants. In 1820, many Isleño farmers abandoned agriculture and settled in the eastern basin of Saint Bernard where a fishing community developed in Delacroix. There was a large trade in shrimp, fish and crabs that were sold in New Orleans.

In 1850 when the railroad penetrated Saint Bernard, despite the strong opposition of the Isleños, it also meant easier marketing of sugar cane, harvested produce and game animals in New Orleans. In the 1860s the Isleños of Louisiana fought in the American Civil War. After the Civil War, hunting became important to the Isleños of Saint Bernard, as it already was for the French colonies of New Orleans. Since the early 19th century, some groups of Isleños emigrated to other areas of Louisiana and points south. Some of these islanders and their descendants founded regions such as Marrero.

In the early 20th century, the government of New Orleans built roads to Saint Bernard, linking the city metropolitan area. Thus, many Saint Bernard fishermen began traveling to other areas of the city to trade in seafood and the pelts [1][10] of otter and ermine.[1]

On September 29, 1915, was originated a hurricane that completely devastated Saint Bernard Parish. It left behind almost three hundred dead; many of them fishermen, hunters and trappers islanders. In addition, the Spanish flu epidemic took hold in survivors and decimated the population further.

In 1927, there was a great flood of the Mississippi River. On 15 April, 380 mm of rain fell on New Orleans and more than a meter of water covered the streets of the city. The level of neighbor Lake Pontchartrain rose, although the risk of serious flooding was not imminent yet.

However, politicians, pressured by the bankers of the city, took a drastic step: open holes in the dike west of the lake. They placed no less than thirty tons of dynamite and blew up the levees without evacuate before the population. There, was located the parish or municipality of San Bernardo, where they had settled thousands of Isleños. The waters swept all: they swept lives and left the Isleños people without livelihoods.

After it was found that the flushing of the banker came from a false alarm: the Mississippi River did not reach a sufficient level to flood New Orleans. But the damage was done and many Isleños and black sharecroppers suffered the consequences. Investment of the banks remained intact.[12]

The Isleños also fought in the World Wars. After World War II, the Isleños who had participated in it looked for work in the urban areas of New Orleans that had developed along the Mississippi River. Therefore, many Isleños left Saint Bernard in the 1940s and 1950s. Their children were raised in areas that used English as the majority language and they did not learn to speak Spanish.[10]

On the other hand, colleges were also built in Saint Bernard, that forced all students to speak only English. Teachers punished anyone who spoke his native language,[3] and even forced them to pay a fine of 50 U.S. dollars.[3][9] Hispanics were even to forced not speak Spanish in public. All this caused the loss of the Spanish language (which had been preserved since the 18th century) in the younger St. Bernard community. In the 1960s the Isleños fought in the Vietnam War. In 2005, many Isleños were evacuated when Hurricane Katrina arrived, although some refused to leave their homes. During Hurricane Katrina 500 people lost their lives in Saint Bernard.[3]

"Spanish" trapper and sons, Delacroix Island, 1941

Now, most of the Isleños of Saint Bernard can now only speak English, except for those over 80 years of age (who speak the same Spanish dialect spoken in the Canary Island in the 18th century), due to the English language education in the colleges and to that the Louisiana government forced their parents to speak only English in the 20th century. Even so, over the years, the Hispanic culture of the five villages of the parish of Saint Bernard has been reinforced by subsequent migrations from all over Spain: Andalusia, Santander (Cantabria), Galicia and Catalonia, and perhaps also from Portugal.[9] Although many Isleños moved to New Orleans, most returned to Saint Barnard Parish because they were not able to adapt to urban life.[9]

Since the 19th century, many people from others countries such as Italy, Germany and Ireland also emigrated and mingled with the population in some areas, but some of the Isleños are solely descended from Canarians, such as many Isleños in Delacroix Island, Yscloskey, Shell Beach, Reggio, Poydras and Violet.

Whether fully or partially descended from Canarians, the Isleño community acts as one. Depending on the season, the Isleños are water rat trappers, hunters of alligators, oysters and crabs, and fishermen.[9]

The Isleños of Louisiana are very family oriented and, like their ancestors, profess Roman Catholicism.

Each family was traditionally under the leadership of a patriarch, the older men of each family. The religious festivals of the Isleños of Saint Bernard are characterized by big celebrations, dancing and lots of food.[10] Although the Isleños have lived in Louisiana for many generations, there are still some Saint Bernard Isleños who consider themselves Canarians rather than Americans.[10] Among the prestigious institutions created by the Isleños of the Parish of Saint Bernard, the "Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society", created in 1979, should be highlighted. With the collaboration of Canarian institutions, it attempts to preserve the culture, history and roots of the Canary Island colonists established in Saint Bernard between 1778 and 1783.

The Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society has promoted the concept of "Isleño" for many years in a large area of Louisiana. In addition to establishing a museum, Canarian traditional festivals were preserved and attendance markedly increases each year. The museum organizes annual events to acquaint students with their ancestry and the lifestyle led by the territory in the early years of settlement and later. This institution has also published monographs, traditional Isleña cookbooks and three videos that reflect past events. It also tries to maintain and cultivate interest in the Spanish language, culture, customs, music, crafts and history of the Isleños of Louisiana.

Historic Canary Islanders Home, Poydras, Louisiana

The community also built the Isleño Museum in the 80s, to preserve the Canarian culture there.[9]

In addition, Museum Isleño and Multicultural City offer a scholarship to a student of Isleños descent to study all these issues. "Museum Days", an event that runs three days and allows visitors to obtain first-hand knowledge about the pioneer Isleños and their way of life, are also held. "Isleños Christmas" is another major annual event that arranges for Christmas carols around a monumental bonfire on the grounds surrounding The Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society's museum. Children who attend receive a visit from Santa Claus and can ride on "The Isleños Express". They are then presented with apple punch and sweets. The festivals usually arranged by the Isleño community of St. Bernard are: Festival of the Isleños (19–20 March), Canary Isleños' Day (May), the feast of San Bernardo (August 14), Bass Tournament (September), All Saints (November 1), Pow Mow (November) and the aforementioned Christmas Isleños and Bonfire (December).[3] In addition, Isleños travel to the Canary Islands every year, in order not to forget their roots and to keep in touch with the land of their ancestors.[10]

However, in 2005, the Hurricane Katrina destroyed many of the houses of the Isleños, and the Isleños Museum, and most of them migrated to other places in the U.S. during the hurricane. Over time, many Isleños who left the area eventually returned to Saint Bernard to build homes there. But in all, more than half of the population emigrated to other areas of Louisiana (where they had family) or to other areas of the United States still live there and the Isleño community continues to decline.[10] Thus, of the near of 40,000 Isleños that, according to different estimates, Saint Bernard had in the year 2000, now only some 19,826 remain.[13] Moreover, after Hurricane Katrina, the Spanish government in the Canary Islands donated money to help repair the Canary Islander Museum and historical properties in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. So, over time, the Isleños museum has been reconstructed. Currently, thousands of descendants of Isleños live in urban New Orleans.[10]

Traditional Isleño communities in St. Bernard include:


After the arrival of the Canarian colonists to Barataria, located in the Jefferson Parish, this site suffered two hurricanes in 1779 and in 1780, so it was abandoned and its population is distributed in other areas of Louisiana, although some of its settlers migrated to West Florida.[1][3]


Donaldsonville Louisiana House. Donaldsonville is one of the place of Valenzuela with Isleño settlement

Originally referred to as "Valenzuela dans La Fourche", today the location is at the site of the Belle Alliance plantation. The Isleños from Valenzuela came from the St. Bernard Parish (in fact, they were the founders of this region) settling in Valenzuela in 1782 and engaging in agriculture.[9] Originally, these groups practiced yeoman horticulture, but ended up by planting sugar cane in the 1860s,[10] which meant the end of small farmers in marginal areas. Some of the inhabitants of the eastern region emigrated to Cuba, where they founded Nuevitas, which was later incorporated into American hands.[1]

In Valenzuela, the population collaborated in the American Revolution in 1782, after recruitment by Bernardo de Gálvez, along with the other Isleños of Louisiana, as well as in the fight against the British invasion (1812–1814).[10] The census of 1784 indicated that Valenzuela had a population of 174 people, of whom 154 were of Canarian origin. In 1785, seven ships arrived bringing 800 Acadian settlers to Lafourche, where 353 people already lived. So already in 1788 1,500 people lived in the region. Contacts between Canarians and Acadians were frequent, and there was intermarriage.[3]

These Isleños communities in Valenzuela (or "Brulis") are strongly influenced by the French language of their Acadian ancestors, so they speak French and many of the Spanish names and surnames of their Canarian ancestors have been Frenchified. Some however retain a Canarian accent. The French influence in this area is such that many Brulis have forgotten their origin Canarian (although they remember their Spanish origin). However, the Isleño Frank Fernandez, who also served as Historian Emeritus of Saint Bernard, confirmed to the Isleña (and Bruli) community that he and his neighbors descended from people originating in the Canary Islands and that their dialect, accent, food and culture originated in the 18th century. He also explained that it would be possible to recover the Canary memory and contact their brothers across the Atlantic, which he did.

This caused many of the Brulis with French surnames, who until then dared not to claim Canarian culture, to say that they were Canarians. So they joined Spanish surnames to their English and French names. They then began to celebrate Canarian holidays, establish museums, make a genealogy and even a movie. This is remarkable for Valenzuela (although it also occurred in St. Bernard, where the Canarian culture, however, was always more important than in Valenzuela, so that the words of Fernandez were not so influential in St. Bernard as in Valenzuela).[14] The Brulis also created organizations to try to preserve their Canary Islands culture.[9]

The Canarian dialect of these people evolved differently from in the Saint Bernard Parish and Galvestown communities. This "Brulis" dialect (from French brulé, burned) is named for the Isleño community which lived on small fields which were originally forests and marshes cleared by fire to make room for houses and farmland. For this reason, and to distinguish the descendants of Canarian settlers in Valenzuela from the Saint Bernard Isleños, (the only ones who really call themselves "Isleños"), some anthropologists who have studied these communities, such as Samuel G. Armistead, prefer to call them "Brulis" (for the Adaeseños they are often simply called "Spanish").[9] They are mostly farmers, who grow different kinds of legumes and work in the production sugar cane.[15]

Now there many Brulis who still speak Spanish, but not outside the home. The Spanish language of Valenzuela, Bruli, is also in danger of extinction.[9] Some Brulis associations, such as "The Canary Islanders" in Baton Rouge and the "Canary Islands Descendants Association", the latter founded in 1994, created an interpretive museum in Caenarvon.[3]

Traditional Isleño communities around Valenzuela are in the Ascension and Assumption Parishes. This Isleño communities include:


In 1721, Spanish soldiers were brought to Los Adaes, a Spanish fort, in order to prevent French expansion westward, occupying Spanish territories from the Texas border to Louisiana. Most of these Spanish soldiers came from Mexican areas such as Saltillo, Celaya, and Zacatecas, in what is today northern and central Mexico, and they brought along their families (that were become in the majority population in Los Adaes). The inhabitants of this region were called "Adaeseños" (the name coming from a small Amerindian group of the region). In 1773, the 500 settlers and descendants were forced to leave Los Adaes and resettle in San Antonio, the new capital of Texas.

Many of the settlers died during the three-month trip to that city and others died soon after their arrival. The colonists settled near Trinity River and in 1779, after Comanches raided the settlement, the former Los Adaes settlers moved further east to the old mission of Nacogdoches, where they founded a town with the same name.[16] However, although the entire population officially left Los Adaes in 1773, many of the settlers remained there.[note 3]

In 1778, during the American Revolution, the Spanish were not pleased with the amount of commerce that was bypassing New Orleans via Bayou Manchac. The Spanish Governor of the Isle of Orleans, Don Bernardo de Gálvez, allowed Americans fleeing the hostilities in the colonies to establish a village on high ground they discovered just below the juncture of Bayou Manchac and the Amite River, near the Los Adaes area. The grateful villagers named their settlement "Galveston".[17]

Downtown Many, in Sabine Parish.

By 1779, Gálvez realized the strategic importance of Galveston and began bringing in Spanish settlers from the Canary Islands.[9] About 250 Canarians settled in Galvez Town.[18] He also brought in Mexican military to protect the region from possible French expansion, from Natchitoches, and garrisoned them around the town. But by 1800, Galveston, due a bad location that caused fast floods and prolonged droughts, was abandoned and the settlers moved to Baton Rouge. The area where they settled is known as "Spanish Town" and is where the Pentagon Barracks now stand. There, the settlers founded "Galvestown". In Louisiana, many settlers intermarried with indigenous local tribes.

Currently, they are still call "Adaeseños" by some scholars of these communities (such as Samuel G. Armistead), because many of their ancestors were between the first settlers of Los Adaes. Other "Adaeseños" settlement areas are in the Natchitoches (specifically in Spanish Lake) and Sabine (specifically in several small settlements around the towns of Zwolle and Noble) parishes. For generations the Adaeseños of these two areas (Spanish Lake and Zwolle-Noble) have not maintained any contact. Nevertheless, still today their languages are fundamentally identical.

Because they are a blend of Mexican military, Canarians, and other Spanish groups which arrived there since 1721, the majority language is the native Mexican language "Nahuatl" (unlike Saint Bernard Parish, where the Isleños have maintained their language until very recent times). But many people in the community can still speak Spanish, although not fluently.[9] Many Isleños still have contacts with the Canary Islands. Many members of this community have some Amerindian ancestries, both because the garrison of Galvestown came partly from Mexico, and because of the existence of indigenous groups in the region (probably Caddos, Bidaes, Choctaws and Lipan Apaches). The Adaeseños of Sabine River are horticulturists, ranchers (small scale) and foresters, who also work in local mills. The people of Spanish Lake are farmers.[9]

Traditional Isleño communities around Galveztown are in Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Natchitoches, and Sabine Parishes. This Isleño communities include:

Canary Islanders and the founding of San Antonio, Texas

Aerial view of the city, San Antonio, December 4, 1939

On February 14, 1719, the Texas governor, José de Azlor, made a report to the king of Spain proposing that 400 families be transported from the Canary Islands, Galicia, or Havana to populate the province of Texas. His plan was approved, and notice was given the Canary Islanders (Isleños) to furnish 200 families; the Council of the Indies suggested that 400 families should be sent from the Canaries to Texas by way of Havana and Veracruz.[19]

So, highlight that, before of the arrived of the Canarian settlers, in 1730, was built the San Pedro channel for the exclusive use of the Canary Island colonists. It was called the "acequia madre" (mother ditch) that crossed the city and, later, the main canal. Its waters irrigated fields San Antonio from that time until 1906. The last channel was built in 1777 also bound to supply water to the citizens, the new settlers of Los Adaes-and its remains can be seen yet. American research points out that a coherent picture of the manners of irrigation in the San Antonio colonial period can only be understood in the context of irrigation practices Islands. And to understand the system that settlers implanted islanders must know the ideas about water use had when they came to Texas.[7]

By June 1730, twenty-five families had reached Cuba and ten families had been sent on to Veracruz before orders from Spain arrived to stop the movement. Most of these Canarians were from Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Under the leadership of Juan Leal Goraz, the group marched overland to the Presidio San Antonio de Bexar.

The party had increased by marriages on the way to fifteen families, a total of fifty-six persons. They joined a military community that had been in existence since 1718. At eleven o'clock on the morning of March 9, 1731, sixteen Spanish families (56 people), often referred to as the "Canary Islanders," also known as "Isleños", arrived at the Presidio of San Antonio de Bexar in the Province of Texas. These settlers formed the nucleus of the village of San Fernando de Béxar, and established the first regularly organized civil government in Texas.[19]

Misión de San Antonio de Valero, San Antonio (Texas). The Mision was founded for the Canarian settlers.

Juan de Acuña, Viceroy of New Spain, bestowed titles of nobility on each Canary Island family.[20] After arriving in San Antonio, the Isleños had some problems with the Texas government and the local bourgeoisie. The Franciscan friars were opposed to their founding a town near the area where they had influence. In addition, Canarians competed with them as to farming power and livestock, which dramatically increased due to Native American converts. The missionaries demanded that the settlers be distributed among all existing missions in the territory.

Only Juan Leal, the mayor of the city, refused to implement that idea in favor of founding a city locally, which is what they did. It was in 1736 when the first gland was applied to the distribution of the waters of the San Antonio River. In the development of that legislation in the irrigation system played a special role settler the Antonio Rodríguez Medero and Governor Carlos Benites Franquis de Lugo (also Canarian - he was the only Canarian governor of Texas, that ruled between 1736 and 1737-).[7]

In 1736, the Isleños were denied permission to travel to Saltillo, Mexico for medical attention. This was resolved by the Alguacil Major Vicente Álvarez Travieso: After repeated requests, in 1770 the validity of their demands was accepted and they were allowed to travel to Saltillo if they needed medical attention.[21] In addition, the Isleños had no access to water from the San Antonio River, at least they could not use it to irrigate the land they farmed, as the water was reserved for the religious missionaries of San Antonio.

Alvarez Travieso, in his position as Alguacil Mayor, initiated several lawsuits from 1756 to 1771, until at last the Isleños were allowed to have land and water.[3] They also developed irrigation according to the techniques of their homeland.[6] These irrigation problems were resolved with the construction of the Acequia de San Pedro, which was completed in 1741.

The canarians had to compete not only with the missions, but also added new neighbors, Spanish and Mexicans, arriving in San Antonio in the second half of the 18th century, who felt marginalized because the Cabildo charges, created by the Isleños, were monopolized by them. So, fourteen years after the founding of San Antonio, these other neighbors complained that tightening continued domination of the Isleños to the point of depriving them of water for their homes.

The stream of San Pedro was the first who used Canarians since his arrival. But in 1732 the Cabildo of San Antonio wrote to the Viceroy stating that stream water was not enough to irrigate their fields and for this reason they were ruining their crops. In response, the Viceroy mentioned in his order that the waters of San Antonio to be divided proportionately between the missions and settlers. It was about an inspection and found that the flow of water was plentiful enough to supply the missions and the villa. For some time continued tension with the missions, but later it focused on the future grant of land to settlers and irrigation.[7]

Memorial to the Alamo defenders

San Antonio grew to become the largest Spanish settlement in Texas, and for most of its history it was the capital of the Spanish and later Mexican province of Tejas. From San Antonio, the Camino Real (today Nacogdoches Road) in San Antonio ran to the American border at the small frontier town of Nacogdoches. In the Battle of the Alamo fought from February 23 to March 6, 1836, the outnumbered Texan forces were ultimately defeated, and all of Alamo defenders were killed. There were Canary Islanders and descendents among these men, who were seen as martyrs for the cause of Texas freedom, and "Remember the Alamo" became a rallying cry leading to Texas' eventual success in defeating Santa Anna's army.

However, there were also some descendants of Canary Islanders in San Antonio who joined the Mexican army in the war to try to prevent Texas' independence from Mexico, such as the soldier and landowner Juan Moya. Other Isleños supported the annexation of Texas to the United States, and in 1842 the state decided to join the union.[1] The last people to speak Spanish in the San Antonio community died in the 1950s, though their culture is being kept alive.

Now, some 5,000 Isleños (in his majority descendant of the Canarian settlers) live in San Antonio, Texas.[22] Several of the old families of San Antonio trace their descent from Canary Island colonists. María Rosa Padrón was the first baby born of Canary Islander descent in San Antonio.[23] Currently, there are several Isleño associations in San Antonio, such as the Canary Islands Descendants Association and the Fundación Norteamericana Amigos de las Islas Canarias (American Foundation Friends of the Canary Islands), presided over by the Canarian cardiovascular medical specialist Alfonso Chiscano, whose aim is to strengthen the historical ties between Canarians and San Antonio.

In addition, the Oficina Comercial Canaria (Canarian Commercial Office), belonging to the company publishes Proexca and established in San Antonio, works to promote commercial cooperation between Spanish businessmen (Canarians) and Texas. The Oficina de Canarias in San Antonio is an initiative of Canarian universities, university foundations and the aforementioned foundation Friends of the Canary Islands[3]

Isleños in Florida

St. Augustine in 1858

Already in 1539, Hernando de Soto, funded in part by the Count of La Gomera, recruited some expeditions in the Canary Islands to explore La Florida and in 1565, the newly appointed Adelantado of Florida, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, after leaving Cádiz in 1563, came to Gran Canaria in 1565 and sailed from that port to Florida. In 1569 a group of Canarians farmers embarked with this destination. Nevertheless, colonial Florida remained sparsely populated, with most of the population living at the port of Saint Augustine, which was protected by a military fortress.[7]

In 1718, was appointment governor of La Florida a Canarian military, the Lieutenant General Antonio de Benavides, originating of Tenerife (Canary Islands) and that ruled until 1734. He, in several occasions, defeated to the English who were trying to conquer Florida, on land and sea, and he repressed the piracy. He also managed to set a peace treaty with Appalachian American Indians, who were the worst enemies of the colony, and he managed that they respected to the Spanish subjects and exchange with they proofs of friendship and affection, which lasted without interruption while he was ruling the colony. Benavides also defended the rights of indigenous people, no distinction between classes or persons and was highly respected and admired by all Floridians.[24] Benavides was a of the two Canarian governors of a place of modern United States (the other was Carlos Benites Franquis de Lugo, in Texas).

More Later, in 1749, due to the depopulation of much of Florida, La Real Compañía de Comercio de La Habana (The Royal Society of Commerce of Havana), a monopolistic corporation that tried to encourage commercial traffic between Cuba and the peninsula, was require by their statutes to provide annually two vessels bringing 500 Canarian families to Florida.[1] So, for a decade the Canarian families were sent to Florida at a rate of not more than fifty families per year. They were peasant families, aware of farming to which were provided seeds to one or two crops, animals, land and franchises for the export of agricultural products to ports north and south of Spanish America. Thus encouraged emigration to lands on which also reported on its great fertility.[7]

Thus, between 1757 and 1759, 154 families were sent to Florida (42 in 1757, 76 families several month after, and anothers 36 the following year). However, in 1763, after the defeat of Spain by the United Kingdom in the Seven Years' War, Spain was forced to cede Florida, causing the repatriation of most of its inhabitants to Cuba, although a small Canarian community could be permanently established in the region, where they are considered the impellers of agriculture.[1]

However, according to the Spanish journalists Fernando Martínez Laínez and Carlos Canales Torrres (who studied the Spanish History in United States to his book Banderas lejanas: La exploración, conquista y defensa por España del territorio de los actuales Estados Unidos), still after the addition of Florida to the United Kingdom many more Canarian families emigrated to Florida. So, in the 47 years of Canarian emigration to Florida, only 984 families migrated of the 2,350 who wanted the Spanish Crown retained there. It was because most of the Canarians who emigrated were heading to Venezuela and the Hispanic Antilles.[5] In 1783, Spain recovered Florida and some of the Canarian settlers from Saint Bernard also emigrated to West Florida.[3] However, Florida was ceded to the United States in 1819, again causing the emigration of almost the entire population living in this state (then a province) to Cuba, although once again, some people remained in Florida.[1]

Currently, there is a recent immigrant community of Canarian people and their descendants living in Miami, within a greater Spanish community established there. Many of these Canarians live there only temporarily and for reasons of employment. So, the vice president of the council of Tenerife, José Manuel Bermúdez, estimated that in Florida live more than 200,000 people from the Canary Islands.[25]


The Isleño American communities have kept alive the Spanish musical folklore and canary (romance, décima of a local issue, lyric songs) of his ancestors. So, they have also a wide variety of songs, nursery rhymes, riddles, proverbs, folk tales, folk medicine, prayers healing, witchcraft traditions and developed their own microtoponyms (containing Isleño names for numerous animals, such as birds, fish, reptiles, insects and trees, along with the common names of the local species to which they refer).

Songs and Popular Poems

Isleño traditional folklore is varied. There are Canarian Décimas and even Corridas Mexicanas, romances and ballads and pan-Hispanic songs, some of which date back many years, even to the Medieval Age. The Isleños are a people who loves to sing and they have adapted new Hispanic songs, almost any song that they heard regardless of origin, making it their own over time (such as, for example, the Mexican songs Cielito Lindo and La Paloma), especially Texan and Mexican songs (even in Saint Bernard Parish). Something to note is that the Isleños of Saint Bernard Parish have narrative songs in their repertoire that, according to the student of Isleño culture Samuel G. Armistead, were not described and recognized as a specific subtype of Hispanic ballad until their discovery in this Isleño community.

These songs are décimas, but, unlike the Spanish décima, consisting of ten verses and widespread throughout Hispanic America, the décima of the Isleños of Louisiana is made up of pareado. These are stanzas consisting of two verses that rhyme, maybe the same rhyme, a consonant or assonance. These pareado can be of high or low art and the two verses can have the same length, or not, of which four hemistiches, usually octosyllabic, are used. This form is influenced by the Mexican Calendar.

These songs feature events specific to local history (of the 1920, 1930 and 1940s), humorous and ironic comments on the rigors and dangers of the careers of fellow citizens (such as trappers or shrimp fishermen), satirical poems about the misadventures of members of the community, and exaggerated tales of fishing exploits with fabulous, giant crabs and huge schools of shrimp. The Isleños, at least those of Saint Bernard Parish, sang two types of décimas: traditional décimas and improvised décimas, which were composed while they were being sung. The Isleño singer Irvan Perez is one of the most famous singers of décimas. Almost all the Coplas have been transmitted, more or less unaltered from generation to generation, from the time of the original emigrants from Spain, mostly from the Canary Islands, in the 18th century. Canarian Coplas were reinforced, probably by the Spanish colonists who came from Andalusia to the island in the early 19th century.[9]

Nursery rhymes and riddles

Some Isleño children's ballads are El Piojo y La Pulga (The Louse and the Flea), La Mosca (The Fly), and El Pretendiente Maldito (The Cursed Pretender). Riddles can be either descriptive, narrative, mathematical, question, or literature riddles. Descriptive riddles are defined as "descriptions of objects in a way that suggests something completely different". Some descriptive guessing also incorporates word games. The narrative usually involves a story of an "event known only by the person who poses the riddle." Having a cult origin, literary puzzles are often more complex, abstract and esoteric than their traditional counterparts. Proverbs and folk tales are also part of typical Isleño community traditions.[9]


Languages and culture

The Canarian dialects are being lost in Texas and Louisiana. By 2007, researchers of Isleño communities in the southern United States had recorded 82 hours of information shared about these communities (57 hours by Isleños, 10 hours by Brulis, 10 hours by speakers in Texas and 5 hours by Adaeseños). In the case of Brulis, Adaeseños and speakers in Texas, the material is, basically, linguistic. On the other hand, interviews with the Isleños bear witness to a rich diversity of language samples, folk and popular literature. These communities have a wide variety of songs, nursery rhymes, riddles, proverbs, folk tales, folk medicine, prayed healing, witchcraft traditions and many Isleño microtoponyms (containing Isleño names for birds, fish, reptiles, insects and trees, along with the common names of the local species to which they refer).

Books were also published containing information gathered from this recorded material, such as The Spanish Tradition in Louisiana, published by Samuel G. Armistead to ensure their preservation over time.

This Isleño material relates not only to the Canary Islands, but also to several other regions of Spain and perhaps Portugal, as immigrants from these places have been coming to Louisiana basically since the 19th century, mixing in the Isleño communities. However, the Isleño's repertoire is especially evidence for the constant and dynamic creativity of the singers, storytellers, entertainers, children's playground, proverbs and riddles.

Isleños travel to the Canary Islands every year, in order not to forget their roots and keep in touch with the land of their ancestors. In 1980, the Saint Bernard Isleña community built the Isleños Museum to preserve the Canarian culture there.[9] It was badly damaged by the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, but since 2007, money sent by the government of the Canaries has been used for its restoration. Until its destruction, the museum possessed the treaty by which France ceded the West of Territory of Louisiana to Spain in 1763.[10]


People of Canarian origin have made a trail of traditions in San Antonio. One of their contributions was the irrigation system of the island of Gran Canaria, which they developed on the banks of the San Antonio River, as some American researchers have studied. In that region were substantial water resources that provided the San Antonio River and San Pedro sources. Along the river were established several missions: San Antonio de Valero (which were placed canaries), Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, San José, San Juan Capistrano and San Francisco de la Espada. The Isleños and missionaries built seven irrigation canals during the eighteenth century. Each of the missions of the Concepción, San Juan, San Jose, San Francisco de la Espada and San Antonio had an irrigation ditch. Until the secularization of the missions in 1794, the waters of the first four were for the exclusive use of Indian farmers welcomed in the fields of missions. The channel of San Antonio de Valero, called acequia madre ("mother channel"), was also used by American citizens.[7]

  • Today in La Villita, in downtown San Antonio, there is a plaque in memory of the Canarian founders in San Antonio: "This city of the State of Texas was founded in 1731 by Canary Islanders." And in the municipality of San Antonio a sign recalls the names of the fifteen families island. Also, next to The Alamo - Old Mission San Antonio de Valero - there is a great millstone that was brought to the town by other Canarians in the eighteenth century to the grinding of gofio[7]
  • Even in the 20th century in that area (San Antonio) shows the persistence of elements characteristic of irrigation practices in the Canary Islands: the "dula" ("gland") and "Secuestro" ("kidnapping").[7]

Notable Isleños in modern United States

Isleños in Texas

Isleños in Louisiana

See also


  1. ^ Although the Canarians promoted the agriculture of this state, most Canarian settlers of Florida emigrated to Cuba when Florida was sold to the UK in 1763. The action was repeated when, after being recovered by Spain, Florida – with a new Canarian community - was ceded to the United States in 1819.
  2. ^ The number of Gomeros who migrated to Louisiana was 393 people, making up 85 families, most of them from Tenerife[8]
  3. ^ currently, many families in the Isleño communities of Galvestown have the same surnames as the first settlers of Los Adaes.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hernández González, Manuel. La emigración canaria a América (Canarian Emigration to the Americas). Pages 15 and 43 - 44 (about the expeditions and Canarian emigration of Florida and Texas), page 51 (about of the Canarian emigration to Louisiana). First Edition January, 2007
  2. ^ Canarias: Canarias. Temas canarios (Paragraph:"Fundación de San Antonio de Texas por canarios" – 248k – in Spanish). Translation: Canary. Themes canaries. (Paragraph: "The founding of San Antonio Texas for canaries"). Posted in November, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Balbuena Castellano, José Manuel. "La odisea de los canarios en Texas y Luisiana" (The Odyssey of the Canarians in Texas and Louisiana). Page 46; (ed) 2007,editorial: Anroart Ediciones.
  4. ^ Robert Bruce Blake (November 26, 2008). "Handbook of Texas Online - FRANQUIS DE LUGO, CARLOS BENITES". Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Martínez Laínez, Fernando and Canales Torrres, Carlos. Banderas lejanas: La exploración, conquista y defensa por España del territorio de los actuales Estados Unidos (Far Flags: The Exploration, Conquest and Defense by Spain of the Territory of the Current U.S.). Page, 250. Editorial EDAF. Fourth Edition: September 2009.
  6. ^ a b 11. CANARIAS Y AMÉRICA (The Canary Islands and America). Retrieved December 22, 2011, to 18:35 pm.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Presencia canaria en el sur de Estados Unidos (in English: Canarians´s precense in the South United States). Posted by Alfredo Herrera Piqué, in May 20, 2006. Retrieved May 06, 2012, to 1:00pm
  8. ^ a b Santana Pérez, Juan Manuel; Sánchez Suárez, José Antonio. Emigración por Reclutamientos canarios en Luisiana (Emigration by Canarian recruitments in Louisiana). Servicio de Publicaciones, 1992. Page 133
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u G. Armistead, Samuel. La Tradición Hispano - Canaria en Luisiana (Hispanic Tradition - Canary in Louisiana). Pages 51 - 61 (History and languages) and 65 - 165 (Culture). Anrart Ediciones. Ed: First Edition, March 2007.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n St. Bernard Isleños. LOUISIANA'S SPANISH TREASURE: Los Islenos. Retrieved December 22, 2011, to 19:28 pm.
  11. ^ Din, Gilbert "The Canary Islanders of Louisiana", 1988
  12. ^ Manuel Mora Morales: Canarios. Posted in 5 may, 2012. Retrieved in 27 April 2014.
  13. ^ Dixemania: Luisiana, los Isleños(in Spanish: Louisiana, the Isleños)
  14. ^ Luisiana y los canarios (in Spanish: Louisiana and the Canarian people). Posted by Manuel Mora Morales, in 2009. Retrieved in December 21, 2011.
  15. ^ Romances tradicionales entre los hispanohablantes del estado de Luisiana (in Spanish: Traditional Romances between the Spanish-speaking people from Louisiana´s state). Posted by Samuel G. Armistead.
  16. ^ Texas Beyond History: Glimpses of Life at Los Adaes. Retrieved February 05, 2012.
  17. ^ "History of Bayou Manchac, also called the Iberville River, Akankia, Ascantia, Manchacque, or Massiac"
  18. ^ Louisiana: A Guide to the State. Written by Louisiana Writers' Project. Page 542.
  19. ^ a b Roots web: Texas´s Canarians
  20. ^ Granting of Titles to Heirs of Canary Islanders
  21. ^ CURBELO FUENTES, Armando, La Fundación de San Antonio de Texas por canarios, la gran deuda americana (The founding of San Antonio, Texas for canarian people, the great U.S. debt). Page: 71 - 81. Third Edition, 1990.
  22. ^ El Día. Niños canarios y tejanos conocerán cómo isleños fundaron San Antonio, en EEUU (In Spanish: Canarian and Tejano Children will know how some Isleños founded San Antonio in the U.S.)
  23. ^ The Canary Islanders, Texas State Historical Society: The Handbook of Texas Online
  24. ^ Francesca Hampton (2006-09-23). "Hispanismo.Org.Antonio Benavides Gonzales de Molina (1678-1763): el canario que salvó al Rey (In Spanish: Hispanism. Org (organization). Antonio Benavides Gonzales de Molina (1678-1763): the Canarian that saved the King)". Retrieved May 2010. 
  25. ^ El Mundo: Miami, la octava isla (in English: Miami, the octave island).

External links

  • Official Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society 1345 Bayou Road, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana 70785.
  • Canary Islanders Heritage Society
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