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Something You Didn't Know About Louisiana (Ilenos, Canary Islands)/
Free Republic - ^ | 6-16-2014 | Gilbert C. Din/Sidney Villere

Posted on 06/16/2014 6:52:55 PM PDT by blam

Something You Didn't Know About Louisiana (Ilenos, Canary Islands)
Gilbert C. Din/Sidney Villere


The archipelago of the Canaries consists of seven main islands, having a total area of less than 6 percent of the size of Louisiana, lying about sixty-five miles west of Morocco in Northern Africa. They were formed as a result of volcanic activity. It is a rugged, mountainous terrain, and plains are almost nonexistent. Lack of water is a serious problem. The westernmost islands receive the most rain, while the two islands closest to the Sahara Desert and lower in elevation have some deserts. The higher elevations on some of the western islands have pleasant temperatures, and crops of wheat, barley, potatoes, dates, chestnuts, bananas, sugarcane and other subtropical plants can be grown.

The ancient natives of the Canary Islands were the Guanches, who lived in a Stone Age way of life. The language is related to the ancient idioms of North Africa, but has disappeared except for a few words. The Guanches never developed writing and did not know the use of boats in the fifteenth century. They lived a pastoral life, caring for their goats, sheep, and pigs. Some of them lived in huts, but the majority lived in caves. Adults dressed in skins or grasses sewn together, while the younger people went about naked. They developed a system of government that included judges, laws, and kings. The Gaunche weapons were mainly sticks, spears, and stones. Their religion consisted of belief in a single god, and they carefully buried their dead after embalming the bodies.

The origin of the Guanches has mystified scholars. The earliest Gaunche inhabitants have been described as robust, fair skinned, and handsome. Recent studies classify the people into two groups called Cro-Magnon and Mediterranean. The Cro-Magnon type is described as broad-faced, robust, long headed and fairer than the Mediterranean type. The Mediterranean type is described as long faced, delicate, and having a short, broad skull. Evidence points to Northwest Africa as the origination point for the Gaunches, sometime between 2500 and 1000 BC.

Stories about the Canaries circulated around the Mediterranean before the times of the Romans. King Juba II of Mauretania who reigned between 25BC and AD 25 sent an expedition to investigate the islands.

They found no human but encountered ferocious dogs. King Juba named the islands for the dogs, canine in Latin being canaria. The well-known songbirds derive their name from the islands rather than giving it to them.

After the collapse of the Roman era, the islands disappeared from recorded history for nearly a thousand year. The Genoese arrived in 1291, followed by the Portuguese in 1341, and the Majorcans in 1342. Beginning in the fourteenth century, the Europeans often sacked and enslaved the natives. Gaunches were sold as slaves before 1400 in Seville and Valencia and though the fifteenth century. The Spanish crown of Fernando and Isabella finally defeated the remaining Guanches and the Canaries came under Spanish control. Spanish names, religion, and customs were forced upon the Gaunche. Spanish nobles seized the best agricultural lands, treating the Gaunches in the most barbaric manner, coercing them into serfdom. Economic conditions deteriorated. The native tenant farmers and their families were starving.

War erupted in the English colonies of North America in 1776. Spain's vast Louisiana colony in 1763 had only approximately eleven thousand people, less than half of whom were white. England seized several Spanish boats on Lake Ponchartrain in May 1777. In August 1777, the Spanish Crown commanded the governor and commandant general of the Canary Islands to enlist seven hundred men for service in Louisiana.

Emigration to Louisiana offered to the islanders opportunity to escape the deplorable conditions in which they lived. More than three hundred inhabitants of Gomera chose to leave for Louisiana. The recruits appear to have come from five of the seven islands: Hierro and Fuertenventura yielded no volunteers.

The immigrant soldiers needed to be between 17 and 36 years of age, at least five feet one-half inch tall, robust and without noticeable imperfections or vice. Preference was given to married men. The wives, children, and close relatives of the recruits would be transported to Louisiana at royal expense. Eight ships transported the 2,010 Islenos from the Canaries. The last ship, El Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, departed on May 31, 1779, but was detained in Havana because the Governor of Havana did not think Louisiana was a safe place due to proximity of the British troops at Baton Rouge. Many of these Islenos never finished the journey to Louisiana. Copies of the passenger lists of the eight ships are in the books referenced.

Louisiana Governor Bernardo de Galvez welcomed the first group of Canary Islanders in November 1778. He decided to employ all the immigrant-recruits as settlers only, because of the impossibility of keeping the married recruits in the regiments with their large families. He established the first community, Valenzuela, on Bayou Lafourche, just past Donaldsonville. Today, this is the site of Belle Alliance plantation, and there is an historical marker marking this site as Valenzuela. Galveztown was established on the banks of Bayou Manchac where it joins the Amite River, and as a buffer to the British who controlled the area north of Bayou Manchac. Barataria was established on the west side of the Mississippi River below New Orleans and Terre-aux Boeufs on the east bank. The settlements at Galvez and Barataria both failed because of continuous flooding. The Islenos in St. Bernard parish quickly adapted to the area and increased their income by fishing and trapping in addition to farming.

The Islenos in Ascension and Assumption parishes settled down to farming, the main crop being sugar cane. Many Canary Islanders' descendants today still live in the Bayou Lafourche and St. Bernard areas.

The land grants were supposed to consist of approximately three arpents of bayou front (576 feet) by 40 deep (7,680 feet), but the grants were irregular in size, due to the curving of the bayou. The government supplied them well, sometimes lavishly. Some of them received a cart and two horses valued at 125 pesos. One example, a family numbering seven persons received: 150 ounces of cloth, 30 ounces of printed linen, 4 hats, 10 plain and 4 silk handkerchiefs, 6 pairs of stockings, 16 ounces of cloth of white thread, 4 needle cases, 8 thimbles, 1,000 pins and needles, 3 fusils (flintlocks), 3 pounds of gunpowder, 4 shaving razors, 5 axes, 8 hoes, 2 shovels, 10 ounces of Limburg cloth, 2 1/2 pesos in coin per person, 20 pesos for the purchase of a mare, and a number of other items. The government built the colonists at Galvez wooden houses, 16 x 32 feet, with a gallery on one side.

Sugar cane was brought from the Canary Islands and introduced into Louisiana agriculture. Canary Illanders have labored in the sugar industry continuously and have had a large part in making the industry the success it is today.

Islenos have distinguished themselves in the War of 1812, Civil War, and WWI and WWII. Although, many remained clannish and aloof from outsiders until the early 1900's, most have since valued education and many have served honorably in governmental positions. All Isleno descendants should be proud of their unique heritage.


Canary Island Migration by Sidney Villere The Canary Islanders of Louisiana by Gilbert C. Din.

TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Louisiana
KEYWORDS: cajuns; canaryislands; godsgravesglyphs; guanches; illenos; louisiana; romanempire
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1 posted on 06/16/2014 6:52:55 PM PDT by blam
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To: SunkenCiv
I originally posted this artice to Free Republic twelve years ago under this title:

Something You Didn't Know About Cajuns (Ilenos, Canary Islands)

It's due for another 'airing', don't you think?

2 posted on 06/16/2014 6:56:46 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam

Anything more frequent than 12.1 years is blog pimping in my book:)

3 posted on 06/16/2014 7:10:30 PM PDT by posterchild (It takes a politician to declare a settled science.)
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To: blam

Cool. Are their surnames Spanish?

4 posted on 06/16/2014 7:16:22 PM PDT by huldah1776
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To: blam

Yes, overdue. Very interesting, thanks.

5 posted on 06/16/2014 7:21:35 PM PDT by bboop (does not suffer fools gladly)
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To: posterchild; blam

No joke.

Com’n, start your own web page....


6 posted on 06/16/2014 7:31:34 PM PDT by Vendome (Don't take life so seriously-you won't live through it anyway-Enjoy Yourself ala Louis Prima)
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To: blam

Very, very interesting read. Thanks for posting the article.

I’m an ol’ dog, but I can still learn new things.

7 posted on 06/16/2014 7:38:20 PM PDT by octex
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To: blam

“Adults dressed in skins or grasses sewn together, while the younger people went about naked.”

Luau night at the Honolulu Hilton?

8 posted on 06/16/2014 7:41:49 PM PDT by Rebelbase (Tagline: optional, printed after your name on post)
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To: blam
A large number of Isleno families were involved in the settlement of San Antonio, TX. If I am not mistaken, this pre-dates the Isleno settlements in South Louisiana.
9 posted on 06/16/2014 7:42:41 PM PDT by okie01 (The Mainstream Media: Ignorance on parade.)
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To: okie01
"A large number of Isleno families were involved in the settlement of San Antonio, TX. If I am not mistaken, this pre-dates the Isleno settlements in South Louisiana. "

You're 47 years.

De la Teja, Jesús. “Indians, Soldiers and Canary Islanders: The Making of a Texas Frontier Community.”

"Many accounts treat the arrival of the Canary Islanders in 1731 as the founding date for San Antonio. However, there was a sizeable community in place when the “Islenos” arrived. The soldiers stationed at the Presidio and the local mestizo population that supported them had been around since 1718 when the first missions were established. The essay focuses on this often overlooked community and its sometimes rocky relationship with the newcomers. In time, the distinctions between soldiers and settlers became less important and the two groups merged through intermarriage."

10 posted on 06/16/2014 7:50:53 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam


11 posted on 06/16/2014 7:51:51 PM PDT by Liberty Valance (Keep a simple manner for a happy life :o)
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To: cll

Canary Islands ping.

12 posted on 06/16/2014 7:54:43 PM PDT by marron
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To: blam

Interesting. I used to eat meals in a boarding house in Madrid with a man from the Canary Islands. This is the first I’ve heard about the connection with Louisiana, though. I appreciated the summary of Canary Islands history. That was a rather odd corner of the world.

13 posted on 06/16/2014 8:04:50 PM PDT by GJones2 (Louisiana and the Canary Islands)
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To: Ditter

Pyramids of Güímar - Canary Islands

14 posted on 06/16/2014 8:06:55 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam

I worked for a Cajun near here for years. I don’t know if he was an Arcadian or Canary Islander but he cn best be described as THE PLANT MANAGER FROM HELL!

When he died everyone at the plant hoped his family would bury him here and not back in Louisiana We had no desire to rent a bus to go all the way to Louisiana just to p!$$ on his grave.

The buried him above ground in a swamp graveyard as the ground itself would have revolted at his presence and cast him out.

15 posted on 06/16/2014 8:11:33 PM PDT by Ruy Dias de Bivar (Sometimes you need more than seven rounds, Much more.)
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To: GJones2
Guanches-Canary Islands-DNA Project- Background
16 posted on 06/16/2014 8:13:43 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam; huldah1776

Judge Leander Perez, an influential Democratic power broker in Louisiana during the mid-twentieth century was descended from the Canary Islanders who came to Louisiana. He belonged to the old Southern right-wing faction of the Democrat Party that no longer exists.

17 posted on 06/16/2014 8:21:06 PM PDT by Fiji Hill
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To: blam


18 posted on 06/16/2014 8:23:33 PM PDT by GJones2 (Louisiana and the Canary Islands)
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To: huldah1776

My paternal great grandfather came to Louisiana via the Canary Islands. Originally from Oviedo, Spain the last name is Spanish and common among Mexicans and Central Americans. My grandparents would get angry when people assumed they were Hispanic. SPANISH is one thing HISpanic is another. The are called Las Canarias now but were proud Spaniards who spoke Catalan even in St Bernard parish as fishermen.

19 posted on 06/16/2014 8:39:59 PM PDT by ClearBlueSky (When anyone says its not about's about Islam. That death cult must be eradicated.)
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To: blam
Thanks so much for the ping! Mr Ditters family came from Louisiana but they arrived in 1745 when the French were dumped there from Canada by the British.
20 posted on 06/17/2014 5:57:21 AM PDT by Ditter
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