Thursday, December 08, 2005

New Orleans via Canary Islands

NPR had a feature recently about the "Islenos", descendants of Spanish-speaking Canary Islanders who settled in New Orleans around 1770. Their community and culture has survived to this day, up to the recent disaster; which is particularly devastating to them. Of the 70,000 people in new Orleans' Parish of St. Bernard 2/3rds are of Isleno descent.
The Islenos were brought over en masse by the Spanish to settle southern Louisiana; acting as a buffer against the encroaching British and they've remained ever since as a close-knit community.

An interesting bit about the Canary islanders. The indigenous inhabitants (who later mixed with Spanish settlers and others) were called Guanches and their origins are mysterious. Quite a number of them were blond haired and blue-eyed which is now thought to indicate an ancient connection to the light-complected Berbers living in the mountainous regions of Morocco and North Africa. They appear to have been there for thousands of years. When the Spanish arrived there in the late Middle Ages they found the Guanches dressed in goat-skin or grass skirts wielding Stone Age weapons and living in caves in the mountains. Each island - there were 7 - seemed to have differing traditions.
Odd facts about the Guanches -
-they mummified their dead
- A Mauretanian king traveled there around 25 bc. landing on one of the seemingly uninhabited islands. He claimed that there were ruins of a civilization plainly visible.
- When the Spanish arrived the Guanches had no boats which would indicate they were either brought by others or boatbuilding knowledge had dissapeared.

No, i'm not gonna get all "Atlantean" on y'all. Regular old-time stone age humans were much more capable than we used to think....still the mystery lingers.

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