In the heart of French Quarter, two steps from Bourbon Street, with Treme to the northwest and the river Mississippi southeast, it rises – along with the Saint Louis Cathedral and in front of Jackson Square– the Cabildo of New Orleans. Opened in 1795, the building -designed by Gilberto Guillemard– it was the first seat of the Spanish government in the colony of Louisiana and is currently part of the state network of museums of Louisiana. Today, 223 years after it opened its doors and under its status as a gallery, it receives some very special visitors: islanders, the descendants of Canaries what, recruited by the crown, they emigrated to U.S to colonize different settlements in North America.
The islanders are presented in New Orleans by the hand of two Gran Canaria: Thenesoya Vidina Martín de la Nuez -Licenciada en Filología Hispánica- and Aníbal Martel Peña -photographer-. Between the two, during the last five years, they have shaped Cislanderus, word resulting from the mixture between C of the Canary Islands, the term islander (islander in English) and the first letters of United States (the local term of the United States) and that serves to baptize a project that allowed both professionals to search and trace the remains of the Canarian colonies in Louisiana and Texas, the two states of the Union They welcomed families from the archipelago during the last days of the eighteenth century.
The result is a series of photographs that show people, traditions and places who are reluctant to break the bond that binds them – both at a genetic and cultural level – to their ancestors, already distant relatives who traveled to America from the other side of the Atlantic. The adventure of Thenesoya Martín and Aníbal Martel, in particular, toured part of those two southern states of the United States through locations such as Delacroix, Baton Rouge, Reggio or San Antonio, Texan city founded in 1731 by 16 Canarian families.
In the United States there are still some 2,500 descendants of the Canaries who, until 1783, crossed the ocean. After raising the first settlements in San Antonio, the following Canarian families who moved to North America chose Louisiana -then a Spanish colony north of the Gulf of Mexico– as a destination. There, in swamplands beaten by hurricanes, they founded four settlements around New Orleans: Galveztown, Barataria, Valenzuela and La Concepción – later renamed as Parish of San Bernardo-. Of those four locations, only the last remains.
There, the scions of the islanders they keep alive the pride of their Canarian roots: they have created an association – they meet once a month – that celebrates festivals with popular origins in the archipelago, organize family events and work for keep alive Canarian traditions (One of the photos collects several children dressed in typical Canarian costumes) -.
New Orleans is the third stop of Cislanderus. The Casa de Colón in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, in 2016, hosted -and sponsored- this project that a little over a year ago also ended in the Embassy of Spain in Washington DC. Now, after today's opening – the exhibition will remain in New Orleans until June 2 – the next challenge for Thenesoya Martín and Aníbal Martel is to publish a book about the islanders – the cause can be supported in www.cislanderus.com/-.