LAS PALMAS, Spain – A photographer and a researcher, both born in Gran Canaria, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, opened an exhibition on Thursday at the Casa de Colon that features 60 images of descendants of the 2,500 islanders who emigrated to Louisiana, then a Spanish colony, three centuries ago.
Photographer Anibal Martel and researcher Thenesoya Vidina Martin De la Nuez organized “CISLANDERUS. Los descendientes canarios de Estados Unidos” (CISLANDERUS: Canarian Descendants in the United States), an exhibition of images of people who feel a deep love for the land of their ancestors even though they have never visited the islands.
Martel and Martin De la Nuez, a doctoral student at Harvard University’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, came up with the term CISLANDERUS by combining the words Canary Islander and United States.
Over three years, Martel and Martin de la Nuez did extensive research and traveled several times to Louisiana as part of a more ambitious project that will continue by tracing the legacy of the 16 families from Lanzarote Island who founded San Antonio, now in Texas, in 1731.
The photographs include portraits and scenes from the daily lives of the Canary Islanders’ descendants and the Louisiana landscape, while audio recordings bring to life the voices of the 150 people who Martel and Martin de la Nuez contacted.
About 2,500 Canary Islanders arrived in Louisiana between 1778 and 1783 to settle on lands won from the British.
At its height, Spanish Louisiana extended to the border with Canada and covered the territory of almost 10 states in the present-day United States.
The images take visitors to the Louisiana swamps and bayous, as well as to historic sites, such as the St. Bernard Parish cemetery, and areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Martin de la Nuez discussed the challenging project, which required extensive research because there is no census of the so-called “Spanish Cajuns” in St. Bernard, where the islands’ language is still spoken, and slowly disappearing.
The exhibition will travel in November to the Cervantes Institute in New York.