The Spanish Tradition in Louisiana

The Spanish Tradition in Louisiana

The Spanish Tradition in Louisiana

The Spanish Tradition in Louisiana

Excerpt

The Isleños of St. Bernard Parish are an isolated Spanish-speaking community, whose origins date from a late 18th-century initative to colonize Louisiana with settlers from the Canary Islands. My personal interest in the Isleños dates back many years. As a graduate student in Spanish Literature and Romance Philology at Princeton University in the early 1950s, I had read Raymond R. MacCurdy's pathfinding monograph on The Spanish Dialect in St. Bernard Parish (1950b). The idea that such a Hispanic speech island -- a variant Hispanic "world" -- should have survived in isolation in southern Louisiana aroused my curiosity to know more about the Isleños and their traditions and to search for what oral literature might have been preserved or, indeed, what new forms of folkliterature might perhaps have evolved in such a community. The present book will offer, hopefully, some answers to these questions.

In 1956, on my way to a teaching position at UCLA, I had in fact made a brief afternoon's visit to the villages of Delacroix. and Reggio -- time enough only to hear a little Isleños Spanish and to take away with me the determination to explore, when circumstances permitted, the traditions of those and other Isleños villages. For a complex combination of reasons, almost twenty years were to pass before such an opportunity presented itself. In October 1975, the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society was to be held in New Orleans. I decided to attend, but to skip a day of listening to papers in favor of a preliminary reconnaissance of the Isleños settlements. As a specialist in the Hispanic ballad, I was particularly anxious to test Ramón Menéndez Pidal's classic theory of the romance's Pan-Hispanic character (see Chap. 4 below), by attempting to discover if, perhaps, a repertoire of traditional ballads might have survived among the Isleños -- just as romances are known to be sung essentially wherever Hispanic languages (Spanish, Portuguese . . .

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