Contributed by St. Bernard Parish Government
Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society of St. Bernard has organized its 46th annual fiesta celebrating the cultural heritage of the Canary Islanders or Isleños who founded St. Bernard Parish in 1779 – 1780. The festival will take place the weekend of March 12-13, 2022, at the Los Isleños Museum Complex, 1345 – 1357 Bayou Road, St. Bernard. Because of the Covid19 Pandemic, the Society was forced not to have its annual fiesta in 2021 for the very first time since its founding in 1976.
Los Isleños Fiesta 2022 is dedicated to the memory of Dorothy Louise O’Toole Benge (1933 – 2021), former and longest serving president of Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society. Dot worked tirelessly to restructure the society in the 1990s with a core group of Isleño descendants, introducing new administrative policies still used today. She also championed the realization of the master plan for Los Isleños Museum Complex, resulting in the establishment of Los Isleños Historic Village. Dot served as Fiesta Committee chairperson uninterruptedly from 1998 until 2013.
Because of the persistent Covid19 Pandemic, Joapira, the folkloric music and dance group scheduled to perform during Fiesta 2022 was unable to travel to St. Bernard Parish from El Hierro Island in the Canaries. Every effort will be made to bring Joapira to St. Bernard to perform in Fiesta 2023.
Returning from Lanzarote Island in the Canaries to demonstrate during Fiesta 2022 will be Felip Martin, who at 20 years of age, is the youngest timple maker in the Canary Islands. The timple is the signature musical string instrument of Canarian folk music and physically is best described as a five-string diminutive, small guitar with a high arched back.
The menu will feature traditional Isleño food, fabulous grilled St. Bernard oysters, Louisiana fried seafood, hot dogs, hamburgers and chili. Traditional Isleño food will include ropa vieja (pork shoulder roast cooked with garlic, onions and seasonings), arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), shrimp and grits (traditionally served on trawl boats), empanadas (meat pies), croquettas, caldo (known as potage in the Canaries, a soup with pickled pork as the base meat) and desserts such as flan, the famous vanilla flavored egg custard topped with caramel sauce. Don and Tammy Melerine will prepare their family recipe for caldo, continuing the tradition initiated by Don’s mother, Cinda Rodriguez Melerine.
The St. Bernard Tourist Commission will fund and operate the tapas bar in the historic Coconut Island Barroom. Spanish wines, cheese, chorizo (sausage) and tortilla a la Gallega (Spanish potato, onion, bell pepper omelet in the style of Galicia) and fresh fruit in the tapas bar. Tapas are the traditional small dishes served in bars throughout Spain including the Canary Islands.
Natives of Galicia in the northwest coast of the Spanish mainland emigrated to St. Bernard throughout the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, so that Gallegos also influenced the foodways of the Isleño Community in St. Bernard. Homemade desserts by the desert committee will include tarta de tres leches (three milk cake) banana bread, cookies, cupcakes and some sugar free desserts.
The Los Isleños Historic Village will the beautiful setting for living history and folk craft demonstrations including Tenerife Lace making, spinning, quilting, duck decoy carving, duck callers, model boatbuilding, pirogue building, historic black smithing (wrought iron), and Native American culture and medicine garden presented by the Houma Native Americans. The Canary Islands Heritage Society will have a genealogy exhibition in the Caserta-Cresap House thus enabling visitors to learn about their Canary Islands ancestry. Felip Martin will demonstrate timple construction on the front porch of the Estopinal House. Hours for public visitation will be 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day.
The modern craft booth section promises to offer an excellent selection of items for sale including furniture, art, preserved vegetables and jellies and other items. The silent auction will have excellent gifts and items to bid on such as quilts, artwork, and gift certificates. The Isleño Society gift shop will be fully stocked and presented on the fiesta grounds, offering the public books about the Isleños and Spanish heritage, Isleño cookbooks, tee-shirts and other inventory.
Mitchell Amusements will provide amusement rides for children in the parking lot of Los Isleños Museum Complex. Los Isleños Museum will be opened for tours as well. Los Isleños nature trail was severely damaged during hurricanes Zeta (2020) and Ida (2021) and must remain closed during Fiesta 2022.
The lineup of Latin and popular music for Fiesta 2022 will not fail to please the public. The stage schedule for Saturday, March 12 and Sunday, March 13 is as follows:
Saturday, March 12, 2022
11 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Opening Ceremonies
11:15 a.m. – 12 p.m. Heritage Program
12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. Javier Gutierrez and Vivaz
3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Cypress Pop Trio
7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Rockin Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters
Sunday, March 13, 2022
11 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Opening Ceremonies
11:15 a.m. – 12 p.m. Filipino Cultural Group
12 p.m. – 2 p.m. Javier Orlando and Asheson
2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Junior and Sumtin’ Sneaky
6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Category 6
The entrance fee will be $5 per person, children 12 years of age and younger will be admitted free. Major sponsors of Los Isleños Fiesta 2022 are Valero Oil, The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, The Family of Dot Benge, St. Bernard Parish Government, St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Department and the St. Bernard Parish Tourist Commission.
For additional information, please go to www.losislenos.org, Los Isleños Fiesta Facebook page and www.visitstbernard.com.