Parish rededicates Isleño and Ducros Museums, celebrates annual fiestMar 29th, 2010 | By Frank McCormack | Category: Top Story
Parish historian Bill Hyland reports an estimated 20,000 people ventured east to St. Bernard Village March 20-21 to experience the 34th annual Isleño Fiesta at the Los Isleños Museum Complex on Bayou Road.
“It was wonderful to open the museum complex to the public and let the people of St. Bernard and the metropolitan area see all we’ve accomplished,” Hyland said after the event. “The important thing is we did it, people know we’re there and we’re moving ever closer to being open.”
The fiesta opened with rededication ceremonies for both the Isleño Museum and the Ducros Museum. The 30 acre complex, which includes some nine historic buildings, has been painstakingly rebuilt with federal recovery dollars and support from both the parish government and private individuals.
“This is an example of incredible hard work and dedication from so many people,” Parish President Craig Taffaro said prior to the ribbon cutting ceremonies. “When we stood here last year, we said we were going to make a concerted effort to provide a complex for the fiesta. That’s what we’ve accomplished.”
The crowd gathered to celebrate the rededication included descendants of some of the founders of the Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society, representatives from the National Park Service, and officials from both the Spanish Consulate and the government of the Canary Islands.
Alex Ducros, a New Orleans attorney and great-grandson of the late Dr. Louis A. Ducros, represented the Ducros family at the dedication event.
“I’m honored to be here on behalf of my family and ancestors to rededicate this house,” Ducros said. “Now you are part of the history. This is something wonderful because it’s for you and for me.”
Dot Benge, with the Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society, offered a history of the complex and society. She also captured the emotions that many involved in the restoration project were feeling.
“I’m a little overcome with emotions because five years ago when I stood in front of that museum I cried,” Benge said. “And I’m about to cry now.”
Ribbon cutting ceremonies then followed at both the Los Isleños Museum and the Ducros House.
Visitors of the Isleño Fiesta enjoyed the sights and sounds of performers from the Canary Islands as well as live arts and crafts demonstrations. Historic houses on the complex were open to visitors as well.
Bertin Esteves and his son, Bret, whose family donated the Esteves House, dressed in traditional garb and introduced visitors to their family’s history in St. Bernard Parish. Bret Esteves is a 7th generation Isleño. Bertin Esteves said many of the Isleño descendants have a good idea about their family history because the Spanish kept superb records. That family heritage extended to Bret Esteves, the last of his family to actually live in the Esteves house.
“Most people think immigrants came through Ellis Island,” Bret Esteves joked. “We like to think they came through Delacroix Island.”
Just over from the Esteves House, Isleño descendant Charlie Robin gave passersby a history of his family by pointing to models of all the boats that have been in his family. Robin said his father built the model boats before Katrina. Robin has been restoring the model boats ever since Hurricane Katrina almost destroyed them. For Robin, it’s a way to honor his late father and carry a family tradition.
“This is our history and our culture, and we’re proud of it,” Robin said. “That what I’ve been doing for five years.”
Pointing to a piece of a boat he recently glued back in place, Robin added, “Katrina wiped us out, and we’re just putting the pieces back together.”