The Pride of HeritageMar 29th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: Top Story
The 35th Annual Fiesta De Los Isleños took place this past weekend in St. Bernard, and succeeded in drawing attention to a history intertwined with the local culture. This organized set-up of displays and exhibits, offered by the Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society, allowed the crowd to take part in a living history and to celebrate the Spanish background of Louisiana.
Though not overly crowded for the space, the number in attendance was apparent by the full parking lot. Dust kicked up from the steady stream of cars, as sheriff’s deputies set out cones and attempted to guide the stream of traffic.
A line formed outside the Isleños Historic village. On the lush green lawn next to the village waited the revels of a well-planned weekend festival. Patrons patiently waited to provide their three-dollar donation at the entrance. As one volunteer stamped hands, another handed out raffle tickets for the potential prize: an 8-gun-2-drawer-antique-cypress-gun-cabinet. Though thankfully, the wait at the gate was short, since the smell of the cooking cuisine, coated in spices, drifted through the air, and further enticed the waiting crowd.
Once inside the grounds, there were many men in brown derbies and button down shirts, matching the women wearing red frocks, bright scarves, and straw hats. About those well-dressed ambassadors of Los Isleños culture were people coming in and out of the Coconut Island Barroom. It seemed wine was the drink of choice.
Some then stopped next door, taking shade under the canopies, where groups of men and women were shucking oysters or tossing them on the fire for grilling. Other patrons congregated about a caller who drew in more and more to the Gumbo line. Across the way, volunteers prepped and served a variety of dishes. Alligator, shrimp and crab, as well as some Spanish-style cuisine, such as Croquetas and Caldo, called out with their fresh-cooked aroma.
Soon, the weekend’s festivities officially launched with the opening ceremony. Society President Dot Benge invited everyone to partake in the food, the variety of planned events for the day, and reminded them to stop by the displays in the museum. After that, an Isleños translator reiterated Benge’s message. She then reclaimed center stage to crown Lindsey Serpas-Jones Queen of the Festival. After some applause, the band took over. They filled the air with subtle tunes for the rest of the afternoon, as the crowd enjoyed some of the special features: a cooking class, a portrayal of the Isleños involvement in the Battle of New Orleans, and a lecture on the “Lost Secrets of the Isleños”—which included remedies, medicines, and superstitions.
Now for 35 years running, the Isleños Festival has cultivated the community’s interest. And those people having fun under the sparkling Louisiana sun are also partaking in a cultural message brought year round by the Museum and that Historic Village, which are always there and ready for those who seek its knowledge.
To contact the Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society, or any questions, call Dot Benge at 504.554.8412.