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Alcide Nunez was an early American jazz clarinetist
Total population
Canarian diaspora
Regions with significant populations
Venezuela Venezuela 42,671-600,000 [1] [2]
 Cuba 9,566 [3]
Argentina Argentina 2,390 [4]
 United States 3,065 [5]
 United Kingdom 2,114 [6]
 Germany 1,471 [7]
 Uruguay 628 [8]
 Brazil 620 [9]
 Puerto Rico unknown



Roman Catholic

Related ethnic groups

Spanish, Portuguese

Isleño (plural isleños) (French: Îlois) is the Spanish word meaning "islander." The Isleños are the descendants of Canary Island immigrants of Louisiana, Cuba, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. The name islander was given to the Canary Islanders to distinguish them from Spanish mainlanders known as "peninsulares." But in these places or Countries, the name has evolved from a category to an identity. So much the name evolved to the point that when addressing the Canary Islanders of Louisiana, they would be referred to as the "Isleños", or "Los Isleños."

In Latin America, the Canary Islanders or "Canarians", are known as Isleños as well. Another name to refer to a Canary Islander is "Canarian" in English, or "Canario" in Spanish, as well as Isleño Canario.

In Venezuela, Cuba and Puerto Rico, the term "Isleño" is still used to distinguish a Canary Islander from someone from continental Spain.


Louisiana Communities of the Isleños

In Louisiana, the Isleños are the descendants of Canary Islanders who migrated to Louisiana under the Spanish crown between 1778 and 1783. They settled near New Orleans in what is today St. Bernard Parish. Many of their descendants remained insulated from New Orleans, and continued to speak a rustic and antiquated Castilian well into the 20th century. The geographical isolation helped to preserve their language and traditions. Today, some Isleños still speak Spanish with a Canary Islander accent. The Canarian accent sounds extremely similar to Caribbean Spanish.

The Louisiana Isleños still maintain contact with the Canary Islands, and have an annual "Caldo" festival named for a native dish, in which native Canary Islanders travel to the United States to take part in the festivities. There have been Canarian dancers, singers, and even the King and Queen of Spain have attended. After Hurricane Katrina, the Spanish government in the Canary Islands donated money to help repair the Canary Islander museum in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, as well as historical properties.

Isleño settlements in Louisiana

St. Bernard (Terre aux Boeufs)

This settlement was first called La Concepción and Nueva Galvez by the Spanish officials, but later renamed Terre aux Boeufs (French), Tierra de Bueyes (Spanish) or "land of cattle". However, by the end of the 1780s, St. Bernard, the patron saint of Bernardo de Galvez, was used in documents describing the area.[10] The majority of the Isleño population were long concentrated in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, where some of the most traditional Isleño customs continued. Other Isleños have settled throughout Southeast Louisiana and the Greater New Orleans area. Many were displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Traditional Isleño communities in St. Bernard include:



Originally referred to as "Valenzuela dans La Fourche", today the location is at the site of the Belle Alliance plantation. Traditional Isleño communities around Valenzuela include:


In 1778, during the American Revolution, the Spanish were not pleased with the amount of commerce that was bypassing New Orleans via Bayou Manchac. The Spanish Governor of the Isle of Orleans, Don Bernardo de Galvez, allowed Americans fleeing the hostilities in the colonies to establish a village on high ground they discovered just below the juncture of Bayou Manchac and the Amite River. The grateful villagers named their settlement "Galveztown." [11]

By 1779, Galvez realized the strategic importance of Galveztown and began bringing in Spanish Settlers from the Canary Islands. He also had troops move in a garrison constructed around the town. But by 1800, Galveztown was abandoned and the settlers moved to Baton Rouge. The area they settled there became known as "Spanish Town" and is where the Pentagon Barracks now stand. Many Isleños today still have contacts with the Canary Islands.

Traditional Isleño communities around Galveztown include:

Isleño influence in Cuba and Puerto Rico

Most Jíbaro's were of Canarian stock.

The Influence of the Canary Islands The flag of the Canary Islands

CUBA, was the most influenced by Canary immigration of all Latin American countries. In 1853, a royal decree permitted emigration to all American territories, whether Spanish colonies or free nations. This increased Canary emigration to other Latin American areas, especially Argentina and Uruguay, as well as providing more immigrants for Venezuela, but the majority continued to head for Cuba. Accurate figures for immigrants during the 19th century do not exist, but an approximate picture can be reconstructed (Hernández García 1981). In the 20-year period from 1818-1838 for example, more than 18,000 islanders emigrated to the Americas, most to Cuba and proportionately fewer to Venezuela and Puerto Rico. This represents a significant proportion of the islands' population, and given the relative size of cities in Latin America in the early 19th century, a not inconsiderable shift in the linguistic balance of such places as Caracas, Havana and Santiago de Cuba. In the half century from 1840 to 1890, as many as 40,000 Canary Islanders emigrated to Venezuela alone. In the period from 1835-1850, more than 16,000 islanders emigrated to Cuba, a rate of approximately 1000 per year. In the 1860s, Canary emigration to the Americas took place at the rate of over 2000 per year, at a time when the total islands' population was perhaps 240,000. In the 2-year period 1885-6, more than 4500 Canarians emigrated to Spanish possessions (including the Philippines and Fernando Poo), of which almost 4100 went to Cuba and 150 to Puerto Rico. During the same time period, some 760 Canary Islanders emigrated to Latin American republics, with 550 going to Argentina/Uruguay and more than 100 to Venezuela. By the period 1891-1895, Canary emigration to Argentina/Uruguay was slighly more than 400, to Puerto Rico was 600, immigrants arriving in Venezuela numbered more than 2000, and to Cuba more than 17,000. By comparison, in the same half century or so, emigration to Cuba from other regions of Spain included: 14,000 from Barcelona, 18,000 from Asturias and more than 57,000 from Galicia. During the same period more than 18,000 Galicians arrived in Argentina/Uruguay, but only a handful arrived in Venezuela. These are only official figures; when clandestine emigration is taken into account, the numbers would be much larger. For example, Guerrero Balfagón (1960) has documented the illegal but significant immigration of Canary Islanders to Argentina and Uruguay in the first half of the 19th century.

Following the Spanish-American War of 1898, Cuba and Puerto Rico were no longer Spanish territories, but Canary immigration to the Americas continued. Until the Spanish Civil War of 1936, most islanders arrived in Cuba, and it is difficult to find a Canary Island family today in which some family member did not go to Cuba during the early decades of the 20th century. In some of the poorer regions, entire villages were left virtually without a young male population. Many islanders returned after a few years, although some made several trips to Cuba or remained indefinitely, thus increasing the lingusitic cross-fertilization between the two regions. Following the Spanish Civil War, which created even more severe economic hardships in the Canary Islands, and in view of the 1959 communist revolution in Cuba, islanders once more turned to Venezuela as the preferred area of emigration, a trend which continued until the early 1960s.

Main article: Cuban Spanish

Many words in traditional Cuban Spanish can be traced to those of the Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands. Many Canary Islanders emigrated to Cuba and had one of the largest parts in the formation of the Cuban dialect and accent. There are also many elements from other areas of Spain such as Andalucian, Galician, Asturian, Catalan, as well as some African influence. Cuban Spanish is very close to Canarian Spanish. Canarian emigration has been going on for centuries to Cuba, and were also very numerous in emigration of the 19th, and 20th centuries.

Through cross emigration of Canarians and Cubans, many of the customs of Canarians have became Cuban traditions and vice versa. The music of Cuba has become part of the Canarian culture as well, such as mambo, salsa, son, and punto Cubano. Because of Cuban emigration to the Canary Islands, the dish "moros y cristianos", or simply known as "moros", can be found as one of the foods of the Canary Islands; especially the island of La Palma. Canary Islanders were the driving force in the cigar industry in Cuba, and were called "Vegueros." Many of the big cigar factories in Cuba were owned by Canary Islanders. After the Castro revolution, many Cubans and returning Canarians settled in the Canary islands, among them were many Cigar factory owners such as the Garcia family. The cigar business made its way to the Canary Islands from Cuba, and now the Canary Islands are one of the places that are known for cigars along side Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Honduras. The island of La palma has the greatest Cuban influence out of all seven islands. Also, La Palma has the closest Canarian accent to the Cuban accent, due to the most Cuban emigration to that island.

Many of the typical Cuban replacements for standard Spanish vocabulary stem from Canarian lexicon. For example, guagua (bus) differs from standard Spanish autobús the former originated in the Canaries and is an onomatopoeia stemming from the sound of a Klaxon horn (wah-wah!). The term of endearment "socio" is from the Canary Islands. An example of Canarian usage for a Spanish word is the verb fajarse[19] ("to fight"). In standard Spanish the verb would be pelearse, while fajar exists as a non-reflexive verb related to the hemming of a skirt. Cuban Spanish shows strong heritage to the Spanish of the Canary Islands.

Many names for food items come from the Canary Islands as well. The Cuban sauce mojo, is based on the mojos of the Canary Islands were the mojo was invented. Also, Canarian ropa vieja is the father to Cuban ropa vieja through Canarian emigration. Gofio is a Canarian food also known by Cubans, along with many others.

Puerto Rico

The first wave of Canarian migration seems to be 1695 in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico with Juan Fernández Franco de Medina born 1646 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands was Governor of Puerto Rico (1st term (1685-1690) and 2nd term (1695-1697), who arrived with 20 Canarian families.[12] This was followed by others in 1714, 1720, 1731, and 1797.

Between 1720 and 1730 some 176 families with a total of 882 canarians emigrated, with 60% married and the rest married in Puerto Rico.

The numbers of Canarians to Puerto Rico in its first three centuries is not known to any degree of precision. However, Dr. Estela Cifre de Loubriel and other scholars of the Canarian Migration to America, like Dr. Manuel González Hernández, of the University of La Laguna, Tenerife, agree that they formed the bulk of the Jíbaro or white peasant stock of the island.[13]

The Isleños increased their commercial traffic and emigration concentrated to the two Spanish-American colonies, Puerto Rico and particularly Cuba. Following the Spanish-American War of 1898, Canarian immigration to the Americas continued. Successive waves of Canary Island immigration came to Puerto Rico, where entire villages were formed of relocated islanders.[14]

In the 1860s, Canarian emigration to the Americas took place at the rate of over 2000 per year, at a time when the total islands' population was 237,036. In the 2-year period 1885-6, more than 4500 Canarians emigrated to Spanish possessions, with only 150 to Puerto Rico. Between 1891-1895, Canary emigration to Puerto Rico was 600. With these being official figures; when illegal or concealed emigration is taken into account, the numbers would be much larger.[15]

In Puerto Rico whole villages were formed by Canarian emigration and is an important influence on the culture of Puerto Rico such as the speech and the Cuatro a small guitar with origins from the Canary Islands.

See also


External links


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