... The Canary Island Migration
Since the late 1600s, Spain had encouraged the
Canary Islanders to move to the Caribbean colonies. After Spain acquired
Louisiana in 1762, it recognized the need to populate the territory.
When the Revolutionary War brought the English in conflict with the American
colonies, Spain recognized the danger from possible English hostilities
in Louisiana. On August 15, 1777, Spain ordered a second battalion
be formed in Louisiana. It looked to the Canary Islands for 700 recruits.
It tried to get married recruits so that they could not only defend the
area, but also populate it. [Din, p. 15]
| The Canary Islands are a collection of 7 islands
about 100 miles west of the coast of Morocco. Spaniards conquered
the area and migrated to the island in the 15th and 16th century.
By the 18th century, the islands were controlled by nobles. The main
product of the islands was the production of orchil, a lichen that produces a violet
dye. When the orchil crop was low, which happened periodically, the
workers practically starved to death and didn't receive much help from
the nobles. After a failed revolt in 1762, a group of 300 from the
island of Gomera migrated to Louisiana. [German Hernandez
Rodriquez, "La aportacion de la isla de la Gomera al poblamiento de la
Luisiana, 1777-1778," IV Coloquio de historia canario-americana (1980) (2 vols.; Salamanca, 1982), II, p. 227-245]
The recruits were required to be from 17 to
36 years old, healthy, without vices, and at least 5' 1/2" tall.
Butchers, gypsies, mulattoes, and executioners were not permited to sign
up. Though it wasn't in a written agreement, they understand that
they were going to stay in Louisiana permanently. The recruits were
to receive 45 reales upon signing up and 45 more upon arrival in New Orleans.
They also got 1/2 peso a day while waiting to leave. People were
also paid for finding these recruits; in fact, they were paid according
to the height of the recruits. The payment was: 15 reales if at least
5' 1/2", 30 reales if at least 5' 2", and 45 reales if at least 5' 3". [Din,
Five of the island sent recruits to Louisiana:
Tenerife (about 45%), Gran Canaria (almost 40%), Gomera, La Palma, and
Lanzarote. The 700 recruits brought their families, bringing the total
number of immigrants to 2,373. The following ships brought the Islenos
Another ship with the last group of 100 recruits (and their families) were
delayed because of the war between England and Spain. They had to
stay over in Cuba for the duration, where a number of them died.
They finally arrived in 1783
- Santisimo Sacramento - 264 passengers - departed July 10,
- La Victoria - 292 passengers - departed October 22, 1778
- San Ignacio de Loyola - 423 passengers - departed October
- San Juan Nepomuceno - 202 passengers - departed December
- Santa Faz - 406 passengers - departed February 17, 1779
- El Sagrado Corazon de Jesus - 423 passengers - June 5, 1779
The St. Bernard
(LA) USGenWeb site has a page with the
lists of the Canary Island immigrants.
| Passenger lists of the ships bringing the
Canary Islanders can be found in Din's The Canary Islanders of Louisiana (available from LSU
Press). When they arrived, they primarily settled in four areas: Valenzuela,
Nueva Iberia, Galveztown, and Terre-aux-Boeuf (San Bernards de Galvez).
VALENZUELA (Plattenville, at the beginning of Bayou Lafourche)
Galvez had selected an area on Bayou Lafourche
south of the Mississippi River. For the most part, the Lafourche
area was deserted, though some settlers were already located where Bayou
Lafourche merged with the Mississippi. The area he selected was named
Valenzuela. There were already some Acadians in the area, but most
were along the Mississippi River. Lieut. St. Maxent was appointed
as commandant of Valenzuela and went there early to prepare for the arrival
of the first Islenos in March of 1779.
Judice, the commandant of the Acadians, owned
the land at the SW corner of the juncture of Bayou Lafourche and the Mississippi
River. This caused a bit of conflict, because Maxent was military
commander of Valenzuela, but Judice was actually in charge over civil matters.
St. Maxent brouth the first settlers a few
miles down the bayou and settled them on the left bank. More of the
recruits and their families arrived later. Ten houses had been build
by May. Their houses were about 15' x 30' with 2 doors, 3 windows.
and a chimney. They may have had a gallery, 6' wide, on one side
of the house.
A little ways down the Lafourche, on the right
(west) bank, we find the following settlers (in this order) in 1779: Francisco
Hidalgo, Pedro Gonzales, Juan Hidalgo, Juan Aleman, Andres Pereyra, Diego
Gonzales, Baroleme Hernandez, and Juan Figueres. [Din,
A census in 1784 found 174 people at
Valenzuela, 154 of which were Islenos. By the time the Acadians arrived
on the seven ships in 1785, the population of the Lafourche Interior was
353. Over 800 Acadians came to the Bayou Lafouche area, increasing
the population to about 1,500 in 1788. They settled further down
Both the Islenos and the Acadians were Catholic,
but they didn't receive a priest until Father Bernardo de Deva came in
March 1793. [Din, p. 77] Each group wanted
the church built in their area. A couple of years later, it was finally
built in the Acadian area ... near present-day Plattenville.
NUEVA IBERIA (New Iberia, along the Bayou Teche)
GALVEZTOWN (near Manchac on the Amite River)
TERRE-AUX-BOEUF (San Bernardo de Galvez)