When she was an undergraduate at Southeastern Louisiana University, Samantha Perez and her boyfriend Joshua Robin noticed a flyer that the History and Communications project had put up around campus asking for students to do a documentary.
“When they offered the documentary to me and Josh, they suggested doing something on a local landmark in Hammond like the theater which has a fascinating history of its own, but Josh and I, we kinda looked around at all of St. Bernard. And we realized everything that was being lost, so we wanted to do the documentary on the Isleños - something just on their history so people could know what’s down here. Really, there’s not a lot on them,” Perez said in a phone interview Aug. 9.
So the pair set out to do a documentary, finding sources in St. Bernard Parish who would talk about Isleño history.
“The interviews are the greatest part, getting these stories down. And I think that’s part of it - you know a lot of the Isleño tradition was oral tradition. A lot of that is definitely still around, passing these stories down to the next generation. That’s really important. Just a connection to the water,” Perez said.
Those traditions survive, but you have to look for them. “As things are now, it’s kinda understated. It’s more in the way you live than actually saying, 'we are Isleños, this is what we do,’” Perez said. “That’s still part of it, especially thanks to the cultural organization. It’s more just every day, how things are, what’s important: family, love of the water - a lot of people still fish, still trawl.”
So Perez and Robin looked and their search resulted in the hour-long video Louisiana’s Lost Treasure: The Isleños, which, in turn, piqued the interest of The History Press. That led to Perez being about to fulfill a lifelong dream.
“They found out that I wrote the manuscript (for the video). They were looking into the research. They were looking for somebody to do a history on the area, and it kinda all sprang from the documentary,” Perez said. “I’ve been wanting to be published since I was maybe 5.
“So my mom and I went into Barnes & Noble and found it,” Perez said of her book. “It was so amazing.”
Now a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in history at Tulane, Perez want to be a professor, hopefully in Louisiana. She also wants to visit the Isleño ancestral homeland in Spain’s Canary Islands.
“I cannot wait to go,” Perez said. It’s another of her dreams, and one she coyly admits might come true in January after she and Robin are married in St. Bernard Parish. A honeymoon in Spain? That’d definitely be a dream come true.
Perez’s book is available in local bookstores and online at http://www.amazon.com.
MORE INFO ON THE ISLEÑOS:
Los Isleños Heritage and Cultural Society
Canary Islanders Heritage Society of Louisiana
Canary Islands Descendants Association
600 St. Bernard Parkway
Braithwaite, LA 70040