Dot Benge, whose family came to St. Bernard Parish from the Canary Islands, has watched her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren learn about their Islenos heritage through the Los Islenos Heritage and Cultural Society and its annual festival, Los Islenos Fiesta.
"In the Canary Islands, folklore, dance and music is a mainstay," says Benge, a member of the Los Islenos Heritage and Cultural Society board. "I think everyone in the Canary Islands knows how to play an instrument and do folklore dances because they teach it in school."
At the annual event, visitors can enjoy music and dance performances by groups including La Zarzalera, and there is traditional cuisine, craft demonstrations, screenings of a new documentary and more. The festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, March 7-8, at the historic village of the Los Islenos Museum Complex in St. Bernard.
La Zarzalera combines folk music and dance from the Canary Islands, and it performs on both days of the festival. Dressed in traditional colorful skirts, blouses, vests and full-brimmed hats, members will demonstrate traditional partner dances and music styles. Other performers include August Rush, Pick 6 Band, Ovi-G and the Froggies and The Topcats.
Traditional dishes for sale include ropa vieja, empanadas and fried bananas and drinks such as sangria and imported honey rum cocktails. Craft demonstrations feature net weaving, wood carving and lace making.
Local filmmaker David DuBos (brother of Gambit Political Editor Clancy DuBos) premieres his new documentary Islenos Trappers' War at 7:30 p.m. March 5 at the Nunez Community College; it screens at the festival as well. Thenesoya Vidina Martin De la Nuez and Aníbal Martel Pena will display their photography and oral history project "Cislanderus" about the descendants of Canary Islanders in the U.S.
Festival admission is $3 and is free for children under 12.