In recognition of the enduring contributions made to the preservation of the heritage and cultural traditions of Spanish Canary Islanders or Islenos to the history of Louisiana and the United States, a delegation of Los Islenos Heritage and Cultural Society led by Parish President Guy S. McInnis and Society President Rhonda Rodriguez Hannan met Their Majesties King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain Saturday, June 16th, 2018 during a reception held in honor of the Spanish royals in the New Orleans Museum of Art.
King Felipe VI had traveled to New Orleans to help celebrate the tricentennial of the founding of New Orleans in 1718. Canary Islanders were recruited by the Spanish crown to colonize Louisiana between 1777 and 1782. Their descendants are the most tangible, living vestige of the Spanish colonial period remaining in 21st century Louisiana.
Delegation members consisted of Isleno descendants Guy McInnis; Rhonda Rodriguez Hannan; Katherine “Katie” Tommaseo, director of the Office of Tourism and Film, St. Bernard Parish Government; Joan Aleman Blouin, President of the Canary Islanders Heritage Society in Baton Rouge and society vice president Chad Leblanc; Los Islenos Society Vice President Lena Torres Nunez; Los Islenos Society Secretary William de Marigny Hyland; Los Islenos Society Treasurer Carrie Menesses Bernal and her sister, Bonnie Menesses Charrier; Glen Menesses; Melanie Ybarzabal Koons and her sister Catherine Ybarzabal Serpas; Francisco “Cisco” Gonzales, Jr.; Benjamin “Ben” Crowe; former Isleno Society President Lloyd “Wimpy” Serigne; former Isleno Society President Joan
Nunez Phillips; and former Isleno Society President Dorothy L. “Dot” Benge. Houma Nation of Native Americans principal chief “Coco” Crepelle and tribal council member Monique M. Verdin joined the delegation meeting Felipe VI. The Houma Nation is a partner with St. Bernard Parish Government and Los Islenos Society in the development of Los Islenos Museum Complex. Also forming part of the delegation were the Honorable Lena R. Torres, Mrs. Shirley G. Crowe and St. Bernard Parish First Lady Laurie McInnis. The St. Bernard Parish Isleno delegation was one of only two delegations to be privately received by the King and Queen of Spain during the Saturday reception.
William Hyland, also parish historian and site manager of Los Islenos Museum Complex, coordinated arrangements for the event with Spanish Consul General Enric Panes, St. Bernard Parish Government and Los Islenos Society. Jose Miguel Dumpierrez, a member of Los Islenos Heritage Society living in the Canary Islands, brought the important record of Los Islenos Society in preserving Spanish heritage to the attention of the Royal Palace in Madrid which resulted in the invitation to Saturday’s reception and the private audience with King Felipe and Queen Letizia.
Felipe VI has many historic links to Louisiana. He is a direct lineal descendant of Louis XIV of France for whom Louisiana is named, Carlos III of Spain who settled Canary Islanders in Louisiana and significantly aided American patriots in the American Revolution, the Duke of Orleans for whom the City of New Orleans is named and Louis Philippe I who, as the duke of Orleans, visited New Orleans in 1798.