Features » Twitters from Spain
‘Twitters from the Atlantic’ - by Barrie Mahoney
Barrie Mahoney / 2010-11-29 17:46:52
Barrie Mahoney was a teacher, head teacher and school inspector in the UK, as well as a reporter in Spain, before moving to the Canary Islands as a newspaper editor. He is still enjoying life in the sun as a writer and author.
Size Does Matter
It is rare to see Americans visiting these islands nowadays, which is probably due to the long flight and some similarity to the Caribbean Islands.
However, until the horrors of September 11, many tourists from the USA visited the Canary Islands regularly. Concerns about long air flights and security meant that flights from the USA were more or less halted and, until recently, these islands have seen a much-reduced number of visitors from the other side of the Atlantic.
This state of affairs is about to change once again with recent meetings between the President of the Canary Islands and the American Government with a view to extending and developing business links to these islands. After all, the Canary Islands are situated in an ideal strategic position for easy access to all parts of the European Community, as well as Africa and Asia and recent improvements to telecommunications have opened up considerable trading and business opportunities.
Trade and business links aside, these islands mean a great deal to many American citizens, many of whom have ancestry firmly based in the Canary Islands.
This fascinating story begins in 1778 in Louisiana, then a Spanish colony, when 700 men were recruited to increase the size of the Louisiana Regiment. The Spanish Crown had held Louisiana since 1762, and the possibility of an invasion by Great Britain was becoming a worrying threat.
Spain looked to the Canary Islands for recruits to increase the size of the army in Louisiana. Despite initial attempts to recruit single men, there were insufficient volunteers. Finally, the Spanish Government had to settle for married recruits with the dual role of defending the territory, as well as populating it. After all, as history tells us, there is more than one way to win a war and colonise a territory than using guns alone.
The new recruits from the Canary Islands had to be aged between “17 to 36 years old, healthy, without vices, and more than five feet tall”. Recruiters were paid extra for every half-inch that each recruit stood in height above the minimum of five feet specified, so size was an important factor in their selection. These men were recruited on the understanding that they would be staying in Louisiana permanently, although there was no written agreement.
By the summer of 1779, 352 families and 100 single men had arrived in Louisiana, where the Governor, Bernardo de Galvez, settled them in four areas that he considered to be major invasion routes planned by the enemy.
The men were formed into militia units led by Galvez in his conquest and occupation of British territory on the lower Mississippi River. In those days Britain was Spain’s mortal and historical enemy, and by doing this Spain supported the Americans in their revolution against Britain.
A total of 2,363 men, women, and children from the Canary Islands had been sent to colonise Louisiana by the end of 1783. Living conditions were difficult in a flat, wet, undeveloped land and vastly different from their volcanic island homeland in the sun.
It is easy to understand the fascination of many Americans with these small volcanic islands just off the coast of Africa. More than two hundred years have passed since the arrival of the Canary Islanders in Louisiana. However, Spanish surnames are plentiful in Louisiana as well as in other states, and their descendants still treasure the unique heritage of their brave ancestors from the Canary Islands.
© Barrie Mahoney