Sara Ann Harris, a local author and historian, will discuss her new book The Dance Halls of Spanish Louisiana.
According to Harris, the Isleños of Louisiana, Spanish Canary Islanders who immigrated to Louisiana in the late-eighteenth century, are one of the most unique ethnic groups in the American South. They also compose one of the best preserved immigrant cultures in the United States, having safeguarded their way of life into the 21st century.
Harris spent years as an observer in the Isleños community of Lower St. Bernard parish in Louisiana before deciding to document the culture that has withstood the encroachment of other nationalities and the ravages of time. Her descriptions of the dance halls that form a cornerstone of the cultural identity of a vanishing people is a glimpse into one of the best-preserved immigrant cultures in the United States.
The dance halls in Harris’ narrative are filled with characters from courting couples to long established partners, and speckled with the reminiscences of the heyday of the Dance Halls of Delacroix, known simply as the Island. Through the eyes of a keen observer, Harris relates her dialog on cultural traditions including Spanish Louisiana foods, the flavors of Spanish wines, the Isleños dialect, and the decimas or Spanish Louisiana folk songs. The rich and multilayered stories of the dancers and their community portray the vestiges of a proud and ancient heritage preserved forever in these pages.
Sara Ann Harris, born in Maryland and raised in New Orleans, received a bachelor of art degree in psychology from Tulane University and a master of arts degree in English from the University of New Orleans. She taught persuasive writing at Loyola University and Dominican College and worked for 22 years in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as a communications specialist and communications director. Harris provides communications services specializing in the cultural history of southeast Louisiana.