The Challenges of Reclaiming Filipino Louisianas Centuries-Old History

Members of what is perhaps the oldest Asian community in the United States are committed to preservingand sharingtheir story.


Indeed, the history of Louisianas Filipino community has been largely written by outsiderswhen it has been written about at all. In a state where Acadian and West African heritage sites and communities are celebrated, St. Malo and other early Filipino villages are rarely mentioned, though they are among Louisianas oldest.

Gonzales, a fourth-generation Louisiana Filipino, is among a handful of people in the community uncovering and reclaiming their history. Like navigating the bayou, it is not an easy course. Separating fact from myth remains a challenge, and much of the evidence has been lost. St. Malo, for example, was destroyed by the New Orleans Hurricane of 1915. In 2019, community members erected a marker 30 miles east of New Orleans, but the exact location of the village, like its date of origin, remains a mystery. Retrieving the early history of a community that settled in these swamps more than two centuries ago, and left no written record, requires both creativity and caution.