Minorcan Heritage Month- Dr. Darien Andreu

Minorcan Heritage Month- Dr. Darien Andreu 2

Recently, we spoke to Dr. Darien Andreu of Flagler College, a frequent patron of the Research Library, about a current project she is working on. A brief conversation with her revealed that Dr. Andreu is in the midst of researching the rich Minorcan heritage of St. Augustine in hopes of broadening the narrative of the Oldest City. She plans to use a series of events, speakers, and the eventual creation of a digital repository for oral histories to preserve and highlight the importance of Minorcan culture, and its ties to St. Augustine. The Minorcans originally arrived in Florida in 1768 as indentured servants of Andrew Turnbull, brought to British East Florida to work on his plantation at New Smyrna, south of St. Augustine. In 1777, they left New Smyrna due to poor treatment, marching north and eventually settling in St. Augustine. There they remained a constant demographic despite the city changing hands between the Spanish, British, and Americans, to this day remaining a fairly large and important group. Approximately 26,000 Minorcans live in St. Johns County today, one of whom is Dr. Andreu herself.

According to her, this heritage project started out of interest in her own family lineage on her father’s side. It was rapidly spurred by an interest in the representation of Minorcans and their culture in various literary works as well, including those of Stephen Vincent Benét, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, William Bartram, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Interest in the culture and customs of the Minorcans is the primary research focus, as Dr. Andreu equates their cultural significance to the Cajuns of Louisiana and the Amish of Pennsylvania. Like those two groups, Dr. Andreu hopes to one day see the Minorcans recognized more broadly. In separating fact from popular myth, she is working with others to preserve and recognize their culture through a three-part program, composed of collecting and exhibiting oral histories, hosting a writer’s symposium to highlight Minorcan authors and literature, as well as a series of other interrelated events around St. Augustine. One of these events, a Minorcan art exhibit, organized by Lea Craig, will be on display at the Oldest House Museum Complex. More details will be available on that in the future.

March’s Minorcan Festival will be the kickoff for this series, following a February 28 proclamation by the City of St. Augustine declaring March to be Minorcan Heritage Month. The Minorcan Writers’ Symposium will be on March 12 at the Flagler College Auditorium, hosting writers such as Ann Browning Masters and Sandie Stratton, all prominent authors of Minorcan heritage. In co-planning and hosting these events, Dr. Andreu hopes to draw attention to the significance of Minorcan culture in the history of the Oldest City and in literature as a whole. Differentiating Minorcan heritage from that of the Spanish, while also drawing attention to a post-1960s cultural revival driven in large part by X. L. Pellicer have been Dr. Andreu’s other goals with this project. A prominent individual in St. Augustine, X. L. Pellicer was responsible in large part for restoration of the Llambias House, as well as for work with the Mission Nombre de Dios. Most importantly, he is credited for his role in renewing interest in Minorcan culture.

X.L. Pellicer’s Papers, a manuscript collection of the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, proved invaluable to Dr. Andreu’s research process. Much of what is included in the collection cannot be found elsewhere, and centers on the post-1960s cultural revival, the processes of destigmatizing and celebrating one’s Minorcan heritage. As such, the project will be continuing Mr. Pellicer’s aims to highlight and draw attention to one of St. Augustine’s largest and most influential minority groups. She has also made use of the Historical Society’s noteworthy collections of the papers of historian Albert Manucy and genealogist Eleanor Philip’s Barnes. According to Dr. Andreu, this project will be set over a three-year period, and will draw heavily from her research on Minorcan culture both at the Research Library and other institutions. Rumor has it that perhaps she may even have a book in the works for the future.

Stay tuned around town and through our social media for updates about this project and its associated events throughout the year. While March is Minorcan Heritage Month, we will be highlighting and celebrating this important facet of our city’s history all year long.

 

Photo provided by Dr. Darien Andreu

 

Written by Robert Covert