Friday, August 28, 2009


Yesterday afternoon, I discussed with a friend the importance of smell in evoking the urge to write and lamented that I missed the scent of the musky, fungi-laden air in New Iberia, Louisiana, my home for part of the year. It is a place I have lived for over 45 years. Smell often helps me connect with past pleasant memories that are grist for poems, novels, articles, even blogs (shades of Marcel Proust!). As soon as I talked about the scent of the Bayou Teche, memories of New Iberia began to fill my thoughts, and I suppose this blog was inspired by both a person and the memory of the town’s distinctly humid, loamy air.

When I see that word “connection” appear on my computer, telling me that I am about to enter the territory of e-mail, I usually feel a lot of anticipation, hoping that I’ll hear from some of my friends in New Iberia when I open the mailbox. Last night before I went to bed, I opened my e-mail in a rather desultory way, not really anticipating mail at that hour. Voila! There was a long message from a woman named Nancy Armentor Lees, a New Iberia native now living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, telling me she had found and purchased my book, FLOOD ON THE RIO TECHE, during a visit to New Iberia. She told me that she realized I had read Jose Manuel Molina’s book on the founding of New Iberia when I was researching the history of New Iberia and had woven some of his information about the Spanish settlement of this city into the story about the Romeros, the principal characters in FLOOD ON THE RIO TECHE.

Nancy writes: “For several years my cousin Norman Carnahan and I corresponded with Jose Manuel Molina about the Spanish origins of Nueva Iberia and the link to Alhaurin de la Torre, Spain. He consequently wrote a book about the history of Alhaurin de la Torre, including a chapter in English about the founding of New Iberia. I think of Jose Manuel as the Glenn Conrad (a New Iberia historian who was the director of the Center for Louisiana Studies, ULL, for many years) of Alhaurin de la Torre. Norman helped Jose Manuel with the translation, and I was mainly the 'third pair of eyes' reading the draft.”

Nancy says that she dreamed of making a cultural connection between New Iberia and Alhaurin de la Torre for years and in April of this year, Jose Manuel and three city officials from Alhaurin de la Torre visited New Iberia for the initial part of a twinning ceremony between the two towns. She added that in the Spring of 2010, a group of New Iberians will visit Alhaurin de la Torre.

Nancy bought Jose Manuel a copy of FLOOD ON THE RIO TECHE this past April at Books Along the Teche, New Iberia’s major book supplier. Manuel Lopez, a member of the Dept. of Culture in Alhaurin de la Torre, bought a copy also, along with Maurine Bergerie’s THEY TASTED BAYOU WATER, a history of New Iberia that encompasses all nationalities who settled in this colorful town on the banks of the Bayou Teche. Nancy attached copies of photographs showing the delegation from Alhaurin de la Torre discussing the trip to New Iberia with their city officials, and FLOOD ON THE RIO TECHE is one of two books lying on their conference table!

And the piece de resistance at the conclusion of the e-mail: “I thought you might be happy to learn that the library in Alhaurin de la Torre, Spain has a copy of FLOOD ON THE RIO TECHE!”

Note: The photograph shows the delegation from Alhaurin de la Torre discussing their trip to New Iberia with their city officials.
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