Selection from When Filipinos Dried Shrimp in Louisiana (1870ā€“1965)

I. Shrimp Drying Platforms
Manila Village Bassa-Bassa
Chung Fat Fifi Island
Camp Dewey Quong Sun
Petit Caillou Clark Cheniere
and more
acres of cypress plank
each built over a low island
each factory and village
each community

starts with fingers strong
and agile enough
to weave seines fine
enough to harvest shrimp

then luggers and labor to stretch nets
down the coast Filipino yes Chinese
Spanish French Italian Croatians
Japanese Mexican African American
Native American Creole
and Cajuns populated
over a hundred platforms
scattered across Barataria Bay

II. Barataria Bay
not a bay but an estuary
framed by abandoned
Mississippi lobes
Lafourche deltas
Des Allemands swamps
to the south Grand Terre
Grand Isle then the Gulf

crustaceans (blue crabs
shrimp) and fish that feed
on them (trout redfish)
abundant alongside
water-loving mammals
(mink otter muskrat)
each seeking optimum
salinity between the Gulf
and fresh to brackish marshes

III. Filipino Villages (1880sā€“1940s)
de la Cruz
built stilted shelters
over oyster beds
called them
Manila Village
more Filipino villages
would follow
Clark Cheniere
Camp Dewey . . .

at the height of the shrimp-
drying industry each sustainable
island etched with stilted shanties
bachelor bunkhouses
dwellings for families

bustling community
in a livable wetland
rain for drinking water
no problem with food

you could fish out
your front door
lots of shrimp
you had deer rabbit
prairie hens greens
grown in raised gardens
rice for a jambalaya

enough to share
sail over for a sinigang
go from one platform
community to another

everything you needed
right there and if not
sternwheelers brought
regular freight
and passage through
interior bayous
to and from NOLA

First three sections of twenty-two from “When Filipinos Dried Shrimp in Louisiana (1870ā€“1965)” in Settling St. Malo.