I believe that to everything there is a bigger picture. One of those bigger pictures would be the historical context of the area I fish in. Down every square inch of bayou there is more than hopes of speckled trout and redfish. There are histories of people that have since come and gone. Their struggles, their victories, their hopes and aspirations still manifest in my imagination every time I hurdle through the marsh.
One that always piques my interest is Bayou St. Malo. See, America used to be a
very different place. Fishing communities were more at large, and people didn’t live in the comfortable microcosms that they do today. People lived out in the marsh, and one of those places used to be the village of St. Malo. Bayou St. Malo is named after this small town. Situated on the shore of Lake Borgne near it’s namesake bayou, this hamlet used to be populated by Filipinos as early as the late 1700s. It was largely kept secret from mainstream society until a journalist visited in 1883. Today, all the remains is a high ridge of land and a shell pile
But where did St. Malo get it’s name? This was a topic of discussion, but the best reference I have found explains that it was named after a runaway slave. In 1784, a slave by the name of Jean Saint Malo escaped Spanish slave traders and fled to the marshes outside New Orleans, where he started a guerrilla resistance. He was eventually captured and hung.
A man after my own heart, freedom-loving and willing to fight for it. I admire Jean Saint Malo for this. Everytime I roll down Bayou St. Malo, I think of him ambushing Spaniards from the tactical advantage of the ridge line there. I wonder just how he lived and how different the marsh was then.
It’s something that adds to the magical aspect of fishing Louisiana’s estuaries. Read more about Bayou St. Malo, Jean Saint Malo and the Filipinos that lived there at this Wikipedia link