According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the parish has a total area of 2,158 square miles (5,590 km2), of which 378 square miles (980 km2) is land and 1,781 square miles (4,610 km2) (83%) is water. It is the second largest parish in Louisiana by total area and has the largest percentage of area in water of any parish.
The parish of St. Bernard embraces numerous small islands. The parish is classed among the alluvial lands of the state. The ridges comprise the arable lands of the parish and have an area of 37,000 acres (150 km2). The principal streams are the Bayous Terre aux Boeufs and La Loutre. There are numerous smaller streams which are efficient drainage canals. The dominant tree species is bald cypress, of which the most valuable trees have been cut and processed.
St. Bernard Parish contains a large community of Spanish descent. Sometimes referred to informally as "Spanish Cajuns", the Isleños are descended from Canary Islanders. This linguistically isolated group eventually developed its own dialect. The Isleños settled along Bayou Terre aux Boeufs, a relict distributary bayou of the Mississippi River. According to Dumont de Montigny, who was in Louisiana from 1719 to 1738, Terre aux Bœufs (bœuf is 'steer' or 'ox' in French, thus Terre aux Bœufs means 'land of oxen') was named in that period, presumably due to the presence of domestic or feral cattle there, and not because of bison (bison in French). This settlement was called La Concepción and Nueva Gálvez by Spanish officials, but was also called Tierra de Bueyes (Spanish for 'land of oxen'). Saint Bernard, the patron saint of colonial governor Bernardo de Gálvez, was used in documents to identify the area. St. Bernard Parish is also home to the earliest Filipino community in the United States, Saint Malo, Louisiana.
The chief historical attraction in St. Bernard Parish is the Chalmette Battlefield (part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve), at which the Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815, during the War of 1812. Many street names near the battlefield bear the names of the chief participants, or take a pirate theme, since the pirate Jean Lafitte was considered to be a hero in the battle. A high school, later elementary and now a middle school, was named in honor of Andrew Jackson, who was the commanding officer in charge of defending New Orleans against the British invasion.
Spanish colonists from the Canary Islands (Los Islenos) arrived in St. Bernard in the late 18th Century. The Chalmette Battlefield and Historic Park offers free, guided tours and a must-see battle re-enactment each year. From Historic Old Arabi and its nationally-recognized colorful ‘Shotgun’ homes to Plantations & ruins- the Past is always Present here!
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