Mosquitoes & High Water (El Mosco y el Agua)

1982, 21 minutes, produced and directed by Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker
This award-winning video examines the unique history and culture of one of America's least known ethnic groups, the Spanish-speaking "Islenos" who live in the bayous east of New Orleans and are celebrated for their tradition of decimas — long, descriptive ballads about events in their past lives or notorious local characters.

In the bayous and swamps east of New Orleans reside members of one of America's least-known ethnic group, the Spanish-speaking "Islenos" of St. Bernard Parish. Their ancestors came to this country over two hundred years ago from the Canary Islands off the West coast of Africa, and today their descendants continue to make a living as fishermen and trappers.

This award-winning video documentary examines the Islenos' unique history and culture, which remained isolated from the outside world until recently. El Mosco y el Agua Alta shows how the Islenos have preserved their archaic Spanish dialect and maintained the tradition of the decima,a long, descriptive ballad about events in their lives or notorious local characters. Although some of these songs are sad, many are light-hearted and use comic exaggeration.

In addition to the singing of several decimas, the documentary offers a colorful portrait of Isleno life, including an alligator hunt, a discussion of old folk cures and superstitions, work on the shrimp boats, preparation of muskrat pelts, and the annual Blessing of the Fleet.