Re: "Did Don Quixote inspire Barataria name?" Your Opinions, July 8.
Records show that early French colonists named a swampy region south of New Orleans "Barataria'' after an episode in Cervantes' "Don Quixote de la Mancha.'' As Spanish literature teacher Mary Jo Brown explained in her letter, Don Quixote's sidekick, Sancho Panza, received an imaginary island on dry land named Barataria.
As early as 1732, French maps show the "Isle Barataria,'' encircled by Bayous Villars, Barataria, Rigolettes and Perot and Lake Salvador. The colonist Le Page du Pratz stated in his "History of Louisiana'' that the area was named for the fictional Barataria "because it was enclosed by these lakes and their outlets to form almost an island on dry land, as was that island of which Sancho Panza was made governor.''
Claude Joseph Villars Dubreuil, who was the king's contractor of public works, claimed to have named the Isle of Barataria. It was part of his extensive "Barataria Plantation'' that he acquired about 1730, partly for the extraction of timber and shells for construction work. Jean-Baptiste Massy, who received his land grant across the bayou in 1726, also named his plantation "Barataria.''
The labyrinth of bayous that served as a hideout for pirates and smugglers may have been responsible for the sense in which the name was applied to the whole region.
"Barataria'' is a Provencal equivalent to the 15th century French words "baraterie,'' meaning deception, and "barater'' meaning to deceive, to exchange, to barter. The English equivalents of "baraterie'' is barratry, one meaning of which is fraudulence or illegality at sea.
It's so easy to lose the past...Thank Besty for saving some of it for us.