American Heritage Dolls 

by JoAnn Bernard


"Carmen Fortier Santiago"

1864 - 1929 

A Creole Lady of Spanish Decent


written by Toni Langlais

        Carmen's father's ancestors left New Orleans in 1818 to settle near Puerto Rico's southern coast.  There they found a town much like the one they had left, having both French and Spanish influences in culture and architecture.

     In Ponce on August 20, 1864, their first child, a daughter, was born to Francisco Fortier and Francisca Santiago.  As the baby was born on St. Bernard's feast day, the priest added that name to the one chosen by her parents, and she was baptized "Bernarda Maria del Carmen".  Known by her friends as Carmen, to her family she was always Nene', Spanish for "Baby" or "Darling".  Seven sisters and two brothers were born after her, but Carmen remained her father's darling.  Even in her old age she would remind her younger sisters how he liked her best.  He even named his sugar cane plantation "Hacienda La Carmelita" after her.

     Carmen was born to a life of privilege.  Her father, in addition to the plantation, owned a mercantile business and imported goods from France.  Carmen had her pick of the latest Paris hats and rode through town in an open carriage to be seen and admired.  While the Spanish women on the island usually wore mantillas, Carmen seems to have been influenced by her French side!  Her father appears to have indulged her every whim.  One year she decided she wanted to be Queen of the Carnival.  Francisco went to the exclusive social club, the Casino de Ponce, where the Mardi Gras celebration was held, with a bag of gold and jewels to assure her place in the Carnival Court.  Carmen's costume was of an Oriental princess.  She wore yards of gold chains which years later were cut in shorter lengths for her granddaughters.

     Spain sent regiments of soldiers to protect its island colony.  Among them was Mauro Ramos Fernandez, a dashing officer who arrived in Puerto Rico in 1874.  Carmen and Mauro were married on January 7, 1884.  They had five children before his death from yellow fever seven years later.  Just 27 years old, Carmen's family expected her spend the rest of her life in mourning, dressed in black, her face behind a knee-length veil.  Carmen and her children were living with her parents, but she was not ready to submit to their ideas for her future.  Perhaps in order to remove her from the temptations of the social life found in the town of Ponce, Carmen was sent to the country home of friends of the family.

There she met a man several years younger than herself, and over her mother's objection, they married soon after Carmen's father's death.  Carmen's mother disowned her, refusing to see her again.  Through the years Carmen's sisters secretly stayed in touch with her.  Only on her deathbed in 1929 did Carmen's mother relent and ask to see Carmen once more.

     Carmen had paraded around Ponce in Paris hats.  Less than 50 years before, in New Orleans her great grandmother, Arthemisa, could have been jailed for doing the same thing.  Was Carmen aware of that distant strain of African ancestry that made her great grandmother subject to the "Tignon Laws" regulating the dress of women of color?  Did Arthemisa keep her past secret once she came to Puerto Rico, or did she consider it of no importance in this new place?  When Arthemisa died in 1868, her great granddaughter was four years old.  Could she see a reflection of herself in that child?  Arthemisa and Carmen both refused to be bound by convention or custom and broke family ties to follow their chosen paths .  

Carmen Fortier Santiago

1864 - 1929 

    JoAnn Bernard is a self-taught artist.  Born JoAnn Gonzales on the bayou of Delacroix Island, Louisiana, with an Islenos heritage that stems back to Spain's Canary Islands.  Her love of the beautiful State of Louisiana has inspired the Days of Old Collection, a line of Louisiana heritage character dolls.  Through research, she has reproduced Louisiana ancestry; African American, Cajun, Islenos and others in life-like forms as they were seen years ago.  JoAnn has created a complete original collection.  She sculpts the original pieces and reproduces them in plaster molds.  The face of each character is hand-painted, dressed (clothing and jewelry may vary) and positioned on handcrafted wooden pedestals and chairs to recreate photographs and sketches of the 1800's.  The body designs are unique in construction and design.  All wigs are hand-made by the artist using mohair strands.  The artist developed original clothing designs and patterns.  Props were designed and created for each individual character doll.  All clay pieces are limited editions of 500 and are numbered and signed by the artist.  Booklets and display cards are also designed by Jo Ann to include the number of the piece and a short story about the character doll.   Booklets are attached to the piece, and the display card can be framed to stand along side the piece.  Character dolls range in height from 16 to 18 inches tall.  Total height of the piece may vary depending upon position of character dolls.  A numbered and signed Certificate of Authenticity is provided with each character doll.

ŠJo Ann Bernard

Attached booklets contain above information

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Louisiana Heritage Dolls by JoAnn Bernard

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Louisiana Heritage Doll Collection 

by JoAnn Bernard

An original clay doll collection, for the doll collecting enthusiast

Learn about Louisiana Culture through this American Heritage Doll collection inspired by sketches, photographs and stories of the 1800's.

Display card and Booklets printed on aged parchment paper  

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Display card printed on aged parchment paper