Monday, January 3, 2011

Spanish New Orleans?

Spain had a significant but now nearly ignored or even unknown influence on Louisiana in general and New Orleans in particular. I’m in New Orleans this week and thought I’d look for Spanish traces.

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I didn’t have far to look. The Cabildo was built as the  headquarters for the Spanish governor and council in the 18th century. Spain acquired Louisiana shortly after it gave up St Augustine, in both cases because of the settlement of the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War).  Louisiana was under Spain from 1764 to 1803; in fact, it was Spanish until just a few days before the Louisiana Purchase, which made it American.  In a complicated treaty maneuver, Spain returned Louisiana to France, and the US then purchased it. In fact, the agreement for the Louisiana Purchase was signed in the Cabildo, which nowadays is the Louisiana State Museum.

Interestingly enough, the Spanish governor of Louisiana was a man named Alejandro O’Reilly. Yes, that’s right: another of the Wild Geese, the Irish who went to the Continent.  He’s no relation to St Augustine’s Fr. Miguel O’Reilly, his contemporary and fellow Irish Spaniard.

Here’s another little trace of Spain.  If I find any more, I’ll let you know.

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