NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —The very beginning of Hispanic roots in New Orleans began with Spain. A new bilingual exhibition opens this October, at The Historic New Orleans Collection called: Spanish New Orleans and the Caribbean / La Nueva Orleans y el Caribe españoles.
From the earliest days of the vast province of Louisiana, there was a very strong relationship to the country of Spain. The House of Bourbon was an influential ruling family of France. By the 18th Century, the House of Bourbon would also have ruling members in Spain. King Carolos the Third, was a member of the Bourbon family and the King of Spain.
In 1762, King Carlos was offered Louisiana by his cousin, French King, Louis the 15th, as part of a treaty, that began the Spanish Louisiana period.
Alfred Lemmon is the Director of the Williams Research Center at The Historic New Orleans Collection and an expert in Spanish New Orleans and says, “while Carlos the 3rd at first was a little bit cautious, in the end, he decided to accept Louisiana and both of those letters exist to this day in our collection.”
The exhibition displays the story of Spanish New Orleans and will be up through January 22nd of 2023.
The exhibit includes priceless documents such as a letter from the second Spanish governor, Alejandro O’Reilly, who made a law against enslaving Native Americans.
“We have a document, showing a Native American being purchased by a Frenchman and a document of a Native American being freed by a Spaniard and then a Native American selling property,” says Lemmon.
Two disastrous fires occurred in Spanish New Orleans in the late 18th century. Wooden structures dating from the French period, went up in smoke.
“The Spanish instituted new regulations that included firewalls that prevented the fires from spreading. In some cases, they required flat roofs to help the fire from spreading,” says Lemmon.
Additionally, Spain would strengthen building codes and instituted something that gives recollection to the FEMA trailers of the modern era. For people who lost homes in the fires, the existing government divided lots in the back of the Cathedral to house the misplaced residents. Alfred Lemmon, goes on to talk bout records that show a Spanish-period fire station.
Other artifacts of the exhibition include a set of religious vestments made by Spanish Ursuline nuns, composed of gold thread, as well as life-sized statue of Christ.
Though the Spanish period would officially only last about four decades, a lot was instituted during that time that would forever change New Orleans and Louisiana, as Alfred Lemmon says, “the Spanish period was filled with innovation; more innovation that people could ever imagine.”
To get your hands on a copy of the brand new book: SPANISH NEW ORLEANS AND THE CARIBBEAN / LA NUEVA ORLEANS Y EL CARIBE ESPAÑOLES, click here.