NEW ORLEANS — The king of Spain and New Orleans’ mayor saluted the city’s centuries-old Spanish heritage during its tricentennial celebration Friday.
“It might be said that Spain’s history here in Louisiana is not sufficiently well-known, despite the wealth of painstaking research by historians and academics,” King Felipe VI said during a ceremony Friday in 165-year-old Gallier Hall , which was renovated for the anniversary. “Therefore, we must work to make this Spanish heritage and — no less importantly — the enduring Spanish legacy here, more widely known.”
Three New Orleans streets are named after Spanish governors of Louisiana — Bernardo de Galvez, Estaban Rodriguez Miro and Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.
“Spanish kissed our city in ruling from 1763 to 1803,” but the heritage did not stop there, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said. “We would not be where we are ... without that strong partnership,” she said, adding that the city’s strength “has always been rooted in our diversity.”
She gave Felipe and Queen Letizia a framed ceremonial key to the city.
Louisiana was a Spanish colony from 1763 to 1802, but Felipe — briefly speaking in Spanish — noted that historical links date back to 16th- and 17th-century Spanish explorers including Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and Hernando de Soto.
New Orleans was founded in 1718. France gave the Louisiana Territory to Spain in 1763.
“The foundations of society and the culture of this territory had barely been established,” and Spain’s “open and inclusive policy” saw New Orleans grow from 3,500 to nearly 50,000 people, the king said.
“Therefore, when the United States acquired the vast territory of Louisiana, the country not only doubled its size, it also inherited an efficient government; a diverse, multicultural population; and an economic system that was advanced for its time,” he said, returning to English.
Felipe also noted that Bernardo de Galvez coordinated Spain’s help with money and military material during the Revolutionary War and that the first Spanish-language newspaper in the United States, “El Misisipi,” was published in New Orleans in 1808.
The Cabildo , Spain’s governmental seat in Louisiana, and neighboring St. Louis Cathedral , also built during Spanish rule, were also on the royal couple’s itinerary Friday.
Felipe said an exhibit currently at the Cabildo “highlights just how far back Spain’s mark on the United States reaches, and how deep its roots are, as reflected in the close bonds of friendship between our two nations. And it is our hope that, through this visit, these bonds will become even stronger.”
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