Governor Ulloa arrived as the first Spanish governor in 1766. His less than warm reception escalated into open rebellion in 1768, when he fled for his life. Governor O’Reilly stopped the rebellion by arresting and assassinating the revolutionaries. He was hated and called “Bloody O’Reilly.”
Governor Galvez arrived in 1776, aiding the Americans in their Revolution with victories over the British in Baton Rouge, Mobile and Pensacola. It was during Governor Miro’s administration that many additional Acadians, or Cajuns, came to Louisiana, joining those who had arrived following their exile from Acadia.
Life during the Spanish Regime
Old French Market Butchers
With the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1762, Spain acquired Louisiana from France, thus owning the entire Southwest. Suddenly living under Spanish rule rather than French, the colonists felt devastated and betrayed.
In France, only a few protested, including the philosopher Voltaire. He could not conceive how Frenchmen abandoned “the most beautiful climate on the earth, from which one may have tobacco, silk, indigo, a thousand useful products.”
New Orleans became home to bakers, butchers, pastry cooks, tailors, carpenters, candlestick makers, confectioners, tavern owners and innkeepers. Many men of the city were hunters and fishermen, while others rowed the mail boats. There were city slaves selling their garden surplus. Native Americans peddled vegetables, fish, blankets and trinkets on the levees. Meat and vegetable markets were established.The butchers flourished. Everyone in the Louisiana colony ate meat, which was plentiful and cheap. In fact, it was written that, “No country on earth eats more of it… little pieces of bread are served with great pieces of meat; the amount the children eat would frighten a European.”
Vegetables were scarce and expensive. New Orleans depended on the German community 40 miles upriver to supply its vegetables.
The tavern keeping business was lucrative and nearly monopolized by the Catalans. The crowded taverns were located at every cross street and the taps flowed incessantly. (Not unlike today. A remnant of the Spanish era.) The great fire of New Orleans in 1788 destroyed more than 800 buildings. A strong blowing wind coupled with orders given in Spanish that the French Creoles could not understand wreaked havoc.
The new buildings that followed created the dominate Spanish appearance of the French Quarter today. The Spanish patios, or inner courtyards, along with shady arcades and cooling fountains were all Spanish design. There were tile roofs, stucco, wrought iron balcony railings and Spanish street names. The Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbyter exemplify typical Spanish architecture.
The Cabildo in New Orleans' Jackson Square
The Cabildo government influenced the daily economic life of the town. It oversaw construction and repair of roads, bridges and levees; port regulation; city lighting; sanitation; police and fire protection; and regulation of the food market.
During this period the city government employed slaves for construction jobs. Slaves were hired out as coachmen, cooks, gardeners, maids, stevedores, teamsters, draymen and garbage collectors.
Spanish cooking is characterized by the use of olive oil, pimento, paprika, garlic, onions, tomatoes, a generous use of parsley and an occasional orange flavor in meat and poultry dishes. Contrary to popular belief, the cuisine of Spain is not hot. It is one of Spain’s paradoxes that a country largely responsible for providing pepper and other spices to the Western World should have produced a cuisine that uses so little spice. Today, Spanish influences are still found in many of Louisiana’s favorite dishes.
Spanish contributions to Cajun/Creole cuisine
From the Andalusia area of southern Spain red beans came to the New World. From Catalonia in northeast Spain, Louisiana may have developed its intrigue with fish cooked in tomato sauce. Certainly, Louisiana’s love of garlic and onions as flavoring ingredients is reminiscent of Catalan fare.
Galicia, in the northwest area of Spain, is known for caldo, a broth of turnip greens, potatoes, white beans, salted pork, onions and smoked pork. Empanadas, which are elaborate Spanish turnovers filled with chopped meat, chopped fruit, vegetables, olives and sometimes hard-boiled eggs, have long been a specialty of Galicia.
Natchitoches, Louisiana is known for its meat pies, which are much like empanadas, filled with ground meat and seasonings.
Paella native to Valencia though made all over Spain, is the country’s most famous dish. It is made with meat and fish mixed with rice, vegetables and seasonings including saffron. The top is decoratively finished with red pepper, shrimp, vegetables and mussels or clams. It is probable that paella is the forerunner of Louisiana’s jambalaya. The Creole name “jambalaya” is derived from the French word for ham, “jambon,” and the African word for rice, “yaya.”
The Canary Islanders
Galvez recruited Canary Islanders to help protect and settle the Louisiana colony. (The Canary Islands, a chain of 13 islands located about 60 miles off the coast of Morocco, was Spain’s first colonial territory and became a pivotal port for vessels sailing to the Americas.) The first Isleños (Canary Islanders) arrived in Louisiana in 1778 and continued to come until 1783. They were strategically settled in four locations around New Orleans to guard approaches to the city: Galveztown, Valenzuela, Barataria and La Concepcion, later San Bernardo de Galvez. Today, most Louisianians who can trace their heritage to Spain are the remaining descendants of Canary Island fishermen who settled in St. Bernard Parish. Elderly Isleños still speak an archaic Spanish dialect brought to Louisiana more than two centuries ago.
Natchitoches Meat Pies
In 1714, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis established a fort in Natchitoches to stop Spanish infiltration from Texas. A Spanish fort was already established at Los Adais (photo 16), capital of the Texas country, just 15 miles west of French Natchitoches. Even though there were conflicts over boundaries and contraband trade, in the evenings and on holidays a unique hospitality existed between the two cultures.
During the Spanish regime in Louisiana, the “El Camino Real” began in Mexico City and ended at Front Street in Natchitoches. Even today, Natchitoches’ architecture, place names, traditions and customs reflect a Spanish influence.
Dawning of the Louisiana Purchase
Trade in Louisiana's Ports
When Spain acquired Louisiana in 1762, it was a small, unprofitable colony of less than 7,500 inhabitants. By the end of Spanish rule, Louisiana was a large and successful colony with more than 50,000 inhabitants. Trade in New Orleans’ port founded the city’s mercantile prosperity. Tobacco and indigo were Louisiana’s staple crops with great possibilities emerging in cotton and sugar.
Though Louisiana colonists lived under Spanish rule, they refused to speak Spanish; there was never a Spanish language newspaper; and the language of commerce was French. Spanish men married French women and raised French-speaking children. Though the French in Louisiana never fully adopted Spanish ways and customs, they owed a greater debt of gratitude to Spain than to their mother country.