The Spanish flag last flew over New Orleans in 1802, but the Hispanic influences of this port city never vanished. They can be discovered in the rhythms of the “Mardi Gras Mambo,” on a tour of the Cabildo in Jackson Square, the historic building from which Spain ruled Louisiana, or in daily conversation with thousands of New Orleanians with Latin roots.
Historically, Cuba and New Orleans were located on the same trade routes, and scholars have traced cultural exchanges and mutual musical influences dating back to the early 1800s.
In spite of the city sharing a body of water, geographical proximity, and a similar tropical spirit with much of Latin America, the Hispanic population of New Orleans didn’t become a significant presence until the mid-1900s. One 20th century influx came as many Cubans fled Castro’s rise to power in 1959. However, the largest Latino population can trace its roots directly back to Honduras, giving New Orleans a large Honduran population.
As a port city, New Orleans imported bananas from Central America to distribute across the United States, and two New Orleans firms in particular, the Standard Fruit Company and the United Fruit Company, developed close ties with Honduras, owning plantations there and influencing politics. Honduran immigrants began arriving in the Crescent City through these connections. Many worked as dockyard laborers, while other Hondurans sent their children to study at Catholic schools.
After Hurricane Katrina, many Latin Americans flocked to the city from elsewhere in America to power the rebuilding effort, and many decided to make New Orleans home. As a result, Latin culture continues to grow and prosper in the city. Even before Katrina, the city has broadcasted Spanish radio stations, and New Orleans boasts several Spanish-language publications.
Today, Latin influence throughout New Orleans can be found in the city's celebrations and events, historic architecture, and the abundant Hispanic-owned businesses. Every year, beginning midway through September and running through October 15, the city also hosts a number of special events, festivals and more in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.