So you may have been wondering why so many French influences can be found in Louisiana, the simple answer is because from the 17th-18th century Louisiana was under the control of the French. I personally find the melange of cultures in Louisiana particularly interesting, so I thought for this post I would look a little further into the history of this wonderfully diverse state!
During the time that Louis XIV reigned France, the French started to explore the territory known as Louisiana. King Louis sent an explorer named René-Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle to travel the Mississippi River in order to establish trades routes and to explore new areas. In April 1682 La Salle discovered the Mississippi basin, which he named Louisiana, in honour of King Louis. The French claimed the whole of the Mississippi Valley and in 1699 Louisiana became a royal colony.
The French also founded the city of New Orleans as the capital of Louisiana in 1718. The city was chosen to be the capital for a number of reasons, for example it was on a fairly raised area of ground, making it less susceptible for flooding, but also because it was at the mouth of the Mississippi River which made it ideal for farmers transporting their goods, and it has great access to the Gulf of Mexico!
Although before the French, it was the Spanish who occupied Louisiana, it is still said that Louisiana is the state with the most French influence in America. However the French did not hang on to Louisiana forever; in 1803 the Louisiana Purchase was made, whereby the United States purchased approximately 828,000,000 square miles of territory from France, which included our beloved New Orleans!
Regardless of the sale of their land, the French legacy in Louisiana remains, particularly in New Orleans. The city has a neighbourhood known as the French Quarter, the oldest neighbourhood in the city and a historic landmark, full of many historical buildings reminiscent of the days of French colonisation. One historical building that particularly captured my interest (possibly due to my love of Beignets) was the Cafe du Monde. Opened in 1862, it is a quintessential piece of France in the heart of New Orleans, and it’s just as popular now as it was back then!
By Natalie Tobin