French and Spanish Cuisine In the Americas (with lots of French and Spanish history thrownn in...)


Chile Relleno.

The cuisines of the American Southwest, Texas and Louisiana are so different from the rest of North America that it begs a fundamental question: why? How did exotic foods that ooze character, charm and flavor end up here, surrounded by little more than country gravy and biscuits? How did something as delicious as Chile Relleno, Shrimp Étouffée, and Bananas Foster get here? And gumbo? Green Chile Stew? The answer lies in the 17th and 18th century history of the Americas, in the history of the Spanish and French colonial empires that ruled the New World at that time.

This essay attempts to describe the evolution of Southwestern and Louisiana Créole cuisine against the backdrop of these historical events. It is an essay about American history, but written from the the French and Spanish points of view, not from the traditional Anglophone one. The kingdoms of France and Spain were, after all, the great ancestral empires that set up the cultural foundation, on which the New Orleans Créole, Tex-Mex and Southwestern cuisines grew.

To understand the origins of the French Créole and the Spanish Criollo cultures in North America, to get to their very roots, it is necessary to peel away layers of 20th and 19th century history that have piled on top of them. The first layer to strip away is the post-WWII developments. In New Orleans, this included the ill-motivated attempts to turn the old French and Spanish city into a steel-and-concrete metropolis. It was meant well at the time, but it took several decades to realize the mistake. Rather than investing into commuter rail and other practical forms of public transport to facilitate quick access from the "bedroom communities" that were developing all around the city,

North Claiborne Avenue in 1961.

North Claiborne Avenue in 1969.
the city opted to build massive highways right through the city, entire historic neighborhoods, and upsetting the social makeup of the old city. These catastrophic projects included the building of the raised I-10 expressway over Claiborne Avenue, which turned a majestic boulevard similar to St. Charles Avenue, shaded by large live oak trees, to a row of slums pre-destined for deterioration; or the building of the Camp Street on-ramp for the Greater New Orleans Bridge; or the building of the MR-GO canal; or the plans to tear down parts of the French Quarter to build a multi-layer expressway; or tolerating housing projects (deadly neighborhoods with gang shootings on a daily basis) within a few blocks of the French Quarter, the tourist-industry engine of the city. These civil projects that were seen as progressive at the time (not to mention cash cows for Federal-dollars), but turned out to be mostly detrimental in the long run. The list of ill-fated decisions made by successive

Removal of Camp Street on-ramp.
(From Tulane University).
city administrations could be quite long, but is not at all the subject of this essay. Some have been reversed, such as the removal of streetcars from Canal Street, which had been another "modernization" effort in the 1960s, or the removal of the Camp Street ramp for another raised expressway.

The second layer to strip away are the developments of the first half od the 20th century, the time when the original French and Spanish settlements of La Nouvelle-Orléans, San Antonio de Bexar and Santa Fe began to deteriorate, affluent residents began to move away, build and develop new areas, and the original grandeur of New Spain and New France began to look a bit shabby.

Hurricane Katrina flooding
(click to enlarge).
In New Orleans, perhaps the biggest mistake of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was to allow New Orleans to sprawl into flood-prone areas that were never meant to be developed. Until the early 20th century, construction was largely limited to the slightly higher ground along the long meander of the Mississippi River flanked by a natural levee created by the depositional processes of the river. This gave the 19th century city the shape of a crescent nested along the curving meander in the river, the origin of the nickname "The Crescent City". Between the developed higher ground near the Mississippi and the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, most of the area was low-lying wetlands, some of which lies significantly below sea level. This area was commonly referred to as the "back swamp," or areas of cypress groves as "the back woods". While there had been some use of this land for cow pasture and agriculture, the land was subject to frequent flooding, making the area on the edge of a growing city unsuitable for development. There were some man-made levees and steam-powered pumps protecting the city, but deemed not good enough for the task of making this area safe. It was only after WWII when higher levees and more powerful pumping stations were built, leading to this area being classifies as "not a flood-zone", resulting in massive urban sprawl into areas that nature never meant to be inhabited - until hurricane Katrina proved otherwise in 2005. The slide on the left clearly shows that the flooded areas were those that were developed after the 1850s. Until then, development was confined to the areas that did not flood, even during a hurricane. Such a development was sustainable. Once the city started growing rapidly following the civil War and was becoming a major port, its development became unsustainable.

Compare that to Santa Fe, for instance, which also experienced a decline following the building of the Santa Fe Railroad, which bypassed the city and took away commerce in favor of Albuquerque. The Santa Fe government understood from the beginning that, to bring economic activity back to the city, tourism was the only option. A strict building code was adopted for all new construction, so that it would resemble the traditional adobe structures. There would be no such think ever allowed as a freeway through the old 17th century city center.

Present day New Orleans culture and cuisine contains a significant overprint of Italian, Irish and German immigration that took place during the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Great things like Shrimp Fetuccine, New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp and the Muffuletta Sandwich are 19th- and 20th-century additions, with which Italian immigrants enriched the existing French Créole cuisine of New Orleans. Just like New Orleans has a significant overprint of Italian, German and Irish immigration from the 19th and 20th centuries, and Present day culture of Central Texas has a significant overprint of Czech, German and Austrian immigration. Modern-day New Mexico has been experiencing an influx of immigration from California and the East Coast, of people seeking an eclectic, slightly rustic lifestyle in a high-desert climate, with great food and and fantastic Alpine landscape.

Birds-eye painting of New Orleans
by J. Bachman in 1851.
Seafaring sailing ships and
steam-powered river boats
are seen on the river;
the city developing into a world-class port.
Finally, in order to understand the original roots of these colonial cultures, it is necessary to peel away the 19th century developments following the adoption as U.S. territories and later U.S. states. These were of course not detrimental developments; it simply meant that the old colonies of La Louisiane, Tejas and Santa Fe de Nuevo México were being Americanized, and absorbed into the Anglo-Saxon culture of the United States. But in order to really understand the underlying culture, it is necessary to dig deeper and undo even this layer. For example, in Louisiana when the Americans started to arrive to the newly acquired territory, they encountered a culture that was very from theirs, and the two cultures did not mix. It took many decades before the old French and Spanish city of La Nouvelle-Orléans could be called truly "American". The French-speaking population was developing settlements i.e. Faubourg Marigny on the east side of the original settlement of La Nouvelle-Orléans (present-day French Quarter), while the Americans were building new towns called Lafayette, Jefferson and Carrollton toward the west (the present-day area of Uptown). It was during the period before the American Civil War that the old La Louisiane was transformed from a French and Spanish Créole culture to a Southern Antebellum culture, and became culturally aligned with the American South. But in order to understand the real roots of the culture, it is necessary to peel away this "Gone-With-the-Wind" patina, in order to see the original Créole society.

North America in mid-18th century.
To understand these cultural roots, it is necessary to wind the clock back to the 17th century, to the time of King Louis XIV, to the time of the Conquistadors, to the beginning of the French colony of La Louisiane and its ruling body, the Vice-royauté de Nouvelle France, and its Spanish counterpart, the Virreinato de Nueva España.

Pre 19th-century cultural history is the story of two Latin empires, New France and New Spain, ruing most of North America, bringing their cultural, religious and culinary traditions from the Old World, and blending them with arriving African and indigenous Native ones. Until the Seven Years' War in 1763, Britain was a minor player, with the North American colonial

Flag of New France.

Flag of New Spain.
stage belonging to France and Spain. Present-day Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico obviously have significant differences, but the old La Louisiane, Tejas and Santa Fe de Nuevo México do exhibit a lot in common: a Catholic culture ruled by a Bourbon dynasty (both France and Spain had a Bourbon king), and people prone enjoying good food and drinks, all of which is in stark contract to the rather prudish protestants ruling the original anglophone United States.


Table Of Contents

New France


New Spain


English (Later British) Colonies


The Great Fusion: The Origin Of Mexican and Créole Food In North America


What About the Natives?


The Seven Years' War And the End Of New France


Spanish Louisiana


Louisiana In the American Era


New Spain in the Second Half of the 18th and Early 19th Centuries


Final Evolution Of Créole And Mexican Food In North America


The Spread Of Tex-Mex Throughout the Rest Of the World


What About Wurst?




New France


North America in mid-18th century
click to enlarge.
The New World looked a little different in the 17th century. First, obviously, there was no United States of America, but also no Mexico or Canada. Most of North America was divided between between the two principal players of that time: France and Spain. France owned about half of the North American continent in the form of the Viceroyalty of New France (Vice-royauté de Nouvelle-France). New France was an immense colonial empire founded in 1534 by King Louis XIV, headquartered in Québec and consisting of several colonies covering present-day eastern Canada and the entire Mississipi River Valley in the present-day United States.

Flag of New France.

Flag of New Spain.
West of New France lay New Spain, an even larger country that stretched east-west from present-day Texas to the Pacific coast and north-south from Northern California to present-day Panama!

At it peak in about 1712, New France covered an area of over 3 million square miles (8 million square kilometers) and consisted of the provices of:

  • Canada
  • l'Acadie
  • La Louisiane.

Click to enlarge.
As a whole, New France was, at its peak, at least as large as the lower 48 states of the United States are today. Roughly everything that lay between the Appalachians and the Rockies, between the Gulf of Mexico and Hudson Bay, was French. Period. Settlements had French names such as Montréal, Saint Geneviève, Detroit, Saint Louis, Cap-Girardeau, Bonne Terre, La Nouvelle-Orléans, Metairie, La Place and Chalmette. New France was governed by the Sovereign Council of New France, established in 1663 by King Louis XIV, headed by a Viceroy. The official language was French and the official religion was Roman Catholic. Full stop.

De Soto Discovers the Mississippi.

De Soto Claims the Mississippi.
However, it is the Spanish who had been to North America first, well before the French and the British (not counting the Celts and other prehistoric nations). The first Spanish exploration of the Gulf of Mexico was in 1513 by Ponce de Leon. Having failed to discover gold (the metal, not black gold), they left and it was not until more than a century later that a more or less permanent settlement stuck in that area.

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Early Exploration by Jacques Cartier and the Foundation of the Colony Of Canada

Discovering the St Lawrence River in 1535
by Theodore Gudin, 1847.

New France in 1750
click to enlarge.
French colonization of North America began with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534. On April 20, 1534, Cartier set sail from the French port of Saint-Malo under a commission from the French king, with the aim to discover a western passage to the wealthy markets of Asia. It took him twenty days to sail across the ocean and, starting on May 10 of that year, he began to explore parts of present-day Newfoundland, the present-day Canadian Atlantic provinces and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These efforts led to the establishment of the Viceroyalty of New France (Vice-royauté de Nouvelle-France). On July 24, on the shore of Gaspé Bay, Cartier erected a 10-meter cross on Iroquois land, bearing the words "Long Live the King of France" and took possession of the territory in the name of France. The future colonial empire of New France had just been born! (No matter that Cartier still thought he was standing on Asian soil. He traveled to France in September 1534, sure that he had reached Asian land.) He returned to the New World in 1536 and sailed as far up the St. Lawrence River as navigation allowed. The expedition eventually reached rapids and could not proceed further. Yet, Cartier still felt certain that the river was the Northwest Passage and that the rapids were all that was preventing him from sailing to China.

Jacques Cartier,
portrait from 1844.
In 1541, Cartier departed Saint-Malo on his third voyage. By now, the notion of finding a passage to the Orient had been forgotten and the new French goals were to find riches on the American continent and establish a permanent settlement along the St. Lawrence River. Cartier founded a fortified settlement and named it Charlesbourg-Royal. The actual location was confirmed only recently, by archeological research conducted in 2006.

However, the first settlement of New France was not so permanent after all. The first winter was absolute misery, with the settlers suffering from scurvy and Iroquois attacks. Cartier left for France in early June 1542, with Jean-François de La Rocque de Roberval taking control of Charlesbourg-Royal. Cartier sailed to France with his vessels loaded with what he thought was gold and diamonds. Upon arrival, this turned to be iron pyrite and quartz. Charlesbourg-Royal was abandoned in 1543 due to disease, foul weather and hostile natives. No permanent European settlements were made in Canada before 1605, when Port-Royal was founded.

Although Cartier did not find a passage to China and did not find gold and diamonds, he did leave a significant legacy. He discovered the mouth of St. Lawrence River and thus opened up the greatest waterway for the European penetration of North America. Cartier was also the first to document the name Canada as a designation of the territory on the shores of the St. Lawrence. The name was derived from the Huron-Iroquois word "kanata", meaning "village", which Cartier incorrectly interpreted as the native name for the newly discovered land. Cartier named "Canadiens" the native Iroquoians he encountered there. The terms "Canada" and "New France" were often used interchangeably.

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Struggle During the 16th Century

The Château St. Louis, Québec, Mahier, 1729.
The colony of Canada that Cartier founded in 1534 grew to eventually serve as the main pillar of the French colonial empire in North America, and did so until 1763. However, getting to that stage had been a very arduous journey. Following the abandonment of Charlesbourg-Royal in 1543, French trading companies were set up and ships were contracted to bring back furs. Dedication notwithstanding, early settlements were failures. New France struggled greatly throughout the 16th century due to lack of settlers, harsh winters and hostile natives. In 1598 a trading post was established on île de Sable (Sable Island), a narrow sandbar off the coast of l'Acadie (Nova Scotia), but was unsuccessful. In 1600, another trading post was established at Tadoussac, a village in the present-day province of Québec at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers. It was the first French trading post on the mainland of New France. Although only five settlers survived the first winter, the settlement made it and became the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in Canada, and the oldest surviving French settlement in the Americas. In 1604, another settlement was founded at Île-Saint-Croix (Dochet Island) on Baie François (Bay of Fundy), moved to Port-Royal in 1605, abandoned in 1607, reestablished in 1610, and destroyed in 1613. The settlers moved to other nearby locations, creating settlements that were collectively known as Acadia, and the settlers as Acadians. At its peak, the colony of Canada consisted of three districts: Québec, Montréal and Trois-Rivières. The governor of Québec was also the governor-general (viceroy) of all of New France.

Samuel de Champlain.
For the first few decades, the French population of the colony of Canada numbered only a few hundred, while the English colonies to the south were much more populous and wealthy. Cartier formed the first French settlement in the colony of Canada with only 110 men. The second permanent settlement was the city of Québec, founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, with an initial population of 28, In 1630, there were still only 103 colonists living in the city of Québec, reaching 355 by 1640. In 1666, the population of all of Canada was still only 3215, but growing to about 90000 a century later. The colonists who settled Canada came mainly from Paris, Île-de-France and the provinces of Aunis, Brittany, Normandy, Picardy, Poitou and Saintonge.

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Cardinal Richelieu and Jean-Baptiste Colbert

Cardinal Richelieu.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert.
Cardinal Richelieu under King Louis XIII and Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French minister of finance under King Louis XIV, were the main architects of colonial policy in the Council of the King of France during the 17th century. Mercantilism inspired the decisions taken to New France, whose development was entrusted to the government and charter companies formed by investors for the purpose of trade, exploration and colonization. Cardinal Richelieu desired to make New France as significant a colonial power as were the English colonies on the East Coast. However, despite all the efforts of Champlain, the French colony grew very little. While

Royal edict founding the Company
of One Hundred Associates.
the French colony had inhabitants in the hundreds, the English colonies counted several hundred thousand! In an effort to change that, Richelieu founded the Compagnie des Cent-Associés (Company of One Hundred Associates) in 1627. The company was also known as the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France.

One hundred shareholders, including Champlain and Richelieu himself, invested 3000 livres each, in exchange for ownership of the colony, and a monopoly on fur trade for 15 years and that of any other business for life. The company also promised land grants to hundreds of new settlers, all in an attempt to turn Canada into an important mercantile and farming colony. This came with strings attached: Richelieu forbade non-Catholics from living New France. You were a Protestant but wanted land in New France? Tough! Convert, or it has been nice knowing you. Period. Many therefore chose instead to move to the English colonies.

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17th Century Battles with the English and with the Natives

Samuel de Champlain surrenders
the city of Québec to the Kirke brothers.
New France had more to fear than bad winters and raids by the natives. Severely underpopulated, New France had to also struggle against raids by the English. Two attempts were made to take the city of Québec in 1628 and 1629. The second raid was successful, as food was scarce in the colony and it was unable to defend itself. Québec thus fell into English hands. Most of the French were taken back to Europe. supplies and new colonists were preventing from entering, and As a result, the Compagnie des Cent-Associés, incurred significant financial losses. England restored the colony to France in 1632, but Champlain's habitation and other buildings had been burned to the ground.

New France finally became more secure in 1663 when King Louis XIV stepped in again and made it a royal province. The Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France (Sovereign Council of New France) was created to take over from the colonial companies. A year later in 1664, minister Colbert dispatched from La Rochelle the Carignan-Salières infantry regiment under the command of Colonel Marquis de Salières, in order to reinforce the existing 100-man force in New France. This was motivated more by business interests, rather than actual cries for help from New France.

Carignan-Salières soldier.
The regiment arrived at Québec during the spring and summer of 1665 on 7 ships, carrying 20 companies totalling about 1200 men. The enthusiastic welcome the soldiers received convinced them that they were better off in New France than dying of hunger back in Europe or fighting with the Turks. The soldiers were volunteer mercenaries enlisted for a period of three years, and no doubt thought more about money rather than the victory of the Catholic faith. They had just returned from a successful campaign against the Turks. Having contributed to the defeat of infidels in the Orient, the Carignan regiment felt ready to do battle and crush the pagans of the West. However, things did not unfold so easily for the French soldiers.

Forts along the Richelieu River.
First, they had to build forts along the Richelieu River, which was the main invasion route of the Iroquois. A third of the force was assigned to that. Fort Chambly, Fort Sainte Thérèse and Fort Saint-Jean at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu were built, but under considerable hardship. Marquis of Salières wrote in his Memoirs, "without a carpenter, nor any other skilled workmen and with very few tools...I arrived there with 350 men... many of whom were sick with stomach flu caused by the heavy rains and cold and who were also ill clothed, barefoot and had no pots to cook their salt pork or to make porridge."

Iroquois territory.
Hundreds of soldiers died during the winter of 1665-1666, finding and fighting the Iroquois, but not from war but from harsh weather and poor preparedness. In January 1666, governor Daniel de Rémy de Courcelle ordered the first campaign, contrary to the established European rule not to conduct military operation during winter. The commander decided to set out without native guides. It soon ended up lost and wandered in the wilderness for three weeks, in the middle of the upstate-New-York winter. The campaign ended up in total disaster for the Carignan-Salières regiment.

Schenectady, New York.
After weeks of struggling in the wilderness, the force finally arrived at the Anglo-Dutch settlement of Schenectady (modern-day New York State), whose burgomaster informed governor Courcelle that his force was on the territory of the Duke of York! Interestingly, the English commander did provide Courcelle's soldiers with provisions for their return journey. Nevertheless, by the time the force returned to base, out of the 500 regimental soldeirs that had left the base, 400 died due to harsh weather and poor equipment. A second campaign took place the following summer. There was no military engagement with the Iroquois. However, the French managed to claim more territory, which they used later as leverage during peace talks with the Iroquois in 1667. The treaty that was signed resulted in p[eace with the natives lasting for 20 years.

The peace treaties of 1667 signaled the end of operations of the Carignan-Salières Regiment in New France. Nonetheless, the troops were held in duty until another means of protecting New France could be devised. Although militarily, the regiment did not achieve any major victorie, the mission was overal regarded as a success. The tradition of the Carignan-Salières regiment is in fact very highly regarded in Canadian history to this day. King Louis XIV offered the men and officers an opportunity to stay in New France to help increase the population. To that, he provided a wide range of incentives: land, money and women. The majority of the regiment returned to France in 1668, but about 450 remained and settled in Canada.

Arrival of the King's Daughters
at Quebec (1667).
Carignan-Salières officers were rewarded by seigneurial tenures. The men as well as officers were being offered land because it was believed that, as colonists, the former soldiers would be best suited to defend the territory. Many of them were therefore given properties on the Richelieu River and other areas prone to attacks. They were also highly encouraged to marry in order to increase the population of the colony. King Louis XIV supplied the women, known as Filles du Roi. Between 1663 and 1673, over 800 women were brought to New France. Most were between the ages of 16 and 24, from the Paris, Normandy and Western regions. To be a Fille du Roi meant passing the government's standards of "moral calibre" and physical toughness to survive the hard work demanded by life as a colonist. Each Fille du Roi received the king’s support in several ways: the king paid one hundred livres to the East India Company for the woman’s crossing, as well as furnishing a trousseau; a dowry. The women were all poor, many were orphans with very meager personal possessions, and their level of literacy was relatively low. Officials usually matched women of higher birth with officers or gentlemen living in the colony, with the hope that the nobles would marry the young women and be encouraged to stay in Canada rather than return to France.

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Pays d'en Haute and Pays des Illinois

Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit.
Dependent on the colony of Canada were two other territories: the Pays d'en Haute, or Upper Country (the basin of the Great Lakes, up-river from the St. Lawrence) and Pays des Illinois or Illinois Country (present-day U.S. states of Illinois and Missouri). Fur traders, missionaries and military adventurers ventured toi the Upper Countr, outposts multiplied, in several cases giving birth to flourishing settlements such as Detroit, between Lakes Erie and Huron, which became something of a capital for the region. Fort Ponchartrain du Détroit was founded in 1701 by officer Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac, naming it after the comte de Pontchartrain, Minister of Marine under Louis XIV. The word "Detroit" comes simply from the French name for the local river: le détroit du lac Érié (the strait of Lake Erie).

Pays des Illinois began to be settled at the beginning of the 18th century, although explorers, missionaries, and fur traders had been traveling through the middle Mississippi Valley since the 1630s. Catholic missions were built first in orer to convert the natives, after which came forts to solidify France’s claim to the territory and provide a measure of protection to colonists. Following the pattern of New France and lower Louisiana, the colonies in the Illinois Country were tied to water routes, in order to facilite movemetn and trade. Several large rivers such as the Missouri, Illinois, Kaskaskia and Ohio exist here. Originally part of the province of Canada, after 1717 it was considered to be part of la Louisiane française.

Notable settlements founded during this period of time include:

  • Fort St. Louis du Rocher (1682 by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle)
  • Fort Crevecoeur (1680 by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle and Henri de Tonti), later renamed Peoria
  • Ste-Geneviève (1735)
Other important settlements were built and later abandoned or destroyed. An example is Fort D'Orleans, which was built in 1723 with the intention to become the linchpin in the vast New France empire, but it was abandoned merely 3 years later in 1726, and noone knows its precise location. But other settlements grew and continued to develop, such as Fort St. Louis du Rocher, which was made the capital of French Upper Louisiana.

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The Colony of l'Acadie

The colony of l'Acadie
click to enlarge.
In addition to the colony of Canada, France's second colony in North America was l'Acadie (Acadia), formed in 1604. Acadia is the region covering the northeast corner of North America and includes the peninsulas of present-day New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Île-Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island), Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), and the northeastern part of the present-day U.S. state of Maine as far south as the Kennebec River.

Pierre Dugua.
The first to explore this region for France was the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524, followed by Jacques Cartier in 1534. However, Cartier's efforts concentrated on the St. Lawrence River valley rather than on this region. The key figure in the story of Acadia is one Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, a French merchant,

Exploration of l'Acadie
click to enlarge.
explorer and colonizer. He had a great influence over the first two decades of the 17th century. In 1603, King Henry IV of France granted Dugua exclusive rights to colonize lands in North America between 40°–60° northern latitude, plus a monopoly in the fur trade for these territories, and named him the Viceroy for Acadia and New France. In return, Dugua promised to bring 60 new colonists each year to what would be called l'Acadie.

The settlement of Port-Royal
in approximately 1612.

Replica of the original
French colonial settlement.
In 1604, accompanied by about 80 people including Royal cartographer Samuel de Champlain, the Baron de Poutrincourt, apothecary Louis Hébert, a priest Nicolas Aubry, and Mathieu de Costa, Dugua first settled on the island of St. Croix, a small uninhabited island in the present-day U.S. state of Maine, located near the mouth of the Saint Croix River. 36 people died of scurvy and harsh weather during the first winter. The following year, the colony was moved and re-established at Port-Royal on the edge of the Bay of Fundy on the northern shore of present-day Nova Scotia. As was the case with other colonial upstarts, the colony l'Acadie had a rocky beginning. It lasted for a few years until other merchants protested Dugua's monopoly, which the king subsequently revoked, causing Dugua and the settlers to abandon the colony and return to France. Dugua then turned his attention to the colony of Canada in the St. Lawrence River valley. Although he never came back to the New World, he sent Champlain to open a colony at Québec in 1608, thus continuing to play a major role in the foundation of the first permanent French colony in North America.

Poutrincourt returned Port-Royal in 1610 with a small expedition, promptly converted the local natives to Catholicism, hoping to gain financial assistance from the French government. As a result, the Jesuits became financial partners with Poutrincourt. In 1613 the settlement was attacked by Samuel Argall, and English naval officer and adventurer, from the Virginia Colony. Argall returned in November that same year and burned the French colony to the ground. Poutrincour returned from France in spring 1614 to find Port-Royal in ruins and the settlers living with the Natives. Port-Royal was re-established a second time, on the south bank of the river 5 miles upstream. The British later renamed Port-Royal as Annapolis Royal, following their successful conquest of Acadia in 1710.

The colony of l'Acadie
click to enlarge.
This 1660 French map shows the territorial situation at the time. New France held the entire region of the great lakes, the estuary of the St. Lawrence River (labeled as Le Canada ou Nouvelle France, all the islands in the Golfe de St. Laurens except Isle de Terre Neuve, and the peninsula of Nova Scotia (labeled as l'Acadie). England was showing as having the region of the present-day U.S. states of Massachussetts. Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine (the New Negland Colonies), and the the colony of Virginie (the Southern Colonies). Holland is shown as having the region of the present-day U.S. states of New York and New Jersey.

The colony of l'Acadie
click to enlarge.
This French map made in 1776 shows a much more detailed mapping of the coastline and rivers. the territorial situation at the time. Interestingly, the date shows it was made 14 years after the Treaty of Paris and 63 years after the Treaty of Utrecht, and New France did not exist in 1776. Yet, l'Acadie, Nouvelle France ou Canada Isle St. Jean, Isle Royale, and even Terre-Neuve are still shown as French. Britain is shown as holding Nouve Angleterre, including Mayn, Hamp-Shire, Masachusets Bay, Conecticut, and New York. The border between French and British territories is the Kennebec River.

Acadia after the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).
Over seventy-four years there were six colonial wars, in which English and later British interests tried to capture Port-Royal/Annapolis Royal, starting with King William's War in 1689 and culminating in the 1710 Siege of Port-Royal. Acadia was ceeded to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht. After that, the French had their turn during the following fifty years and made six unsuccessful military attempts to regain the capital. Including a raid by Americans in the American Revolution, Port-Royal/Annapolis Royal faced a total of thirteen attacks during its history. This proves the tremendous strategic and economic importance the original fur-trading post had achieved.

Those who settled l'Acadie came mainly from the Loire Valley in northwestern France, from the provinces of Anjou, Touraine and Maine, the land of chateaux and the Circuit de la Sarthe race course at Le Mans. The Acadian settlers intermarried with the local Natives, which resulted in a significant portion of the population of Acadia being Métis.

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The Story of Newfoundland

Colonial settlements on Newfoundland.
Newfoundland became England's first possession in North America In 1583 when it was claimed by Sir Humphrey Gilbert for Queen Elizabeth. It is one of the earliest permanent English colonies in the New World, and has been English from the beginning, period. However, in addition to fishing boats from England, Basque, French, and Portuguese ships were arriving as well and establishing camps. Therefore, pressure to secure the island from foreign control led England to the appointment of Proprietary Governors to establish colonial settlements on the island from 1610 to 1728. These settlements incliuded Cuper's Cove, Bristol's Hope, Renews, New Cambriol, South Falkland and Avalon. The first governor given jurisdiction over all of Newfoundland was Sir David Kirke in 1638.

Landscape of
interior Newfoundland.
The interior of Newfoundland is fairly barren inhospitable land, but the one resource that was attracting everybody to this part of the world was fishing. It was soon realized that the waters around Newfoundland offered the best fishing in the North Atlantic! In the 1620s, Sir George Calvert, 1st Baron of Baltimore, beban to invest heavily in wharves, warehouses, and fishing stations, but failed to generate a profit due to French raids

Sir David Kirke.
that were hurting the business. Calvert left and other small-scale entrepreneurs continued the trade. This included Sir David Kirke who later became the first governor in 1639. Newfoundland attained an important economic role in a triangular trade with New England, the West Indies and Europe. By the 1670s there were 1700 permanent residents and another part-time ones 4500 in the summer months.

Late 17th century fishing
vessel at Newfoundland.
However, the French saw Newfoundland as their posession, too. Basque fishermen had been fishing cod shoals off Newfoundland's coasts since the beginning of the sixteenth century. By 1620, 300 fishing boats worked the Grand Bank, employing some 10,000 sailors from the Basque Country, Normandy, or Brittany. They dried and salted the cod on the coast and sold it to Spain and Portugal.

French map of Newfoundland from 1756.
The French named the island Terre Neuve. On the 1756 map, it is shown separated from Labrador by Detroit de Bell Isle, with Golphe de Sait Laurent to the west, separating it from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River estuary Fleuve de St. Laurent. With the map centered on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and showing all of the islands as French (Isle d'Anticosti, Isle St. Jean, Isle royale, Saint Pierre, Miquelon), it is obvious the France considered all of these territories hers.

Present-day view of Plaisance/Placentia.
Basque fishermen founded the settlement of Plaisance (present-day Placentia) in the Baye de Plaisance on the couthern coast of Newfoundland. It is not clear exactly when, but Basque fishermen were fishing in the area as early as the beginning of the 16th century, using the settlement as a seasonal base of operations. Plaisance means "pleasure" in French. The Basque name Placentia could be derived for the a very similar name of an Basque town in northern Spain called Placencia de las Armas. As a haven, it started to be also used by French fishermen. In 1655, France appointed a governor in Plaisance, thus starting a formal French colonization period as well as a period of periodic war and unrest between England and France. English attacks on Plaisance promted a retaliation by New France led by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville. During King William's War in the 1690s, Iberville destroyed nearly every English settlement on the island. Nearly the entire population of the English colony was either killed, captured for ransom, or expelled back to England.

James Cook's 1775 map of Newfoundland.
Captain James Cook was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy. During his service in the Seven Years' war, he showed a talent for surveying and cartography, and was responsible for mapping much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege, thus allowing General Wolfe to make his famous stealth attack on the Plains of Abraham. Cook's surveying ability was put to good use mapping the complex coast of Newfoundland in the 1760s aboard HMS Grenville. He surveyed the northwest part in 1763 and 1764, the southern coast between the Burin Peninsula and Cape Ray in 1765 and 1766, and the west coast in 1767. His five seasons in Newfoundland produced the first accurate, large-scale maps of the island's coasts and were the first scientific hydrographic surveys to use precise triangulation to establish land outlines.

Nova Scotia and Newfoundland by John Cary (1807)
(click to enlarge).
The French colonization period lasted until the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, under which France ceded all of its claims to Newfoundland to Britain. Afterwards, under the supervision of the last French governor, the French population of Plaisance moved to Île Royale (present-day Cape Breton Island), a part of Acadia that remained then under French control. Plaisance was renamed Placentia by the British. France did acknowledge British ownership of the island in the Treaty of Utrecht, but the in the Seven Years' War (1756–63), control of Newfoundland once again became a major issue between Britain, France and Spain who all pressed for a share in the valuable fishery there. Britain's victories around the globe led William Pitt to insist that nobody other than Britain should have access to Newfoundland. The Battle of Signal Hill was fought in Newfoundland in 1762, when a French force landed and tried to occupy the island, only to be repulsed by the British. This finally ended French influence and attempts to regain the island.

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The Treaty Of Utrecht and Territorial Losses

King Louis XIV of France.

Emperor Leopold I of Austria.
The first major territorial setback to New France came in 1713 in the form of the Treaty of Utrecht. This followed France's less-than-perfect performance in the War Of the Spanish Succession, known in North America as Queen Anne's War or the Third Indian War. It was not as much about queen Anne of England, as much as it was about the two most powerful royal families of Europe, the Bourbons and the Habsburgs, feuding over whose kid gets to rule Spain. King Louis XIV of France, a Bourbon, wanted it to be his grandson Philip, while the emperor Leopold I of Austria, a Habsburg, claimed the Spanish crown for his son Charles.

Philip V of Bourbon,
grandson of King Louis XIV.

Charles III of Habsburg
son of Leopold I of Austria.
This standoff developed following the death in 1700 of Charles II, the last Habsburg ruler of Spain who died childless and heirless. A major war was precipitated. Like the Seven Years' War 50 years later, this was a significant conflict that involved all of the principal European powers. Because Spain, France and England were also significant colonial powers, the war had far-reaching consequences for New France, New Spain and the English colonies. Specifically, what was at stake in the war Spain itself, the Spanish-held dominions in Italy, the Low Countries (present-day Belgium and the Netherlands), and perhapd most importantly, all of Spain's colonial holdings in the Americas and the Phillipines: the Viceroyalty of New Spain and the Viceroyalty of Peru!

The war was a fairly long conflict, lasting from 1701 to 1714. The principal players were France and the part of Spain loyal to Prince Philip of Anjou, grandson of King Louis XIV, against Britain, Portugal, Savoy, the Dutch Republic, and the part of Spain loyal to Charles. In North America, it was the second of four French and Indian Wars fought between France and England (after 1707 Great Britain) for control of the continent. The war ended with a negotiated peace, concluded by the treaties

New France in 1667
Click to enlarge.

New France in 1713
after the Treaty Of Utrecht
Click to enlarge.
of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714). The settlements recognized Philip of Anjou as King of Spain (Philip V), but required him to be removed from the French line of succession. Austria gained most of Spanish territories in Italy (Kingdom of Naples, Duchy of Milan and Sardinia) and the Spanish Netherlands. In the big picture, however, the real winner was Britain. Britan secured some key territorial gains: Gibraltar and Minorca in Europe, as well as and significant parts of New France. This included a part of the colony of Acadia (present-day peninsula of Nova Scotia), plus whatever territory it claimed on the

Loss of Acadia after the Treaty Of Utrecht
Click to enlarge.

More detailed map of Acadia in 1754
Click to enlarge.
island of Terre Neuve (Newfoundland), and the French half of the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies (Lesser Antilles). In addition, the British-controlled Hudson's Bay Company gained the territory of Rupert's Land (the vast territory around Hudson Bay). France was also required to recognize British rule over the Iroquois, and commerce with the Far Indians was to be open to traders of all nations. France was guaranteed all its former pre-war North American possessions: the colonies of Le Canada, la Louisiane, Île-Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island), and Île Royale (Cape Breton Island).

However, France was not at all a complete loser in this conflict. The major strategic victory obviously was managing to put a Bourbon on the Spanish throne. This was a masterpiece of forward strategic thinking by King Louis XIV, master of Realpolitik, the importance of which would not be fully appreciated until after the next war between Britain and France 50 years later. When it was obvious France would lose the Seven Years' War and with it the colony of Canada, King Louis XV of France was able to secretly ceeded the colony of La Louisiane to Spain, thus preventing it from completely falling into British hands, and at least keeping it "at home" in the House of Bourbon.

Another interesting, and not widely realized, outcome of the Treaty of Utrecht was the terrirotial gain of Rupert's land by the Hudson's Bay Company. This is the the oldest commercial corporation in North America in continuous operation for 344 years, and one of the oldest in the world. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson's Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada and the United States, including Hudson's Bay, Home Outfitters, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue. It is headquartered in Toronto and traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). Next time you weat a shirt or a tie from Saks, remember you are wearing a piece of New France ...

Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon located south of Newfoundland) were ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, but returned to France by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. These islands are the last remaining piece of New France on the American continent.

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New France at the onset of the 18th Century

New France (1645)
Click to enlarge.

New France (1745)
Click to enlarge.
Finally, by 1720, New France became a self-sufficient colony with a population of 24,594. Throughout the 17th century, explorers such as Jean Nicolet, Louis Joliet, Jacques Marquette, Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, and one René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle who late discovered and claimed Louisiana, continued their exploration to the Great Lakes and then to the south. They discovered Green Bay west of Lake Michigan, and explored the Missouri, Ohio, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.

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Colony of La Louisiane

The French King Henry IV, the ministers Richelieu and Colbert, and King Louis XIV gave immense impetus to the colonisation of New France. Louis XIV was seriously worried about the size of the kingdom, over which France constantly competed with other European nations. European rivalry and a game of political alliances greatly marked the history of La Louisiane. Within those shifting conditions, the French desire to limit British influence in the New World was a constant in royal politics. Louis XIV took care to limit the appearance of intermediary bodies and countervailing powers in North America. He did not want an assembly or a parliament.

Cavelier de La Salle
by Pierre Gandon, 1937.
La Louisiane was the last province of New France to be colonized. It was mainly populated by settlers already established elsewhere in New France. The French began exploring to the south and to the west of the English colonies in late 17th century. The person central to that effort was René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. De La Salle came to New France in 1666. He was the son of a wealthy merchant family from Rouen in northern France, and came to the New World to set up trade with Natives. He purchased a large tract of land on Île de Montréal and set up a thriving trading post, purchasing furs from the local tribes, and selling the furs to European merchants who transported them back to France. From the Native traders, La Salle learned of the Ohio country and that a river flowed from there all the way to a great sea. The possibility of such a river struck La Salle because of its obvious value to trade. If such a route existed, it would make trading trips deep into the interior of North America possible and considerably more easy than overland routes.

De La Salle expeditions
Click to enlarge.
The trade from such a route could obviously be very lucrative. This set of a series of expeditions that began in the late 1660s and continued for two decades. During the first expedition he discovered the Ohio River and sailed it as far south as the present-day city of Louisville, before his men deserted him. In 1670, during his secon expedition, he discovered the Mississippi River in the present-day state of Illinois.

"Taking Possession of Louisiana and the River
Mississippi, in the name of Louis the XIV,
by Cavelier de la Salle
on the 9th of April, 1682"
by Jean Adolph Bocquin, c. 1850.
In 1682, he sailed down the Mississippi River downstream its entire length until he reached the Gulf of Mexico. De La Salle is said to have erected a cross, buried an engraved plate, and then proclaimed the the entire territory he just traveled for France. He named it La Louisiane after King Louis XIV, who ruled France at the time. More importantly, what de la Salle had just managed was to acquire for France the most fertile part of the entire North American continent!

De La Salle returned to North America in 1684. He sailed from France with a large expedition with four ships and 300 colonists, aiming to establish a French colony on the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River. However, the expedition turned out to be a complete disaster. it was plagued by pirates, poor navigation, and hostile Natives. One ship was lost to pirates in the West Indies, another one sank in the inlet of Matagorda Bay, where a third ran aground. Having missed the Mississippi River delta, De La Salle nevertheless decided to set up a French colony when he did land, in present-day Texas. The colonists built a fort, on Matagorda Bay near Garcitas Creek on the site of present-day Victoria, and named it Fort Saint Louis. De La Salle led a group eastward on foot on several occasions to try to locate the Mississippi. By now, his force had been reduced down to 36 (from the initial 300). During the last search in 1687, his remaining 36 colonists mutinied and killed De La Salle. The colony lasted another year until 1688, when the local Natives massacred the 20 remaining adults and took five children as captives. That was the end of the New-France colonization of Texas.

Exploration of La Louisiane was interrupted for 12 years. In 1697, the Montreal-born Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville was chosen to re-establish a colony in Louisiana. He left France in autumn 1698 with a fleet of five ships, did find the Mississippi delta and founded in 1699 a settlement at Fort Maurepas, in present-day Ocean Springs, Mississippi. It was later refered to as Bilocci or "Old Biloxi".

In January 1702, Fort Louis de la Louisiane was founded on the Mobile River in present-day Mobile, Alabama, by brothers Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, and made the first capital of la Louisiane. In 1703, after his last trip to the colony, d'Iberville left his younger brother in charge of the colony, and went to fight the British in the West Indies, where he died in 1706.

New France in 1750
click to enlarge.

New France in 1703
Click to enlarge.
La Louisiane was sandwiched between New Spain, and New Spain and the English colonies to the east. The 1703 map shows Nouvelle France well established in present-day Canada, around the Great Lakes reagion, along the St. Lawrence River (Le Grand Fleuve de St. Lauren), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (Nouvelle Ecosse and Acadie), and even Newfoundland (Isle de Terre Neuve). The shows England as having the New England colonies (Nouvelle Angleterre), the Middle Colonies (Nouvelle Yorck, Pensylvanie and Nouvelle Jarsey), and the Southern Colony od Virginie. The borders of la Louisiane were never formally surveyed by the French. However, on this map, they considered the border of New France to run from south of Lac Champlain to the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay (Golfe de Chesapach), and then roughly along the Ohio River (Belle Riviere). Southeast of the Ohio River lay La Floride, which the French recognized as belonging to Spain. Baye du St. Esprit, which is most likely present-day Mobile Bay, is labeled as being on the Spanish side of the border. Baye de St. Louis is clearly positioned west of the border, in New France. The border is drawn as reaching the coast at a bay inbetween, with a barrier island to the south, which could be present-day city of Pascagoula. The positioning of the border cannot be correct, or Mobile Bay is mis-positioned or mis-labeled, because Fort Louis had been established a year before this map was drawn, on French territory. The mouth of the Mississippi River and the very complex coastline around it are also not drawn correctly, but the mouth of the river is correctly annotated as having been discovered in 1683 by de la Salle.

New France in 1718
Click to enlarge.
This map of La Louisiane from 1718 shows much more thorough cartographic work on the coastlines and river. The English colonies in the east are clearly established as and Caroline. East-Coast settlements of Charles Tovvn/Charlefort and St. Augustine are clearly labeled. Mobile Bay is called Baye de la Mobile, not Baye du St. Esprit anymore. Fort Louis, Natchez and even Pensacola (the Spanish fort of Presidio San Miguel de Panzacola) are clearly labeled. The fort of Bilocci is not plotted on the map, but the area is labeled as Vieu Fort. Lac Pontchartrain and Lac Maurepas are labeled, but interestingly, New Orleans is not. The area is still mapped as native territory and labeled Oumas after the Houma tribe. Offshore, the barrier islands of Île Dauphine and Îles de la Chandeleur are all mapped reasonably well. Inland, Natchitoches is drawn in its location on the Red River (Rivière Rouge), but incorrectly labeled as having been established in 1717 by de Bienville. Natchitoches was founded in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. It is the oldest permanent European settlement on the Gulf Coast that was not ravaged by war, hurricanes, floods, disease or the Natives. This French settlement had two purposes: to establish trade with the New Spain, which by now stretched to Tejas, and at the same time deter Spanish advances into La Louisiane. Over time, wealthy landowners developed large plantations and built stately houses in a growing town. This became a pattern later repeated in New Orleans and other places.

La Louisiane is usually shown on French maps to border New Spain along the Sabine River (border between the present-day U.S. states of Louisiana and Texas); but on this 1718 map there is no clear border between La Louisiane and Tejas. French territory is is shown rather ambitiously, as if it included all of Tejas, all the way to the Rio Grande River (Rio del Norte). The Spanish generally considered their territory to extend to the Red River, to Natchitoches. The Sabine River was named in 1716 by Domingo Ramón as Río de Sabinas.

The Spanish Mission de los Tejas etablie en 1716 is drawn near the Rivière de la Trinite (Trinity River), which is the Mission San Francisco de la Espada originally built in 1690, burned, then re-established in 1716, as Nuestro Padre San Francisco de los Tejas. San antonio is not drawn on the map yet, because it was being built at the same time this map was being drawn. However, the original settlemen of De La Salle is drawn west of Baye S. Louis ou S. Bernard (Matagorda Bay).

Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville.
De Bienville was made governor of la Louisiane in 1701. A Roman-Catholic parish was established on July 20, 1703, by Jean-Baptiste de la Croix de Chevrières de Saint-Vallier, Bishop of Québec, as the first parish established on the Gulf Coast of the United States. In 1704 a yellow-fever epidemic broke out, following the arrival of the ship "Pélican", delivering 23 French women to the colony, who contracted the disease during a stop in Havana. Numerous colonists and neighboring natives died from the epidemic. At about the same time, the first African slaves arrived on a French supply ship from Saint-Domingue. The population of the colony fluctuated, growing to 279 persons by 1708, then falling to 178 in 1710 due to disease. These additional outbreaks of disease and a series of floods caused Bienville to order in 1711 the town relocated several miles downriver to its present location at the mouth of the Mobile River on the shore of Mobile Bay. A new Fort Louis was constructed at the new site. By 1712, when Antoine Crozat took over administration of the colony by royal appointment, the colony population grew to 400.

The total territory France controlled in North America increased vastly. At this point, New France extended from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains and from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico! La Louisiane became the newest, and largest, colony of New France. La Louisiane stretched from the mouth of the Mississippi River to present-day Canada, and approximately covered the present-day U.S. states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Although no exact geographical survey of la Louisiane has ever been made, its area is estimated to have been about 2 million square kilometers, nearly four times the area of France, and two thirds of the area of the present-day lower 48 U.S. states!

Throughout all these developments, the natives from the Dakota, Ojibwa, Iroquois, Natchez, Houma and other nations have continuously been receiving the proverbial short end of the stick. When it came to territorial conquest, King Louis knew no bounds. It would be naive to apply 21st century notions of fairness to someone like King Louis XIV, who ruled the world from his palace in Versailles and saw himself as the embodiment of God on Earth, and expect him to worry about some barefoot folks in America.

Fort Louis de la Mobile.

Fort Condé, present day.
During 1720, the War of the Quadruple Alliance broke out in Europe. It was between Spain on one side, against Britain, France, Austria, and the Dutch Republic, in an atempt to retake territories in Italy and to claim the French throne. The war spilled into the colonies and Fort Louis (Mobile) found itself on the battlefront. The capital was therefore moved west to Fort Maurepas (Biloxi), leaving Fort Louis in the role of military and trading center. In 1723 the construction of a new brick fort with a stone foundation began in Fort Louis, and it was renamed Fort Condé in honor of Louis Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Bourbon, Prince de Condé. It was later renamed Mobile after the indigenous tribe the French colonists found in the area of Mobile Bay.

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La Nouvelle-Orléans And the Origins of Louisiana Créole Culture

New Orleans in 1728 (click to enlarge).
It was during this period that the foundation of the Louisiana Créole high society was laid down. La Nouvelle-Orléans was founded on May 7, 1718, by the Compagnie d’Occident (the French Mississippi Company), under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, who had previously founded Fort Louis (Mobile). The intention was for the city to serve as the new trading post. The city was built in a sharp bend of the Mississippi River, on land inhabited by the Chitimacha tribe. The city was named after Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, who ruled France as the Regent of France following the death of Louis XIV, until Louis XV attained his majority in February 1723. His father was Louis XIV's younger brother Philippe I, Duke of Orléans; his mother was Princess Elizabeth Charlotte from the German Electorate of Pfalz (Pfalzprinzessin Elisabeth Charlotte). Philippe's title came from the city of Orléans, the northern-most city in the Loire Valley, southwest of Paris.

New Orleans in 1720 (click to enlarge).
The site was selected because it was a relatively high ground on the natural levee created by the sedimentary processes of the Mississippi River, and beause it was adjacent to the trading route and portage between the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain via Bayou St. John. The city of La Nouvelle-Orléans was laid out in a manner similar to other colonial settlements of that era, in a symmetrical rectangular grid with a central square facing the river. The central square was called Place d'Armes (present-day Jackson Square). Facing the river from the square was the Church of St. Louis, flanked by the Capuchin Presbytery on one side and the municipal prison on the other. A garison and a magazine were to the northeast of the square, and governor's house to the southwest. Initially, the city had three main streets running southwest-northeast and a number of shorter streets running perpendicular to them. Until 1724, none had names. In 1724, the long main streets were named Rue de Chartres, Rue Royale and Rue de Bourbon. Rue Royale was the middle of the three and was the main street of the city. Rue de Chartres was named in honor of the oldest of the Orleans princes, and Rue de Bourbon obviously named in honor of the Bourbon dynasty ruling France. The perpendicular streets were named:

  • Rue de Bienville in honor of the founder of the city
  • Rue St. Louis in honor of the patron saint of France
  • Rue de Conti in honor of François Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Conti
  • Rue de Toulouse in honor of Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse, the son of Louis XIV and of his official mistress Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan
  • Rue de St. Pierre in honor of Saint Pierre
  • Rue de Orléans was the widest street in the city, intersecting Rue Royale at a a right angle and leading to the back of the Church of St. Louis.
  • Rue St. Anne in honor of Saint Anne
  • Rue du Maine in honor of Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duke of Maine, another son of Louis XIV and his official mistress, Madame de Montespan.
  • Rue St. Philippe in honor of Saint Philippe
  • Rue de l'Arsenal named after the armory and in 1726 the town limit; Rue des Ursulines after the Ursuline convent.

St. Louis Cathedral with the Cabildo and Presbytere Buildings.

Customs House.

From its founding, the French intended La Nouvelle-Orléans to be an important colonial city. The Jesuits and the Capuchins came in 1722, followed by the Ursuline Sisters in 1727. In 1722, the city was made the capital of la Louisiane, replacing Bilocci (Biloxi) in that role. Because the bank invested heavily in the Compagnie d’Occident and, because Louisiana was the company’s greatest asset, rapid development of the colony needed to maintain public confidence in the bank. A promotional campaign was undertaken that brought in several thousand settlers. According to one official of the Mississippi Company, 7020 Europeans arrived in the colony between October 1717 and May 1721.

After John Law’s company had acquired the Compagnie du Sénégal, which held the French monopoly on the slave trade, significant numbers of black slaves from Africa were brought to Louisiana in 1719. About 3,000 slaves were brought between 1720 and 1731. The company aimed for an accelerated commercial development of the colony, but things were definitely not glitz and glamor in the city of La Nouvelle-Orléans during this time. In September 1722, a hurricane struck the city, blowing most of the structures down. A good deal of the population was of the wildest and the least desirable sort: deported galley slaves, trappers, gold-hunters and urban riffraff. Law’s promotional literature led immigrants to anticipate quick profits from mining and other endeavors. However, the harsh world they found was dramatically different. Many people died because the overwhelmed colonial government could not meet their needs for food, clothing, and shelter. Most of the survivors stayed simply because they lacked the means to return to Europe. Although a few large plantations were established, most of the immigrants tilled small subsistence farms, sometimes with slave labor. These farmers engaged in small-scale production of tobacco and indigo for export.

A great deal of the arriving French settlers were men. Given the chronic lack of white women in the colony, naturally, relationships between French men

"Portrait of Servant Woman",
by Francois Beaucourt, 1786.
and African women proliferated. These relationships had been occuring ever since laves started to be imported into the city starting in 1719, and over time evolved into an accepted social practice. The custom of freeing the children of such unions; the right of slaves to purchase their freedom; the policy of liberating enslaved workers for exceptional service; and the arrival of free people of color from Saint-Domingue, Cuba & other Caribbean colonies led to the rise of a sizable population of gens de couleur libres (free people of color). These people adopted many European manners including fashion and cuisine, and blended it with traditions of their own, which included prior experience mainly from Africa, but also from other places in the Caribbean where the slave population was brought through. Many gens de couleur libres acquired wealth & high social status through inheritance, military service, and skilled trades. By the time La Louisiane became American in 1803, gens de couleur libres constituted nearly 20% of the city population, with slaves amounting for approximately another 38%.

"Free Women of Color with their
Children and Servants", by Agostino Brunias,
Dominica, c.1764-1796.

Free West Indian Dominicans, c. 1770.
The rise of the social group of gens de couleur libres was, by far, not limited to La Louisiane. The same was happening throughout the Caribbean in other French colonies, such as Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. These examples of gens de couleur libres from the island of Dominique (Dominica), an island the Lesser Antilles southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique, illustrate this trend.

"Free woman of color
with quadroon daughter".
Late 18th-century painting.

Although La Louisiane and the city were part of New France and therefore administratively belonged to Quebec, culturally, the city was clearly linked to the Caribbean far more closely. Perhaps the most notable free woman of color in New Orleans was Marie Laveau. Marie was either born in Saint-Domingue and moved to La Nouvelle-Orléans as a child as is traditionally said, or she may have been born in La Nouvelle-Orléans in 1801, as is suggested by new research by Ina Johanna in her 2012 book "Marie Laveau: The Mysterious Voodoo Queen".

"Marie Laveau" by Franck
Schneider, 1774-1881.
Late 18th-century painting.
Marie had been brought up Catholic but became involved with Voodoo later in life. At that time, it was common for Voodoo to be practiced along side of Catholicism. She also cultivated an intricate network of spies and informants among the black servants in the city, who regarded her with a mixture of fear and respect, and regularly leaked dirt to her, which they gathered from the homes of the city's Créole elite where they worked. The practice at the time was for many people to confide their most intimate secrets to their slave servants. Through them, Marie gained secret knowledge about the social elite, which she would put to strategic use. With dirt on seemingly everybody, combined with her knowledge of Voodoo spellsm, he became the most powerful woman in New Orleans.

La Louisiane in 1732
(click to enlarge).
Looking again more broadly at the southern part of La Louisiane, this 1732 map by d'Anville shows fairly accurately, Baye de la Mobile and Fort Condé de la Mobile (the former Fort Louis), Baye de Pascagoulas, Baye St. Louis, and all of the barrier island between Mobile Bay and the mouth of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi was a name used by the Natives; the French called it Fleuve Saint-Louis. Upon closer examination, it is possible to see the old fort of La Balise that existed on the eastern side of birdfoot of the Mississippi delta. When de La Salle first claimed the land in 1682 for the French Crown, he identified this site as important, because it was at a point where two major distributary channels of the birdfoot-shaped delta diverged; therefore passage could be controlled. This was most likely the fork between present-day Southeast Pass and Loutre Pass. By 1699 the first settlers inhabited a primitive fort here, making this one of the oldest settlements in La Louisiane.

Lobes of the Mississippi Delta
deposited over the last
5000 years.
By 1721, the French had constructed a 62-foot-high wooden pyramid at the settlement, sitting relatively high above the surrounding marshes. It functioned until 1860, when the area was hit by 3 hurricanes, La Balize was destroyed and abandoned. The last traces of it were wiped out during another hurrican hit in 1865. The present-day lobe of the Mississippi Delta is named after it. Further north, Lac Pontchartrain, Lac Maurepas and Lac Borgne are seen, as is

Rivière aux Perles (present-day Pearl River). Nouvelle Orleans is plotted at the site of the present-dat French Quarter. Lac des Oachas is present-day Barataria Bay.

Emancipation of slaves on Reunion Island.
Culturally, la Louisiane was part of Le Monde Créole, the Créole World, a French or Spanish-controlled (or -influenced) part of the world stretching from Brazil through the Caribbean to North America. The Créole culture of New Orleans is part of Créole cultures world-wide, including Cuba, Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique and the entire Caribbean, and even places like Mauritius, Reunion, the Seychelles or Portuguese Goa in the Indian Ocean, and the Guianas and Brazil in South America. Indeed, the roots of Louisiana and New Orleans lie there rather than in Anglo-Saxon North America. All of Le Monde Créole shares similar histories of colonial liberalism, similar ethnic roots, architecture, music, folklore, life-styles, family and business values. New-Orleans is only one small part of the vast Le Monde Créole.

Unfortunately, not much remains from this period in present-day New Orleans in terms of architecture. The city was hit by two devastating fires in 1788 and 1794, and rebuilt in a Spanish style, because at that time the colony was ruled by Spain. Very little exists even as paintings that would portray the architecture of the old, Créole New Orleans. The architectural character the city has today was acquired during the Spanish era (1763-1800) and later during the American era (1803 onward). What is known is that the old city was built mainly or wood, using the native cypress and bricks as the main building material, and that it was mainly an assemblage of colorful Créole cottages.

Laura Plantation.
Outside of the city, the Laura Plantation provides an glimpse into the old Créole era. Although it was built in 1820 (i.e. after the French-ruled La Louisiane did not exist anymore), it was built in the old style and never rebuilt in the neo-classical style other plantations such as Oak Alley were built in. The Laura Plantation is built in a simpler style of the West Indies. The main house is a Créole-style raised house with a porch on the upper floor, and a simple double stairway in the front. The distinguishing feature are the bright Caribbean colors it is painted with, setting it apart from the white American-era plantation houses. Several outbuildings survive, including the a Maison de Reprise, the retirement home built 500 feet away from the main house, for the first female President of the Duparc Plantation, Laura Locoul's Great-Grandmother Nannette Prud'homme Duparc,

In New Orleans, the two building styles are the Créole Cottage and the Créole Townhouse. However, only those found in the French Quarter (the original city of la Nouvelle-Orléans) may date back to the era before the two fires, but even those may have been rebuilt or renovated. Those found in Fauborg Marigny and elsewhere outside of the French Quarter would obviously be from the 19th century.

Example of a typical Créole Cottage.

A Créole Cottage on Ursulines Street.
The Créole Cottage is a small single-storey building, set at ground level, with a roofline that slopes to the front and to the back, with gables on the sides. There may be 1 or more dormers on the roof. The roofline is usually steeply pitched to help runoff during tropical downpours. South Louisiana has a tropical-style rainy season during the summer. Although the rainy season is not as long as that in, say, southern Nigeria, which can last from April to October, South Louisiana can experience several thunderstorms in a single day, each dumping an inch of rain within half an hour.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar.
Steep roofs are required to effectively divert the rainwater from the roof. Pradoxically, gable-end roofs are among the worst roof designs for hurricane regions. They tend to peel off in hurricane-force winds, when the wind flows over the top and creates aerodynamic lift on the leeward side of the roof, with the roof behaving like an aicraft wing. However, steep roofs help break the effect becauwse they tend to cause the wind to stall as it goes over the top of the roof.

A typical Créole Cottage has a symmetrical four-opening front facade wall, which would be set close to front property line. The interiors would typically made of stucco or wood.

Example of a typical Créole Townhouse.
The Créole Townhouse is a 2-3 storey building, with a gabled roof similar to that of the cottage, sometimes with dormers on the roof. The Townhouse typicallty has three openings across the front, including a door that opens to a sidehall and stairway to the second floor. Often, there is a cantilever balcony on the second story that extends over the sidewalk. At present, such balconies are often bordered by wrought-iron balustrades, which is a later addition dating to the Spanish era. As with the Cottage, the Townhouse is tuypically built with the front wall at the property line.

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New Spain


New Spain in 1650.
If France controlled the central portion of the North American continent, Spain owned just about everything else in the form of the Viceroyalty of New Spain (Virreinato de Nueva España). New Spain was established in 1535 by King Charles V, following the Spanish victory over the Aztec Empire. The Aztecs, like the Dakotas, Iroquois or Houma people in North America, received the short end of the stick big time.


Conquest of the Aztec Empire

Cortés in Tenochtitlan in 1519, arriving to tell
the Aztec ruler Moctezuma: "I am here to tell you
that your life, as you know it, is over".
The conquest of the Aztec Empire was one of the most significant events in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. It has to be seen within the context of Spanish patterns on the Iberian Peninsula during the Reconquista by Christians, defeating the Muslims, and also patterns extended in the Caribbean following Columbus's establishment of permanent European settlements in the Caribbean. The Spanish authorized expeditions for the discovery, conquest, and colonization of new territory, using existing Spanish settlements as a base. Many of those on the Cortés expedition of 1519 had never seen combat before. In fact, Cortés had never commanded men in battle before. However, there was a whole generation of Spaniards who participated in expeditions in the Caribbean, learning strategy and tactics of successful enterprises. The Spanish conquest of Mexico should not be seen as an event with no antecedents. The campaign began in February 1519, and was declared victorious on August 13, 1521, when a coalition army of Spanish forces and native Tlaxcalan warriors led by Hernán Cortés and Xicotencatl the Younger captured the emperor Cuauhtemoc and the city of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. The fall of the Aztec Empire was the key event in the formation of New Spain, which would later transform to become Mexico.

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Coronado's expedition

Coronado expedition reached Zuni Pueblo.
Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza vigorously took to the duties entrusted to him by the king and encouraged the exploration of Spain's new mainland territories. He commissioned the expeditions of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado into the present day American Southwest in 1540–1542. The Viceroy commissioned Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in the first Spanish exploration up the Pacific Ocean along the western coast of the province of Las Californias in 1542–1543. He sailed above present day Baja California (Vieja California), to what he called Nueva California, becoming the first European to see the present-day California. The Viceroy also sent Ruy López de Villalobos As these new territories became controlled, they were brought under the rule of New Spain.

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Early Spanish Settlements in North and Central America

St. Augustine.
During the 16th century, numerous Spanish settlements were founded in North and Central America. Some survived:

  • Nueva Cádiz on the island of Cubagua, present-day Venezuela (1500)
  • Cumaná in present-day Venezuela (1522) was the first permanent settlement founded by Europeans in mainland America.
  • Spain attempted to establish missions in what is now the Southern United States. These efforts were successful in the region of present-day Florida, where the city of St. Augustine was founded in 1565, the oldest European city in present-day United States.

Santa Fe.
Other settlements followed in the 17th century:

  • Santa Fe in present-day New Mexico (1609)
  • San Marcos de Apalache (1679) in present-day Florida
  • El Paso del Norte in present-day Texas (1659)
... and in the 18th century:
  • Mission San Xavier del Bac in 1699 or 1700 near the present-day city of Tuscon in southern Arizona
  • Albuquerque in present-day New Mexico (1706) as a ranch and a colonial outpost
  • The San Antonio Missions in present-day Texas, including

      San Xavier del Bac.
    • Misión Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña (or Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de los Hainais) founded in 1716 by Franciscan friars
    • Misión San Francisco de la Espada (or San Francisco de los Tejas) in 1690, renamed San Francisco de los Neches in 1721, and moved to its present location in 1730 or 1731 and given its current name.
    • Misión San José y San Miguel de Aguayo in 1720
    • Misión San Juan Capistrano established in 1716 as Misión San Jose de los Nazonis in East Texas, renamed and moved in 1731 its present location

    San Antonio de Valero.

  • Mission San Antonio de Valero (1718) in the present-day city of San Antonio, better known as "The Alamo". It is a former Roman Catholic mission and fortress compound and the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, an important part of Texas history.
  • San Diego (1769), San Juan Capistrano (1776), San Gabriel (1771), San Luis Obispo (1772), San Antonio de Padua (1771), San Carlos Borromeo (1770), San Francisco (1776) and Los Angeles (1781), all in present-day California.

The missions has one purpose: to convert local Native Americans to Christianity, thereby helping to solidify Spanish territorial claims in the New World against encroachment from France. Politics and religion. The Spanish had a long tradition of building Catholic missions throughout North America. Franciscan priests founded a series of missions in Florida after 1573, mainly along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The first missions in New Mexico were established by friars accompanying Oñate's expedition of 1598. Dring the next 100 years Franciscan priests founded more than 40 additional missions, most of them along the Rio Grande. Especially influential was Father Alonso de Benavides, who directed the founding of 10 missions between 1625 and 1629 and thereafter promoted them ably in Spain. By 1680, missions had been established among most of the New Mexican Indians.

Between 1687 and 1711 the missionary and explorer Father Eusebio Francisco Kino established many missions in northern Mexico and Baja California as well as some in southern Arizona, the most notable of which was Mission San Xavier del Bac. Beginning in 1769, 21 missions were built along the El Camino real in California, starting with the Mission San Diego de Alcalá (present-day San Diego), until the last one in Sonoma Valley in 1823 (San Francisco Solano).

Mission of San Francisco de la Espada
built in 1690.
At about the same time, Spanish colonization of present-day Texas began. Tejas was one of the provinces of New Spain from 1690 until 1821. Spain claimed ownership of the territory, but did not colonize it until after Spanish authorities discovered in 1689 the remains of Fort Saint Louis, the failed French colony founded by De La Salle in 1684. The realization of a French landing in spurred the Spanish into action. They started building Catholic missions in Tejas to reinforce their claim. In 1690, Alonso de León escorted several Catholic missionaries to Tejas to establish the first mission near the present-day town of Weches, located in East Texas between Lufkin, Crockett, Palestine and Nacogdoches. It was built near the Native village of Nabedaches in late May, and given the name San Francisco de la Espada. First mass was held on June 1, 1690. Mission Santísimo Nombre de María was the second mission founded in the same year, located 6 miles northeast of the first mission. It was built to convert the local Native population, and consisted of a straw chapel and a house for the priest. It was destroyed by a flood in 1692. San Francisco de la Espada did not fare much better. During its first two years of existence, the mission had its crops destroyed by floodwaters and drought, and an attack from the local Natives, who were convinced that an epidemic that killed half of their population was caused by the missionaries. In October 1693, the missionaries buried the mission bell, burned the mission down and retreated back to New Spain. Similar to the De La Salle attempt at colonizing Tejas the first round went to the Natives. Colonization of Tejas was interrupted for the next two decades.

In 1699, the French built two forts alog the Gulf Coast, ending Spain's exclusive control of the Coast. These were Fort Maurepas (present-day town of Ocean Springs in Mississippi) and La Balize, which was abandonbed after destruction by a hurricane in 1740. The building of these forts made the Spanish recognize the fact that France could become a threat to other Spanish areas, and ordered the reoccupation of Texas as a buffer between New Spain and La Louisiane.

Spanish missions in present-day
Texas, 1659-1795
(click to enlarge).
The Spanish returned to the area of present-day East Texas in 1716, and reestablished the failed San Francisco mission. They built and a new mission, which they named Nuestro Padre San Francisco de los Tejas, and a presidio (military base) to protect it from Native attacks. The Spanish bigger aim was to form a buffer between Spanish Territory and the French colony to the east. At the same time, the French were building a fort in Natchitoches to establish a more westward presence of their own. The Spanish countered by founding two more missions just west of present-day Natchitoches, including San Miguel de los Adaes. These two missions were located in a disputed area: France claimed the Sabine River to be the western boundary of La Louisiane, while Spain claimed the Red River was the eastern boundary of Tejas, leaving an overlap of some 45 miles (72 km).

In 1718, the War of the Quadruple Alliance broke out in Europe. It was the result of the ambitions politics of King Philip V of Spain, his wife Elisabeth Farnese, and his chief minister Giulio Alberoni to retake territories in Italy and to claim the French throne. The war ended two years later in the defeat of Spain by an alliance of Britain, France, Austria, and the Dutch Republic. As usual, it spilled into the colonies. In June 1719, a group of seven Frenchmen from Natchitoches, took control of the mission of San Miguel de los Adaes, which was defended by a single Spaniard, who did not know the two countries happened to be at war. The French soldiers explained that 100 additional soldiers were coming, which caused the Spanish colonists, missionaries, and the remaining soldiers to abandon the settlement and flee to San Antonio de Bexar. The Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo volunteered to reconquer Los Adaes and raised an army of 500 soldiers. By July 1721, Aguayo's force reached the Neches River and encountered a French force that was en route to attack San Antonio. The outnumbered Frenchmen agreed to retreat back across the border to La Louisiane. Aguayo then ordered the building of a new fort, the Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Los Adaes, located near the present-day town of Robeline in Louisiana, only 12 miles from Natchitoches. The new fort became the first capital of Tejas, and was guarded by 6 cannon and 100 soldiers. A total of six missions were reopened under the protection of the new presidio.

In 1718, the city of San Antonio was founded as the first civilian settlement in Tejas. The decision to build a combined mission and presidio was made by the Viceroy of New Spain in 1716, as a strategic move to forestall any French expansion into the area La Louisiane. He directed Martín de Alarcón, the governor of the province of Coahuila y Tejas, to establish the mission complex. Construction started in 1718, when Fray Antonio de Olivares built, employing the Payaya Indians, the Misión de San Antonio de Valero (later famous as The Alamo), the Presidio San Antonio de Bexar, the bridge that connected both, and the Acequia Madre de Valero irrigation canal. In 1731, 15 families (56 persons) were sent by the King od Spain to join the military community established in 1718. The immigrants formed the nucleus of the villa of San Fernando de Béxar, the first regularly organized civil government in present-day Texas. Several old families of San Antonio trace their ancestry to the Canary Island colonists.

San Antonio was meant as a way station between the missions in East Texas and the nearest existing Spanish settlement. The Camino Real (present-day Nacogdoches Road) was built east to the small frontier town of Nacogdoches. San Antonio quickly became a target for raids by the Lipan Apache, which continued for almost three decades. The Spanish and the Apache made peace in 1749, which angered the enemies of the Apache and resulted in new raids by the Comanche, Tonkawa, and Hasinai tribes. Fear of Indian attacks and remoteness from the rest of New Spain discouraged settlers from moving to Tejas, causing it to remain one of the least populated provinces of New Spain.

Over time, the city of San Antonio became the home of several missions, including San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo). The Franciscan mission of Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, built in Matagorda Bay in 1722 to help protect the coast from the French, was later moved inland.

The Mission of Nuestro Padre San Francisco de los Tejas that was built in 1716 in East Texas was renamed Mission San Francisco de los Neches in 1721. In 1731, it was moved to San Antonio where it was renamed again Mission San Francisco de la Espada.

New France in 1718
Click to enlarge.
On this French map from 1718, the mission of Nuestro Padre San Francisco de los Tejas is seen plotted east of the Rivière de la Trinite (Trinity River). The French settlement of Natchitoches is seen on the west bank of the Rivière Rouge (Red River). It is incorrectly labeled as having been established in 1717 by de Bienville. Natchitoches was founded in 1714 by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. It is the oldest permanent European settlement on the Gulf Coast that was not ravaged by war, hurricanes, floods, disease or the Natives. This French settlement had two purposes: to establish trade with the New Spain, which by now stretched to Tejas, and at the same time deter Spanish advances into La Louisiane.

This map does not show a clear borer between La Louisiane and Tejas. The French considered the border to be along the Sabine River, while the Spanish considered their territory to extend to the Red River, to Natchitoches. The Sabine River was named in 1716 by Domingo Ramón as Río de Sabinas, and fors the current border between the present-day U.S. states of Louisiana and Texas. San antonio is not shown on this map as it was just being built when this map was drawn. The demolished settlement of De La Salle (Fort Francois) is shown west of Baye S. Louis ou S. Bernard (Matagorda Bay). The Mission de los Tejas etablie en 1716 is drawn near the Rivière de la Trinite (Trinity River), which is the Mission San Francisco de la Espada originally built in 1690, burned, then re-established in 1716, as Nuestro Padre San Francisco de los Tejas. San antonio is not drawn on the map yet, because it was being built at the same time this map was being drawn. However, the original settlemen of De La Salle is drawn west of Baye S. Louis ou S. Bernard (Matagorda Bay).

The map ends with the mouth of the Río Bravo. This is present-day Rio Grande River to the United States, and Río Bravo or Río Bravo del Norte to Mexico. Upriver is the fort of Presidio del Norte, present-day town of Presidio, Texas. The first Spaniards came to this area in 1535, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions stopped at the Native American pueblo, placed a cross on the mountainside, and called the village La Junta de las Cruces. In 1582, Antonio de Espejo and his company arrived at the site and called the pueblo San Juan Evangelista. On this french map, this is represented by the second line of the label (de S. Jean Bapt). By 1681, the area was being called La Junta de los Ríos (the Junction of the Rivers), after the Río del Norte (Rio Grande River) and Río Salado de Apaches de los Sierte Ríos (Rio Pecos). There were five Native towns along the Río del Norte north of the junction. In 1683, the chief of the Jumano nation thought he saw burning cross on the mountain over the settlemen, and requested that a mission be established at La Junta. The settlement in 1684 became known as La Navidad en Las Cruces. About 1760, a penal colony and military garrison of 60 men were established near Presidio. In 1830, the name of the area around Presidio was changed from La Junta de los Ríos to Presidio del Norte.

The Pecos River played a key role in the exploration of the West. In the latter half of the 19th century, the phrase "West of the Pecos" was a reference to the rugged frontiers of the Wild West.

El Paso del Norte (the present day Juárez), was founded on the south bank of the Río del Norte (Rio Grande River), in 1659 by Spanish conquistadors. In 1680, the small village of El Paso became the temporary base for Spanish governance of the territory of New Mexico as a result of the Pueblo Revolt, until 1692 when Santa Fe was reconquered and once again became the capital. El Paso remained the largest settlement in New Mexico until its cession to the US in 1848.

The area labeled Nouveau Mexique on the map is part of the present-day U.S. state of New Mexico. Along Río del Norte (Rio Grande River), the map shows S. Phelipe d'Albuquerque fondée en 1703, present-day Albuquerque. The name is in honor of Don Francisco Fernández de la Cueva y Enríquez de Cabrera, Duke of Alburquerque, and viceroy of New Spain from 1653 to 1660. Alburquerque is a village in the Extremadura region of Spain, near the Portuguese border. Alburquerque is a center of the Spanish cork industry. The name of city of Albuquerque in New Mexico employs the spelling of the Portuguese family name, with only one 'r'. Albuquerque was a farming community and strategically located military outpost along the Camino Real. The town was also the sheep-herding center of the West. Spain established a presidio (military base) in Albuquerque in 1706. The town of Alburquerque was built in the traditional Spanish village pattern: a central plaza surrounded by government buildings, homes, and a church.

In the northwest of the map, the settlement of S. Fé and the Native village of los taos are seen. Don Juan de Oñate led the first effort to colonize the region in 1598, establishing Santa Fe de Nuevo México as a province of New Spain. Under Juan de Oñate and his son, the capital of the province was the settlement of San Juan de los Caballeros north of present-day Santa Fe. The successive governor, Don Pedro de Peralta, founded a new city at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in 1607, which he called La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís (the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi). In 1610, he made it the capital of the province. It has remained that almost constantly, making it the oldest state capital in the United States, except for the years 1680–1692 during the Pueblo Revolt.

Spanish Texas (click to enlarge).
On this map of Tejas, the area of the present-day state is labeled as "Texas or New Phillipines". This is a reference of the present-day country of Phillipines having been part of New Spain at that time. The area between Río Coronado del Norte (Red River) Río Sabinas (Sabine River) is labeled as "the neutral grtound", because both New France and New Spain claimed that strip of land. The settlement of Los Adaes is seen about half way between the two rivers. Los Adaes was the capital of Tejas on the northeastern frontier of New Spain from 1729 to 1770. It included a mission (San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes), and a presidio (Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Los Adaes, Our Lady of Pilar of the Adaes). The site is located in the present-day Natchitoches Parish in Louisiana. The Camino real is shown connecting Los Adaes with San Fernando de Bexar (present-day San Antonio), and further west to the settlement of Presidio on Río del Norte (Rio Grande River). The area to the north was terra incognita: a dangerous land inhabitted, and controlled, by the Apache and Comanche.

Although the Spanish settlers in East Texas did not encounter hostile Natives, and the local Caddoan speaking peoples were friendly, the Franciscan missionaries were unsuccessful in converting the Natives to Catholicism. After several years of frustration, the College of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Zacatecas, which was the sponsor of the missionaries at Los Adaes, recalled their missionaries in 1768 and the mission was closed.

In 1763, as part of the Treaty of Fontainebleau following the Seven Years' War, France ceded the portion of La Louisiane west of the Mississippi River to Spain. With France no longer a threat to Spain's North American interests, the Spanish monarchy commissioned the Marquis de Rubi to inspect all of the presidios on the northern frontier of New Spain and make recommendations for the future. Rubi recommended that East Texas be totally abandoned, with all population moving to San Antonio. With New France history and most of La Louisiane under Spanish control, there was no need for Los Adaes to reside so closely to Natchitoches, especially after the missions had relocated to San Antonio. In August 1768, the acting governor, Juan María Vicencio, Baron de Ripperda, moved his headquarters and the garrison to San Antonio, and in 1772 San Antonio became the new capital of Tejas.

The 500 Spanish settlers who had lived in Los Adaes were ordered to resettle in San Antonio in 1773. In the six years between the inspection and the removal of the settlers, the population of East Texas Many of the settlers died during the three-month journey to San Antonio and others died soon after arriving. After vociferously protesting, the settlers were allowed to leave San Antonio the following year, but were not to travel further into East Texas than the Trinity River. In 1779, the Comanches began raiding San Antonio, and the former Los Adaes settlers chose to move further east to the old mission of Nacogdoches, where they founded the town of the same name. The new settlement quickly became a waystation for contraband.

New Mexico territory (click to enlarge).
This 1719 French map of the area of the present-day American Southwest (the states of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah and Colorado) shows the Río del Norte (Rio Grande River) as the main geographic feature, along which most colonization took place. The territory of Nouveau Mexique extended from Baja California across the Rocky Mountains to present-day Texas. Along the river, the settlements of El Paso, and the numerous missions up-river are seen: Nuestra Señora de Socorro, San Gregorio de Abo, San Esteban del Rey de Acoma, Santa Clara, etc. Some had been destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt, such as the Nuestra Señora de Socorro, but are still plotted on this later map. The capital city of Santa Fe is also seen. The Apacheria (Land of the Apache) covered the area along the Rio Grande River in present-day New Mexico.

During the Coronado expedition in 1540-1542, which failed to find the mystical Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, as described by Cabeza de Vaca who had just returned from his eight-year ordeal traveling from Florida to Mexico, Coronado and his supporters had sank a fortune in this ill-fated enterprise. The 1300 horses and mules they took on their two-year journey were highly likely the source of the horses that Plains Indians later adopted as the cornerstone of their culture. The Spanish returned some 50 years later, with Juan de Oñate leading 500 Spanish settlers and soldiers and 7,000 head of livestock, and founded the first Spanish settlement in 1598. The governor named the settlement San Juan de los Caballeros (Saint John of the Knights). The 700-mile long road called El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (The Royal Road of the Interior Land) connected the remote colony to the rest of New Spain. Oñate was made the first governor of the new province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México. The Natives revolted against the Spanish encroachment but faced severe suppression. The Spanish killed hundreds and brutally punished the survivors. Oñate's settlement proved to be vulnerable to Native raids. A later governor, Pedro de Peralta, moved the capital and established the settlement of Santa Fe in 1610 at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States. Peralta built the Palace of the Governors in 1610.

Franciscan missionaries came to New Mexico along with Oñate. A struggle gradually developed between the secular and religious authorities over who gets to use slave labor by the Natives, and how. In the 1650s, the clerics got the upper hand and had Governor Bernardo Lopez de Mendizabal and his subordinate Nicolas de Aguilar arrested, turned over to the Inquisition, tried for heresy in Mexico City, and sentenced to a public Auto-da-fé. The dissatisfaction with the rule of the clerics was the main cause of the Pueblo revolt. The Franciscan missionaries were imposing increasingly harsh punishments on the Natives, such as for practicing Native religion. Following his arrest on a charge of witchcraft and subsequent release, Popé planned and orchestrated the Pueblo Revolt. Popé moved to Taos after being freed and started the revolt on August 13, 1680. The Spanish were driven from all but the southern portion of the territory, and had to establish a temporary capital at El Paso, while making preparations to reconquer the province.

The retreat of the Spaniards left New Mexico in the power of the Indians. Under penalty of death, Popé ordered the Natives to burn or destroy crosses and other religious imagery, as well as any other vestige of the Catholic religion and Spanish culture, including Spanish livestock and fruit trees. He forbade the planting of wheat and barley, and ordered those who had been married according to the rites of the Catholic Church to dismiss their wives and to take others after the old native tradition. Popé set himself up in the Governor’s Palace as ruler of the Pueblos and collected tribute from the each Pueblo until his death in 1688. Following his death, separated by hundreds of miles and six different languages, the Pueblos quarreled as to who would rule over the country. These power struggles, combined with raids from nomadic tribes and a seven-year drought, weakened the Pueblo resolve and set the stage for a Spanish reconquest. In July 1692, Diego de Vargas led Spanish forces that surrounded to Santa Fe called on the Indians to surrender, promising clemency if they would swear allegiance to the King of Spain and return to the Christian faith. The Indian leaders and agreed to peace. While their independence from the Spaniards was short-lived, the Pueblo Revolt granted the Pueblo Indians a measure of freedom from future Spanish efforts to eradicate their culture and religion following the reconquest. Moreover, the Spanish issued substantial land grants to each Pueblo and appointed a public defender to protect the rights of the Indians and argue their legal cases in the Spanish courts.

While developing Santa Fe as a trade center, the returning settlers founded the old town of Albuquerque in 1706, naming for the viceroy of New Spain. They constructed the Iglesia de San Felipe Neri (1706).

After the Pueblo revolt, the most serious threat to the colony of Santa Fe de Nuevo México came from the Comanche. From the 1750s to the 1850s, the Comanches were the dominant group in the Southwest, and the domain they ruled was known as Comancheria. The Comanches used their Native warrior skills to obtain supplies and labor from the Americans, Mexicans, and Indians through theft, robbery and kidnappings. In 1706, the Comanche first came to the attention of the colonists of New Mexico, and by 1719 were raiding the colony as well as the other Indian tribes. The other tribes had primarily raided for plunder, but the Comanche introduced a new level of violence to the conflict in that other Indians were among their victims. The Comanche were pure nomads, well mounted by the 1730s, adn therefore more elusive and mobile than the semi-nomadic Apache and Navajo. The Comanche both raided and traded with the colonists. By the 1770s, the Comanche threatened the survival of the colony, stripping it of horses, forcing the abandonment of many settlements, and killings. Punitive expeditions by the Spanish and their Native allies were usually ineffective until 1779 when a force of 560 men, composed of Spanish and Pueblo Indians, led by Juan Bautista de Anza, surprised a Comanche village near present-day Pueblo, Colorado and killed the most prominent of the Comanche war leaders, Cuerno Verde (Green Horn). The Comanche subsequently sued for peace with the colony, and joined the colonists in expedition against their common enemy, the Apache. Subsequently, the Comanche turned their attention to raiding Spanish settlements in Tejas and northern Mexico. The peace between the colony of Santa Fe de Nuevo México and the Comanche lasted until the American conquest of the province in 1846.

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New Spain at its peak

New Spain in 1650.

New Spain at its largest in 1795.
At its greatest extent, at the end of the 18th century after the Seven Years' War, New Spain included all of present-day Mexico, all of Central America except Panama, most of the present-day United States west of the Mississippi River, and Florida. The individual administrative units composing the Viceroyalty consisted of Kingdoms, Intendancies, Captaincies and Territories:

  • Nueva Galicia (1530) - named after the province of Galicia in northwestern Spain, the territory of Nueva Galicia covered the present-day Mexican states of Aguascalientes, Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit and Zacatecas
  • Kingdom of Guatemala (1524) - "place of many trees", a translation the Tlaxcaltecan soldiers who accompanied Pedro de Alvarado during the Spanish Conquest gave to this territory; covering present-day Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica; from 1609 a Captaincy
  • Nueva Vizcaya (1786) - (Engl. "New Biscay"), also known as Intendencia de Durango, covering present-day Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango
  • Nuevo Reino de León (1569) (Engl. "New Kingdom of León") - present-day Mexican state of Nuevo León
  • Filipinas (15765) - a Captgaincy named after King Philip II of Spain; present-day Philippines plus various Pacific Island possessions, such as the Caroline Islands and Guam
  • Nuevo Santander (1746) - present-day Mexican state of Tamaulipas and southern Texas, named after port city of Santander in northern Spain
  • Cuba (1510) - present-day Cuba, first governed from Santo Domingo, in 1607 becoming a Captaincy of its own, in 1764 elevated to a Captaincy General that included the Louisiana Territory acquired from France in 1763 and Florida after 1784.
  • La Florida (1513) - present-day state of Florida with capital in St. Augustine
  • Puerto Rico (1580) - present-day Puerto Rico, since 1580 a Captaincy, previously administered from Santo Domingo
  • Hispaniola (1493) - present-day Haiti and Dominican Republic, with Santo Domingo (1498) the oldest European city in the Americas; the springboard for the further Spanish conquest of America and for decades the headquarters of Spanish power in the hemisphere.
  • Yucatán (1617) - a Captaincy covering the present-day Yucatán peninsula in Mexico, previously ruled directly by a simple governor under the jurisdiction of Audiencia of Mexico
  • Las Californias northwestern territory of New Spain
    • Vieja California consisting of present-day Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur
    • Nueva California, consisting first of a narrow strip along the Pacific coast of the present-day U.S. state of California, later expanding to include all of present-day California and parts of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado, south Wyoming and even western Texas.
    • Santa Fe de Nuevo México, (Engl. "Holy Faith of New Mexico"), 1598 - centered on the upper valley of the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte), covering the present-day U.S. state of New Mexico and extending into the present-day west Texas, southern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, and Oklahoma, with Santa Fe as the capital
    • Nueva Extremadura (1674) - named after the province of Extremadura in western Spain, Nueva Extremadura covered; present-day states of Coahuila and Texas, bordered New France along the Sabine River, which forms the present-day border Louisiana and Texas.
    • Intendencia de Sonora (1691) - covering present-day Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa

Present-day Panama belonged also to Spain, but under the Viceoyalty of Peru.

It was the Provincias Internas, also known as Captaincy General of Internal Provinces, or Commandancy General of the Internal Provinces of the North, created in 1776 to provide more autonomy for the frontier provinces in the Viceroyalty of New Spain, present day northern Mexico and southwestern United States.

Catedral Metropolitana
de la Asunción de María,
Mexico City.
The capital of New Spain was Mexico City, formerly Tenochtitlan, the conquered capital of the Aztec Empire. It was ruled by a viceroy, governing the various territories on behalf of the King of Spain. Official language was Spanish and official religion Roman Catholicism. The legislative unit was the Royal and Supreme Council of the Indies (Real y Supremo Consejo de Indias).

Colonization of the Americas in 1750 (click to enlarge).
If New Spain seems large, it was by far not all of Spain's vast colonial empire in the Americas. The Viceroyalty of Peru was created following the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire in 1542. In the 18th century, Spain added two more Viceroyalties: New Granada and Río de la Plata.

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English (Later British) Colonies

Renaissance England

And Britain? Until the Seven Years' War Britain was a minor player in terms of territory, but ambitious and able to find way to finance colonial development, perhaps better than France did. Most of the English colonies established in North America and the West Indies, whether successful or otherwise, were proprietary colonies with Proprietors, appointed to found and govern settlements under mercantile charters granted to joint stock companies.

In Renaissance England, wealthy merchants, eager to find investment opportunities, established a number of companies set up to trade in various parts of the world. Each company was made up of individuals who purchased shares of company stock, and was given by the Crown a monopoly to explore, trade or settle a particular region of the world. Profits were shared among the investors according to the amount of stock they owned. Between 1585 and 1630, more than 6,300 English invested in joint stock companies trading with Russia, Turkey, Africa, the East Indies, the Mediterranean and America. Early examples of these are the Virginia Company, which created the first successful English overseas settlements at Jamestown in 1607 and Bermuda, unofficially in 1609 and officially in 1612, its spin-off, the Somers Isles Company, to which Bermuda (also known as the Somers Isles) was transferred in 1615, and the Newfoundland Company which settled Cuper's Cove near St. John's, Newfoundland in 1610. Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts Bay were also charter colonies.

King James grants.
In 1606 King James I of England chartered the The Virginia Company, a joint stock company with the purposes of establishing settlements on the coast of North America and return profit back to England. The charter granted land to two branches of the Company: the "Virginia Company of London" (or the London Company) and the "Virginia Company of Plymouth" (or Plymouth Company). Both operated with identical charters but over differing territories. The territory granted to the London Company covered the coast from the 34th parallel (Cape Fear) to the 41st parallel (in Long Island Sound). The territory granted to the Plymouth Company covered the coast between the 38th and 45th parallels (roughly between the upper reaches of the Chesapeake Bay and the present-day U.S.-Canada border). An area of overlapping territory existed, within which the two companies were not permitted to establish colonies within 100 miles of each other. The Plymouth Company never fulfilled its charter, and its territory that later became New England was at that time also claimed by the English government.

Britain also claimed the vast stretches of northwest Canada, a cold, rugged and remote territory that was of little use before oil exploration because important in the 20th century. For all practical purposes, Britain was limited to having a narrow strip of several relatively small colonies nested along the Atlantic coast, confied to between the Appalachian Mountains and the coast. However, the English colonies were relatively populous and wealthy, compared to the French colonies in Canada, which for a long time suffered from under-population. For the first few decades, the French population of the colony of Canada numbered only a few hundred, and was still only 3215 in 1666, while the combined population of the English colonies in 1670 was was over 110,000 (figures from the Bureau of the Census, U.S. Dept. of Commerce). Under-population was a long-term problem in New France.

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Southern Colonies

Southern colonies
(click to enlarge).
These are the oldest permanent English colonial holdings in the Americas. They cover the present-day U.S. states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and southern New Jersey.

In 1584, Queen Elizabeth I (the "Virgin Queen") granted Sir Walter Raleigh a charter for the colonization of an area of North America which was to be called "Virginia" in her honor. The purpose of the colony was two-fold: provide riches from the New World for England, and establish a base, from which to send privateers on raids against Spanish fleers, to rob them of their riches from the New World. As with most other upstarts in the New World, Spanish, French or English alike, the colony had a rough beginning and existed briefly during the 16th century, but then continuously from 1607 until the American Revolution. In 1607, Jamestown was founded by the Virginia Company on the northern side of the James River, one of the estuaries leading from the east to the larger estuary of the Chesapeake Bay. Famine, disease and conflicts with local Natives during the first two years brought Jamestown to the brink of failure before the arrival of a new group of settlers and supplies in 1610. Jamestown does remain the first permanent English settlement in North America.

Virginia Colony in 1650
(click to enlarge).
The Virginia Colony grew to cover both sides of the Chesapeake Bay. In the west, the boundary were the Appalachian Mountains. Interestingly, the geographic perception of the English at the time, was that the Pacific Ocean lay just to the west of the Appalachians! The 1650 mapping prepared by the Virginia Company shows the geography as seen at the time. The map is based on an older map by John Smith. The view is from the east (north is to the right0 and the map covers the east coast from present-day Jacksonville, North Carolina, to New York City. It shows fairly accurate mapping of the Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding estuaries all the way south to Cape Hatteras; it shows the location of James Towne, the southern portion of the colony called Carolana, the Plantation of Lord Baltimore. It starts to fall short in areas that were not completely explored and mapped by the English at the time. For example the Hudson river is shown connecting to the St. Lawrence River, leading to A Mighty great Lake. It correctly annotates the 1579 landing of Sir Francis Drake on the west coast of present-day California (on the map annotated as 1577), in Drakes Bay on the peninsula of present-day Point Reyes north of San Francisco, and declaring it Nova Albion (New Britain). This may have led the English not to push for further exploration beyond the Appalachians, because Drake has already declared everything west of the mountains Nova Albion, and Virginia covered everything east of the mountains. Obviously, there was the whole Mississippi River Valey, and the Rockies, yet to be discovered (taken from the Natives) and claimed in the heavenly glory of the respective king or queen. New France existed at that time only in the north, in the form of the colonies of Canada and l'Acadie. At the beginning, New France was severely under-populated. After all, in 1666, the population of the colony of Canada was still only 3215! The expedition of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, which resulted in his claiming the whole Mississippi River basin for France and naming it La Louisiane after King Louis XIV, did not take place until 1682. In 1650, the entire future territory of La Louisiane, the most fertile part of the entire North American continent, was still to be had!

New France in 1653, showing
the location of Virginia Colony
(click to enlarge).
In comparison, the French, who by the 1650s controlled the St. Lawrence River valley, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and began the exploration of the Great Lakes region, had a much better knowledge of the river system of the St. Lawrence and of the Hudson. They had a fairly good perception of the coastline down to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, but did not map the coast \ south of there. They did recognize there was a colony called Virgine and a territory caleld Floride south of there, and that Virgine ended roughly at the Appalachian Mountains, which they called Apalachi Montes. The French did know that the Pacific Ocean did not start just at the western doorsteps of Virgine.

1657 French map, showing
the location of Virginia Colony,
Floride and the southern border of
Nouvelle France (click to enlarge).
A 1657 French map shows fairly accurately what was happening west and southwest of the English colony of Virginie. They claimed they area starting at the Appalachian mountains, Lake Erie, all to the west to the Rocky Mountains as Canada or Nouvelle France. South of Virginie, the map still shows La Floride Françoise, covering approximately the present-day U.S. states of Georgia and northern Florida,. La Floride Françoise was an unssuccessful French colony established French Huguenots that existed between 1562 and 1565. It was wiped out by the Spanish in 1565 and all Huguenots were beheaded. The French returned in 1568, massacred the Spanish garrison in retaliation, but he did not re-establish a French colony. The only remaining settlement is Fort Caroline, present-day Jacksonville, Florida. Had they done so, the present-day U.S. state of Georgia could have had a French heritage as much as the state of Louisiana does.

More interestingly, the map shows the relationship of the Virginia Colony to New France and to the future French colony of la Louisiane. At the time the map was drawn, the territory was understood by the French to be Spanish and called Floride Espagnole. The Mississippi River was called Rio de Spiritu Santo. The only Spanish settlement shown was St. Augustino (San Agustín in Spanish) on the Atlantic coast of the present-day U.S. state of Florida, which bad been established 100 years before in 1565. There were no other Spanish (or French) settlements shown, only Native names such as Tascalusa. Fort Louis de la Louisiane (Mobile) and La Nouvelle-Orléans would not be founded for another 50 years.

In 1624, the Virginia Company's charter was revoked by King James I and the Virginia Colony was transferred to royal authority as a crown colony.

British colonies prior to 1763
(click to enlarge).
In the mid 17th century, after the English Civil War, the Virginia Colony was nicknamed "The Old Dominion", King Charles II for its perceived loyalty to the English monarchy. Tobacco became Virginia's first profitable export, the production of which had a significant impact on the society and settlement patterns. Duering this time, the British obviously no longer thought the Pacific Ocean lay just to the west of the Appalachian Mountains, but recognized that area as either French territory or Indian country. Before the Seven Years' War, The original Virginia Colony was split into the colonies of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia proper and Maryland. The Appalachians still remained as its western border.

North America before
the Seven Years' War.

North America after
the Seven Years' War.
The British colonial territory expanded greatly following the Seven Years' War. The British Empire effectively emerged as the victor from the war and completely changed the balance of power in the New World! It strengthened its colonial position through the 1763 Treaty of Paris and confirmed its status as a new globally dominant colonial power. The treaty ended the Vice-royauté de Nouvelle-France and divided it between Britain and Spain. The British colonies were now allowed to claim all of the french posessions westward up to the Mississippi river. Since 1711, British territory had already included Rupert's Land (the region around Hudson Bay) and the Nova Scotia part of the former French colony of l'Acadie, but now added the entire French colony of Canada as well as the remaining portion of l'Acadie, plus any French claims in Newfoundland. Britain was on top of the world at this time! ... or so they thought

England became Britain in 1707, by the union of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. Between the years 1702 and 1760, there had been four rulers, Queen Anne, King George I, King George II, and King George III, wach of whom imposed a different direction of foreign affairs. At the same time, New France and New Spain continued to explore and expand their wealth and power, and were gaining strength. Naturally, both were at odds with Britain. Throughout the English colonies, colonists had basically been left alone by the gopvernmant back in London, as long as they remained profitable. This basically allowed, or forced, the colonists to govern themselves, creating a sense of unity and self-reliance. The colonists, while respecting Britain as the "Mother country" and head of the Empire, they looked to her less and less for guidance and direction. The English colonists were very conscious of claiming their rights as "free-born Englishmen." If they left England to set up a new life for themselves or escape religious persecution, they felt strongly about maintaining that degree of independence. They would have also brought with them from England the emphasis on individual freedom against tyranny, gained during the era of the English Civil War. The problem with such a degree of self-sufficiency was that when the British government did step in, clashes erupted over ruling rights and culture differences.

The British win in the Seven Years' War came at a price: a national debt of £137 million, with over half of the government budget going towards interest payments. The solution? Incease tax collection: revamp and more aggressively collect existing tariffs on imports and exports in America. The collection of such customs duties had been in place on paper since 1733. But in America, the status quo had always been that the duties existed on paper, not in reality, and the colonists were naturally happy to see them remain there. They had a view the British Parliament did not have sovereignty over, including new taxation acts. King George III enacted several duties in the form of taxes: the Sugar Act, the Currency Act, the Quartering Act, and the Stamp Act. The friction and conflicts that had been brewing within the British colonies over several decades, coupled with these new taxes, started riots and smalls skirmishes, such as the Boston Massacre of 1770 or the Boston Tea Party in 1773. In 1775, the colonists began to take matters in their own hands.

The Colony of Virginia declared independence from Britain in 1775 and became known as the Commonwealth of Virginia, before the United States Declaration of Independence was officially adopted. It became a U.S. state in 1788 (as the 10th state to join). The states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, and portions of Ohio and Western Pennsylvania were all later created from the territory encompassed earlier by the Colony of Virginia.

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Middle Colonies

Middle colonies
(click to enlarge).
The Middle Colonies comprise the present-day U.S. states of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The first to settle this area were the Swedes in 1638, and establish the colony of Nya Sverige (New Sweden). Following a generally good performance in the Thirty Years' War, Sweden had reached its greatest territorial extent by the middle of the 17th century and became one of the great powers of Europe. Sweden then included Finland and Estonia, part of present-day Russia, Poland, Germany and Latvia. Sweden sought to expand it influence in the colonial arena, by creating a tobacco- and fur-trading colony of its own, to bypass French and English merchants. New Sweden was a colony along the lower part of the Delaware River between 1638 and 1655, in the present-day U.S. states of Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Fort Christina (present-day Wilmington, Delaware) was the first settlement. Along with Swedes and Finns, a number of the settlers were Dutch.

New Sweden and New Holland.
New Sweden was conquered by the Dutch in 1655, during the Second Northern War, and incorporated into the Dutch colony of Nieuw Nederland (New Holland). New Holland was a colony along the Hudson River belonging to the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, otherwise known as the Dutch Republic. The 17th century was known in the Netherlands as the "Dutch Golden Age". Europe was undergoing expansive social, cultural, and economic growth, owing greatly to the expansion of overseas colonial empires and global trade, an early version of Globalization one could say. Nations competed for domination of lucrative trade routes across the globe, particularly to Asia. In the Americas, the English had a settlement at Jamestown, the French had a small settlements at Port-Royal and Québec, and the Spanish were developing colonies to develop trade in South America and the Caribbean. In 1609, Henry Hudson, an English sea captain and explorer hired by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) basedin in Amsterdam, sailed to find the fabled Northeast Passage to Asia. Turned back by the ice of the Arctic in his second attempt, he sailed west to seek a northwest passage rather than return to Amsterdam, and ended up exploring the waters off the east coast of North America. His first landfall was at Newfoundland and the second at Cape Cod. Believing the passage to the Pacific ocean was between the St. Lawrence River and Chesapeake Bay, Hudson sailed, he first discovered Delaware Bay and began to sail upriver looking for the passage. Unsuccessful, he continued north along the coast. After passing Sandy Hook, Hudson and his crew entered the narrows into the Upper New York Bay. Unbeknownst to Hudson, the narrows had already been discovered in 1524 by the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano working for King Francis I of France. Believing he may have found the continental water route, Hudson sailed up the major river which would later bear his name up to present-day Albany, where the water became too shallow to proceed.

New Holland in 1614
(click to enlarge).
Upon returning to the Netherlands, Hudson reported having found a fertile land and friendly people willing to engage trade. His report stimulated interest in exploiting this new trade resource, and was the catalyst for Dutch merchant-traders to fund more expeditions. More expeditions soon followed. In 1611–1612two covert expeditions were sent from Amsterdam to find the passage to China. In four voyages made between 1611 and 1614, the area between present-day U.S. states of Maryland and Massachusetts was explored, surveyed, and charted. The 1614 map based on Adriaen Block's 1614 used for the first time the name Nieuw Nederland. On maps, it was also called Nova Belgica. On the map based on Adriaen Block's 1614 expedition, the coastline is mapped if a fair amount of detail from the St. Lawrence river (labeled De Groote Revier van Canada) to the English colony of Virginia, with the most amount of atention paid to the Hudson River, New York Bay and Long Island areas.

The main interest of the Dutch was the fur trade, same as with the French in the north. They cultivated close relations with the Five Nations of the Iroquois. Over time, to attract settlers to the region of the Hudson River, the Dutch encouraged a kind of feudal aristocracy in what became known as the system of the Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions. Further south, a Swedish trading company that had ties with the Dutch tried to establish its first settlement along the Delaware River three years later. Without resources to consolidate its position, New Sweden was gradually absorbed by New Holland and later in Pennsylvania and Delaware. The earliest major settlement was a fort at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers in present-day Albany in 1617. In 1624 New Netherland became a province of the Dutch Republic. The northern border was moved to 42 degrees latitude in acknowledgment of the claim by the English north of Cape Cod. In 1626, Peter Minuit became Director of the New Netherland, and made the decision to build the capital of the colony on the island of Manhattan, and named it Fort Amsterdam. The port city outside the walls of the fort, New Amsterdam, would become a major hub for trade between North America, the Caribbean and Europe. Sanctioned privateering would contribute to its growth. When given its municipal charter in 1653, the Commonality of New Amsterdam included the isle of Manhattan, Staaten Eylandt, Pavonia and the Lange Eylandt towns.

New Netherlanders were not necessarily Dutch, and New Netherland was never a homogeneous society. An early governor, Peter Minuit, was a German-born Walloon who spoke English and worked for a Dutch company. The term New Netherland Dutch generally includes all the Europeans who came to live there, but may also refer to Africans, Indo-Caribbeans, South Americans and even the Native Americans who were integral to the society. Though Dutch was the official language, it was but one of many spoken there.

New Holland became an English colony in 1664, following several changes of control. First, in March 1664, Charles II of England resolved to annex New Netherland and “bring all his Kingdoms under one form of government, both in church and state, and to install the Anglican government as in old England”. The directors of the Dutch West India Company handed over control that same year. In 1673, during the the Third Anglo-Dutch Warm, the Dutch recaptured New Netherland, but after the conclusion of the war, the republic found itself financially bankrupt, and ceeded New Netherland to England under the Treaty of Westminster.

Middle colonies
(click to enlarge).
With the English in control, they renamed Nieuw Nederland to be "New York" after the Duke of York, James Stuart who later became King James II, the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England and Scotland and Ireland. The colony was split into the Province of New York and the Province of Pennsylvania. King Charles II, the brother of the Duke of York, renamed the land west of the Hudson River "New Jersey" and gave the region between New England and Maryland to his brother as a proprietary colony. Other people who received grants in the form of a proprietary colony were William Penn in 1681, who received Pennsylvania as payment for a debt the crown owed his family. Demarcated by the 42nd parallel north and 39th parallel north, the Province of Pennsylvania was bordered by the Delaware River and the the province of New York, Maryland, and New Jersey. The publication of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 by locally-elected revolutionaries concluded the history of the colony, and began the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Province of New Jersey enacted the New Jersey State Constitution in 1776, soon after having empowered delegates to the Continental Congress to join in a declaration of independence. The United States Declaration of Independence ended the colonial status of New Jersey. In the Province of New York, the New York Provincial Congress was formed in April 1775 to replace the assembly. Colonial status ended with the United States Declaration of Independence in July 1776.

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New England Colonies

New England colonies
(click to enlarge).
To bring the North American colonial story a full circle and end where we started, namely northeastern North America, what remains is to talk about the northern English colonies, known as New England. The region covers the present-day U.S. states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine.

King James grants.
The Plymouth Company, chartered by King James I in 1606, covered the coast between the 38th and 45th parallels (roughly between the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay and the present-day U.S.-Canada border). In teh southm, an area of overlapping territory existed with the London Company, which operated the Virginia colony. Within the overlap, the two companies were not permitted to establish colonies within 100 miles of each other.

In 1607, about the same time as the Jamestown colonization, a group of English colonists attempted to establish a colony in present-day U.S. state of Maine. It was named the Popham Colony (Fort St. George), but lasted for approximately a year before it was abandoned, with the settlers returning to England. The Plymouth Company became inactive. In 1616, the English explorer John Smith named the region "New England". The Plymouth Company never fulfilled its charter. In 1620, the charter of the Plymouth Company was replaced by a royal charter for the Plymouth Council for New England. This successor joint-stock company was established to continue to colonize and govern the region, but it also officially sanctioned the name "New England". The new eventually succeed in establishing its first permanent settlement in Plymouth, in the present-day U.S. state of Massachusetts in 1620. It was founded by a group of religious separatists known in American history as "The Pilgrims".

The story of the Pilgrims is deeply rooted in American culture, almost sacred, and obviously very well known to all Americans. It is also about as embellished by various myths and legends as the story of the Forefather Boemus (Praotec Čech), leading the Slavic tribe of the Czechs to top of Mount Říp. There are many candidates for myth creation in America, including stories about Columbus, Washington, or Elvis, but the story of the Pilgrims is the most important. Not only do all Americans celebrate it every year on Thanksgiving Day, it has all the elements of a good movie: dissidents fleeing persecution, underdogs pulling themselved by their bootstraps and striking it good, people from different cultures working together, etc.

Among the 102 passengers on the Mayflower there were 41 members of a Christian separatist sect calling themselves "Puritans". Without sounding too iconoclastic, in today's terms, one could call them religious extremists. After having been kicked out the Church Of England, they migrated to Holland and became known otherwise as the "Leiden Group", after the Dutch city of Leiden located between Amsterdam and Den Haag. The first myth to be dispelled is that they fleeing religious prosecution in Europe. In reality, the Netherlands were a haven of free thought and religious expression already in the early 17th century. This is well documented by people such as Jan Comenius, a Czech protestant priest, teacher, educator and writer, who was forced into exile by the Catholic Church at the onset of the Thirty Years' War and ended up settling in The Netherlands at the end of his life. If a person like Comenius, who had genuine reasons to fear for his life because of his writings, could find a safe haven from Catholic persecution in The Netherlands, surely a much less persecuted group of English religious refugees could too! The Pilgrims' decision to migrate to America must have been driven either by the irresistible urge to proselytize and impose their form of faith on the "non-believer savages", or simply by economic reasons, or both.

A 2006 History Channel documentary called "Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower" seems to do a good job of depicting the real story of the Pilgrims. The traditional story of the Pilgrims is that they were simple Christians, persecuted in England. That is true to an extent, but it is also true that they were considered fanatics by the Church of England and by a good portion of the English society. The Puritans were a group of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries, who saw the Catholic Church as the arch-enemy of their version of Christianity, and the Church of England as not having been reformed enough. They advocated a complete purity of worship and doctrine. Their beliefs included the banning of Christmas celebrations, festivities on Saturday nights, gambling, drama theater, extramarital sex and stain-glass windows in churches. Alcohol was allowed but the practice of individuals toasting each other was not, on the ground that it led to wasting God's gift of beer and wine, as well as being carnal.

The second myth is that the Mayflower was an exclusively Pilgrim ship. In fact, of the 102 passengers aboard, only 41 belonged to the Leiden Pilgrims. The Pilgrims did hire (or own) another ship, the Speedwell, which was to accompany the Mayflower in the crossing and also provide a way back home to Europe in case things did not go well in America. The Speedwell suffered structural damage at the beginning of the crossing and proved unseaworthy. The small fleet turned back several times to try to repair the Speedwell, but in the end the Speedwell had to be left behind. This delayed the intended spring departure. The speedwell passengers and cargo were transfered onto the larger Mayflower and the journey finally began in the fall. The Mayflower was an old aging bucket by 1620. She was a typical English cargo ship of the early 17th century. Nathaniel Philbrick describes her in Mayflower In the Heart of the Sea as follows:
"square rigged and beak bowed, with high, castlelike superstructures fore and aft that ... made beating against the wind a painfully inefficient endeavor. Rated at 180 tons, she was approximately three times the size of the Speedwell and about one hundred feet in length.
The tall superstructures were the direct cause of the voyage taking over two months. She was also a cargo ship, not a passenger vessel. One can imagine the primitive conditions in the 5-foot-tall cargo hold, where 102 people had to survive with not toilets, and rudimentary buckets to vomit into due to the pervasive sea sickness. Seemingly the only good thing aboard the Mayflower was the 1-gallon-a-day ration of beer, as drinking water at the time was generally undrinkable. The Mayflower finally finally set sail for the crossing in September, during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season and generally the the best time to sail from Europe to America. Suffice to say that the non-sailor passengers suffered greatly during the crossing. One passenger and one sailor died, and one stillborn baby was born.

Nevertheless, they arrived. anchored at Cape Cod, in an area of the present-day U.S. state of Massachusetts. Before they set foot onshore they signed an agreement called the "Mayflower Compact", which set out rules for running the colony, for their "better ordering and preservation". They agreed to "enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws ... as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony." It was a secular covenant consented to by its signatories providing for a voluntary government, but one that would still be agreeable to the laws of England." The Mayflower Compact is generally seen today as something akin to the foundation of future American democracy, but it is more proper to see it for what it was: an English legal document rooted in the principles of 17-century English Renaissance and mercantillism. It should not be seen as having been created out of noble democratic principles.

When they did come ashore, they spent a month to explore the area around Cape Cod, rather than quickly building a camp to get them through the first winter. Finally, on December 21, they decided on a location near Plymouth Harbor, which they named Plymouth. Nearly half of the colonists and crew of the Mayflower (which had to stay the winter because it needed repairs), died from illnesses during the first winter as they struggled to build their settlement. This is a typical story of countless other colonial settlements set up by the English, Spanish or French in the New World: they are started out from incredibly primitive and dangerous conditions, which often involved famine, disease, harsh weather and war. Some made it but countless did not.

The next year, the settlers fared better. By the end of the harvest season, they were better supplied and better prepared. The tradition of Thanksgiving itself, perhaps the best-known event associated with the Pilgrims, is often seen in moder-day United States as a feast with religious connotations, in which the Pilgrims give thanks to God for surviving the past year. More likely, the feast started as an end-of-harvest celebration, an Oktoberfest of sorts. According to records (or legend), the local Natives, the Wampanoag, showed up with 90 warriors and an unknown number of women and children for a three day feast. The way the documentary describes the first Thanksgiving feast, for the Natives, it was absolutely normal for allies and kin to come unannounced, party, eat everything in sight and leave. But at the same time, to the natives this was how kin treated one another.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony, which would come to dominate the area, was established by royal charter in 1629. The colony was founded by the Massachusetts Bay Company. About 20,000 people migrated to New England during the 1630s. The population was strongly Puritan, and the colony was subsequently governed by Puritan religious leaders. Although its governors were elected, voting right were only given to those who had been examined for their religious views and formally admitted to their church. (A bit like the unanimous votes in the Soviet Politburo, where people were admitted only if they had been brainwashed into being loyal Communists.) As a consequence, the colonial leadership exhibited intolerance to other religious views.

The town and port of Boston was established in 1630. The colony was economically successful, trading with England and the West Indies. A shortage of hard currency in the colony prompted it to establish a mint in 1652. Political differences with England after the English Restoration led to the revocation of the colonial charter in 1684. King James II established the Dominion of New England in 1686 to bring all of the New England colonies under firmer control under the Crown. The dominion collapsed after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 deposed James, and the colony reverted to rule under the revoked charter until 1692, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony were combined into the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

The infamous Salem witch trials took place between 1692 and 1693. One of the pet beliefs of the Puritans was witchcraft. The Puritan-dominated government persecuted people accused of witchcraft, resulting in the executions of twenty people, mostly women. The person behind this was one Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister from Boston's North Church.

The Province of Massachusetts Bay existed as a crown colony until 1776, and included the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Plymouth Colony, and the Provinces of Maine, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Therein lay the problem: the peninsula of Nova Scotia was part of the French colony of l'Acadie and a part of the island of Newfoundland was also claimed by France.

The colony of l'Acadie
click to enlarge.
L'Acadie was France's second colony in North America, formed in 1604, following the establishment of the colony of Canada. It covered the peninsulas of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Île-Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island), Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), and the northeastern part of the present-day U.S. state of Maine as far south as the Kennebec River. The first, unsuccessful, French settlement in the area had been established in 1604, well before King James I chartered The Plymouth Company in 1606. The settlement was on the island of St. Croix, a small uninhabited island in the present-day U.S. state of Maine, located near the mouth of the Saint Croix River. The colony was moved in the following year and re-established

at Port-Royal on the edge of the Bay of Fundy on the northern shore of present-day Nova Scotia. The colony of l'Acadie struggled but a turning point took place in 1610 when the French returned to Port-Royal with a small expedition, promptly converted the local natives to Catholicism, in an attempt to gain financial assistance from the French government. As a result, the Jesuits became financial partners in the colony. With the English and the French so close, and with the Puritans and the Catholics so close, wars would not be very far. In 1613 the settlement was attacked by Samuel Argall, an English adventurer and naval officer, from the Virginia Colony. Argall returned in November that same year and burned the French settlement to the ground. Port-Royal was re-established a second time, on the south bank of the river 5 miles upstream. It would be renamed as Annapolis Royal following the successful British conquest of Acadia in 1710.

Acadia after the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).
Over seventy-four years there were six colonial wars, in which English and later British interests tried to capture Port-Royal, starting with King William's War in 1689 and culminating in the 1710 Siege of Port-Royal. The situation would be finally resolved in 1713, when most of l'Acadie was ceeded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht. After that, the French had their turn during the following fifty years and made six unsuccessful military attempts to regain Annapolis Royal. In total, including a raid by Americans in the American Revolution, Port-Royal/Annapolis Royal faced a total of 13 attacks during its history.

The conquest of l'Acadie cost Britain dearly. With the creasury empty, the colony had issued paper currency, whose value was constantly in decline, leading to financial crises. Financial problems, raids by the Natives against frontier communities, and colonial wars defined the first half of the 18th century. The Dummer's War (1722-1725) was purely a colonial affair pitting the New England colonies against the Natives. King George's War (1744–1748) was a tran-Atlantic war known in Europe as the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748). It was the third of the four French and Indian Wars.

More war followed in 1754, when the last French And Indian War broke out (Seven Years' War in Europe). The English victory and the resulting Treaty of Paris in 1763 were defining moments for the British in North America. Britain greatly expanded its colonial holdings throughout North America at the expanse of New France, which was dismantled by the treaty. Britain gained the colony of Canada, the remained of Acadia, which they did not get in 1713, and any French territorial claims on Newfoundland. But, the victory came at a price: mounting national debt by the government in London, forcing it to revamp its tax collection measures in the colonies. The 1760s and early 1770s were marked by a rising tide of colonial frustration with London's colonial policies, and with the governors sent to implement and enforce them, notably the Parliament's attempts to impose taxes on the colonies without representation. Violence soon followed in the form of the Boston Massacre in 1770. The Boston Tea Party was a political protest in 1773, where demonstrators destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company, in defiance of the Tea Act of 1773. They boarded the ships and threw the chests of tea into Boston Harbor, ruining the tea.

The royal government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay existed until October 1774, when the Massachusetts Provincial Congress was established. The British governor continued to military control Boston, but the the provincial congress had effective rule in the rest of the province. Hostilities starting the American War Of Independence broke out in April 1775 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord fought near Boston, continuing with the Siege of Boston. The British evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776, bringing the city under American control. On May 1, 1776, the provincial congress adopted a resolution declaring the province to be independent of the Crown, followed by the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring the independence of all of the colonies.

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The Great Fusion:
The Origin Of Mexican and Créole Food In North America

So here it was. During the 250 years after colonization of North America started, we have seen the rise and fall of two great colonial empires (New France, and the English and later British colonies), the continuing growth of a third one (New Spain), and the creation of a young republic as a successor state to the British colonies - all driven by the same forces that drive world politics today: politics, power, money and religion.

The defining force in all of this was the Sever Years' War. Not only did it lead to the dismantling of the colonial empire of New France on the mainland, its aftermath indirectly lead to the American War Of Independence and the creation of the United States of America.

At their peak, both New France and New Spain were very large countries, and functioned as very efficient breeding grounds for new fusion dishes, and as conduits for spreading them around. This cultural cross-pollination took place between three main groups: European settlers (French or Spanish), the indigenous Native-American population, and black slaves from Africa.

We have written previously about the history and evolution of Créole food. The New Orleans cuisine of today is a blend of several things: the 18th century Créole cooking, itself based on French, colonial, African and Native American recipes and ingredients; Cajun, the country-food of Acadian refugees who re-settled in Louisiana in the second half of the 18th century; Soul Food; and additional Italian influences brought in later by 19th century immigrants. For example, the Europeans brought rice, which had been introduced to Europe from India, to the colonies, where they found beans and chile peppers as the essential staples of the Natives' diet, and voilà!: soon a plethora or rice-and-beans dishes has spread throughout the Caribbean and into la Louisiane, including for example Moros y cristianos in Cuba and New Orleans Red Beans And Rice. Or, the Spanish introduced cattle to New Spain, the practice of ranching became dominant in the north, providing plentiful beef, which the settlers combined it with the traditional pre-conquest way of making tacos from cooked meat in folded corn tortillas, which in turn lead to the northern Mexican dish Arrachera and its Tex-Mex equivalent, Fajitas.

Consequently, the cuisines found today in present-day Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, are the result of countless evolutionary pathways that evolved within New France and New Spain, with almost no contribution from the anglophone part of North America. The cuisine of present-day Louisiana has its roots primarily in the Caribbean and France, and Tex-Mex, New-Mex and Cal-Mex have their roots in Northern Mexican cuisine, which itself is a blend of Spanish and Native cooking.

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French Culinary Influence

Louisiana Créole food.
When the French started arriving in la Louisiane, they brough with them classic Parisian cuisine, or at least memories of it. What they found in the New World was en environment rich in seafood, but with spices and ingredients quite different from those used in Parisian cuisine. Louisiana Créole cuisine is refined and sophisticated, but it is of course not the same as Parisian cuisine any more.

Some sophisticated French sauces such as Rémoulade made it into Créole cuisine, but some dishes that are typical for New Orleans Crawfish Étouffée would not be found on the menu in a Parisian restaurant. Louisiana Créole cuisine is urban cooking, based on French stews and soups, but with new influences from African and Spanish cuisines. The Spanish brought into the cuisine the use of cooked onions, green peppers, and garlic. African cooks brought the skill of spices and introduced okra. From the Choctaw Indians came the use of filé, a dried herb from sassafras leaves, used to thicken gumbo for instance. The Italian dimension apparent in present-day New Orleans cuisine today was added later, in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The terms "Créole" and "Cajun" are often used interchangeably, even though there is a whole universe of difference! Although they are both associated with French immigration to la Louisiane, and in even though in present-day Louisiana cuisine there is a lot of fusion between the two, some fundamental differences exist. They reflect the completely different histories the Créoles (descendants of the original French settlers) had during the 17th and 18th centuries when they settled la Louisiane for New France, from the Acadian refugees who immigrated to Spanish Louisiana after the Seven Years' War, following their forced emigration from the French colonies of Canada and l'Acadie.

The Créole settlers had a very diverse multi-ethnic background. They were a mixed race, often consisting of a mix of French or Spanish, African and/or Native American. These settlers were part of i>Le Monde Créole, the Créole World, a French- or Spanish-influenced part of the world stretching from Brazil through the Caribbean to North America. The Créole culture of New Orleans is part of this Créole culture, which beside la Louisiane included Cuba, Saint Domingue (Haiti), Guadeloupe, Martinique, the entire Caribbean, Venezuela, the Guianas and Brazil in South America, even places like Mauritius, Reunion, the Seychelles or Portuguese Goa in the Indian Ocean.

This immense cultural empire was reflected in the fusion cuisine of the Créole world. It is a simple way of cooking, but far from being boring and tasteless! Expect an explosion of colors, a wide range of flavors and spices, all carefully brought together and prepared. The tradition of roots came from Africa, Yams and sweet potatoes were grown to feed the slaves, the breadfruit was imported from Polynesia for the same reason. The Natives introduced a wide variety of spices (for instance, in Louisiana, the ground leaf of the sassafras tree known as gumbo filé. Other New World contributions included tomatoes, corn and chile peppers. The Spanish contributed paprika and methods of frying meats in animal fat. The French contributed rice, chest, smoked bacon and dried vegetables, and flour. When combined together, the foundation of Créole cuisine begins to emerge. Elements of it are found all throughout the Caribbean, northern South America as well as la Louisiane.

Louisiana Créole cooking developed as urban cuisine: refined, delicate and luxurious. There is greater emphasis on cream, butter, seafood, tomatoes, herbs, and garlic, and less use of cayenne pepper and filé powder than in Cajun cooking, resulting in rich sauces, elegant puréed bisques, and time-intensive soups, brunch dishes, and desserts. In La Nouvelle-Orléans, the Créole society consisted mostly of wealthy families with servants and often chefs from Madrid, Paris and other European capitals. However, many of the ingredients these European chefs normally used would not exist in la Louisiane. Governor Bienville, afraid of losing the new residents, asked his personal cook to teach the evolving Créole society and its chefs how to make use of the native ingredients. Thus, the Créoles and their cooks discovered the wealth of fish and shellfish available in la Louisiane. Native meats and game, unfamiliar produce including mirlitons and cushaw, sugar cane and pecans, were then adapted to the European cookery methods of the Créole chefs. Seasoning ingredients from the native Indians, and Caribbean and African cooks helped give birth to the Louisiana-style of Créole cuisine. Africans introduced okra; the Spanish, spices and red peppers; the Choctaw Indians introduced the filé powder; allspice and peppers from the West Indians.

On the other hand, Cajun cuisine is country cooking. It is also much younger. The Acadian refugees were mostly fishermen who had been making their living on the St. Lawrence River and off the shores of Nova Scotia. When they immigrated to Spanish Louisiana to escape British Rule, they settled in the coastal area of southwestern Louisiana, which became known as Acadiana (although it has nothing to do geographically with the colony of l'Acadie) or as Cajun Country. To cook their food, the Acadian immigrants lived mostly off the land, were subject to the elements of the seasons, and generally cooked meals in one large pot. While their new home in Acadiana was familiar in terms of being an agrarian setting already populated by Catholic, French-speaking people, the Cajuns had to adjust to the completely different climate, as well as to an unknown terrain consisting of swamps and bayous, that presented some exotic forms of meat (i.e. nutria or alligator), game, fish, produce, and grains. The Cajuns applied their French cooking techniques to these new ingredients, with a result that is recognized as well as one of the world’s most unique regional cuisines. The Cajuns have steadfastly adhered to their habits and traditions in lifestyle, language and cooking. When oil and gas were discovered in Louisiana at the beginning of the 20th century, many outsiders started arriving into the area (rig hands, supply-boat crews, production and facilities engineers, geologists, etc.). These new residents began to discover the food-oriented, talented Cajun cooks whose lives and socializing revolve, to a large extent, around the preparation, sharing, and enjoyment of food. The word began to spread. However, many restaurants and cooks today misrepresent Cajun food by carelessly over-spicing it. In fact, the Cajun food and culture have little to do with the mass media hype that presents Cajun cookery as fiery hot, and Cajun people as hot-pepper eating, alligator-wrestling, beer-swilling caricatures.

An interesting comparison of the original Créole cuisine and Cajun cuisine can be made on the basis of gumbo. A soup of West-African origin, it is a dish that has been imported into Louisiana, and it is interesting to see how each of the French cultures began to interpret it. The major difference between Créole and Cajun gumbo is in the type of roux used as the base. Créole roux is made from butter and flour (as in France), while Cajun roux is made from lard or oil and flour (reflecting what was routinely available in the Cajun Country). Créole gumbo has a tomato base and is more of a soup, while Cajun gumbo has a roux base and is more of a stew.

Present-day New Orleans cuisine can be divided into the following categories:

  1. Classic French dishes adopted in La Nouvelle-Orléans with some alterations

    • French Sauce rémoulade>.
      Rémoulade sauce - a popular condiment invented in France. In France, Sauce rémoulade is classified as a derivative of the Mayonnaise Sauce. In practice Sauce rémoulade can be based either on Mayonnaise or Aioli. Mayonnaise and Aioli are similar concoctions originating in southern Europe. Aioli is a Provençal traditional sauce made of olive oil, egg yolks, garlic and lemon juice. Classic French Sauce rémoulade is 250 ml (1 cup) of Mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons mixed herbs (parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon), 1 tablespoon drained capers, 2 finely diced cornichons, and as an option, a few drops of anchovy essence or chopped anchovy fillets.

      The origin of the name is in the French word remuer (to stir), possibly in the Italian word remolata (vigorously stirred).

      Preparing Mayonnaise with a whisk.

      Preparing Aioli in a mortar.
      Mayonnaise is similar to Aioli in that it consists of an emulsion of oil, egg yolks and either vinegar or lemon juice. The origin of Mayonnaise is unclear. It came from either Spain or France. One theory says it originated in the port of Mahón on the island of Menorca in the middle of the Mediterranean (but not that far from Provence), and that it was taken to France in 1756 at the onset of the Seven Years' War after Armand de Vignerot du Plessis won a battle over the port against the British. It follows that the sauce, originally called Salsa Mahonesa in Spanish and Maonesa and Maionesa in Catalan (as it is still known in Menorca), later becoming Mayonnaise in French. Another theory is that it is a a popular corruption of the French word moyeunaise derived from the very old French word moyeu, which means egg yolk. Yet another theory says that the sauce may have been christened Mayennaise in 1589 during the French Wars of Religion after Charles de Lorraine, duke of Mayenne. According to legend, the good monsieur took his merry time to finish his meal of chicken with this sauce, rather than worrying about the ongoing Battle of Arques with King Henry IV of France, which he subsequently lost. But - he had his priorities: first eat well, then worry about a bloody war.

      Pre-made Rémoulade
      from Zatarain's.

      Pre-made Rémoulade
      from Arnaud's.
      In New Orleans cuisine, Rémoulade Sauce can be oil- or Mayonnaise-based, with the addition of paprika, resulting in a typical red color. Quite a few varieties exist, including an elegant French Créole, and rustic Afro-Caribbean Créole and Cajun. Each version is somewhat different from the French Sauce rémoulade. Louisiana Rémoulade is typically bright red to orange and more piquant than the French original. Like the French Sauce rémoulade, Louisiana Rémoulade typically contains an abundance of finely chopped vegetables, usually green onions, celery and parsley, mustard, salt and black pepper. Unlike the French original, Louisiana Rémoulade also contains Cayenne pepper. Other items used in Louisiana Rémoulade include lemon juice, hardboiled egg or raw egg yolks, minced garlic, hot sauce, vinegar, horseradish, capers, cornichons and Worcestershire sauce.

      Shrimp Rémoulade.
      Galatoire's has a nice recipe on their website. as does Emeril's. Arnaud's says their recipe is Top Secret (they could tell you but then they'd have to kill you), but a bottle of their sauce can be mail-ordered from their website.

      Rémoulade Sauce is used in New Orleans cuisine primarily for shrimp, although original culinary combination in France were chicken and other meats.

    • Crawfish Bisque.
      Bisque soup - smooth, creamy, seasoned soup of French origin, classically based on a strained broth of crustaceans i.e. lobster, crab or shrimp. In New Orleans, it is usually Shrimp Bisque, Crawfish Bisque or Oyster and Artichoke Bisque. There is an equivalent in Cajun cuisine called Corn Bisque with smoked sausage. Chef John Besh published an interesting version of Shrimp Bisque in Food And Wine Magazine.

      The term "bisque"refers to "twice cooked" (bis cuites ): first sautéed lightly in their shells, then simmered in wine and aromatic ingredients before being strained, followed by the addition of cream.

    • French Potage à la tortue.
      Turtle soup - eaten historcally world-wide, but focusing on France, there is a recipe from a famous 19th century Parisian chef Adolphe Dugléré. In 1866 he became the head chef of the Café Anglais, which at the time was to Paris what Commander's Palace is to New Orleans (the most famous restaurant of the 19th century). The composer Gioachino Rossini nicknamed him Le Mozart de la cuisine (The Mozart of the Kitchen). Dugléré's recipe used meat of green-turtle, consommé of beef, chicken stock, \ spices and herbs such as bouquet garni, thyme and parsley, vegetables such as carrots and turnips, and an apple. Several cups of sherry or Madeira were added to the stock toward the end of cooking.

      Historically, turtle soup gained popularity with the European explorers of the West Indies, where turtles were plentiful and became an important food resource for sailors and pirates, as well as a luxury item on English tables.

      Classic Créole Turtle Soup.
      In New Orleans, turtle soup has been eaten since the city has been founded. New Orleans turtle soup differs by the inclusion of tomatoes. In France, turtle soup is a thin broth, while in New Orleans it is a thick, dark, rich and piquant coup, almost a stew. Emeril's recipe starts with a roux, the standard New Orleans "holy trinity" of vegetables (hopped onions, bell peppers and celery), herbes and spices such as thyme and bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce, and some typically Caribbean ingredients such as Cayenne pepper, tomatoes and lemons. One atypical ingredient are chopped hard-bouiled eggs. As with the Parisian version, sherry is also used, but as a condiment served on the table.

      In Louisiana, there are as many recipes for Turtle Soup as their are chefs. However, all of the recipes had several things in common: obviously the meat, veal or beef stock, the vegetable "holy trinity", tomatoes, parsley, thyme, chopped hard boiled eggs, lemon, and sherry.

    • Fish served a la Meunière
      at Loewy's Belgian restaurant
      in Jakarta.
      Trout Meunière and Trout Almandine - This refers to both a sauce and a method of preparation, primarily for fish. The word itself means "miller's wife". To cook something à la meunière is to dredging it in flour before frying or sautéing. A meunière sauce is a simple preparation of brown butter, chopped parsley and lemon. It is a common recipe in French cuisine (à la meunière), German cuisine (auf Müllerin Art) as well as Czech (po mlynářsku). We have a recipe for Rainbow Trout "auf Müllerin Art" from bei Otto restaurant in Bangkok in this cookbook.

      Trout Meunière Almandine.
      In New Orleans, the à la meunière method was adapted with the addition of sliced almonds and Worcestershire sauce to intensify the flavor. A classic recipe from Brennan's is here. Trout Meunière and Trout Meunière Amandine, Oysters en Brochette, soft-shell crab and redfish are all available á la Meunière. Of course, lifestyle-celebrities like Martha Stewart call the dish "Trout Almandine" or "Trout Almondine", prime and proper just out of Webster's Dictionary. But in New Orleans where a kitchen sink is a "zink" and the grassy median in the middle of a boulevard is a "neutra' ground", at the premier New Orleans restaurants the proper local lingo needs to be used. The French word for almond is la amande and the dish is usually listed as "Trout Amadine", English and French mixed together.

    • New Orleans beignets with Cafe au lait
      at Cafe du Monde.
      Beignets - In Paris a modern-day beignet simply means a doughnut, complete with icing, glazing, confectioner's sugar or spinkling of all those tiny little things, just like American donuts. However, New Orleans beignet are square, deep-fried in cotton-seed oil, and covered with mounds of confectioner's sugar. An indispensable accompaniment is Cafe au lait.

      New Orleans beignets are made of choux pastry (pâte à choux), a light pastry dough also used to make profiteroles and éclairs, it contains only butter, water, flour, and eggs. Instead of a raising agent it employs high moisture content to create steam during cooking to puff the pastry.

    • European-style Cafe au lait
      including "latte art".
      Cafe au lait - means dark coffee and heated milk. Coffee and milk have been part of European cuisine since the 17th century. In France, drip coffee is made, milk, heated to just below boiling, is added, and the drink is served in a white porcelain cup or bowl. In modern day, this is referred to in Europe as Café au lait. It is not to be confused with Caffè latte, which is an Italian espresso mixed with frothed (steamed) milk and served in a tall kitchen glass.

      New Orleans style Cafe au lait
      at Cafe du Monde.
      New Orleans Café au lait - is made in the French way with scalded milk—milk warmed over heat to just below boiling. The one twist New Orleans Café au lait— adds is the addition of roasted chicory root in the coffee roast mix. The use of chicory as an extender to coffee came from Europe, where it was common among poor people and during periods of hardship in wars. It became common in colonial Louisiana, and eventually was incorporated as a regular coffee additive. When served with beignet, such as at Cafe du Monde on Decatur Street, the bitterness of the chicory nicely offsets the sweetness of the powdered-sugar-covered beignets.

    • Cross-section of a Parisian baguette.
      French bread - an essential ingredient, without which New Orleans would simply cease to function. However, it is not exactly the same as a baguette in France. New Orleans French bread is bigger than a French baguette, and not crunchy like the baguette.

      A "baguette de tradition française" is 5 or 6 cm (2 or 2 1/3 in) wide and about 65 cm (26 in) long. It is made from wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt. It does not contain additives, but it may contain broad bean flour (max 2%), soya flour (max 0.5%), wheat malt flour (max 0.3%).

      In Paris, there is a competition held every year for the best baguette in town. It is called "Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris". In 2011, it was won by Pascal Barillon of the bakery Au Levain d'Antan on Rue des Abbesses in Montmartre; in 2012 in was Sébastien Mauvieux of the Boulangerie Mauvieux on rue Ordener also in Montmartre. The tradition of the 18th arrondissement (the area around Montmartre) holding the monopoly on the best baguettes in town was broken in 2013 when the prize was won by Ridha Khadher of Au Paradis du Gourmand on Rue Raymond Losserand in the 14th arrondissement. Sacrebleu! For the first time in 6 years, the streets around Sacre Coeur coiuld no longer claim the best baguette in the city! The 2014 champion is also from the 14th arrondissement, Antonio Teixeira from the Délices du Palais, marking the second year a winner has come from down south.

      Whichever bakery wins the prize displays a big log in the store window. But to find a winning bakery, all that is needed is to look for a long line of folks at 5 pm, picking up fresh bread for dinner. For a bakery to win the first prize is the same attention-getter as for an NHL team to win Stanley Cup.

      Ledenheimer delivery truck.
      New Orleans bakeries such as Gambino's in Metairie, Leidenheimer Baking Company in Central City, John Gendusa Bakery in Gentilly and Alois J. Binder Bakery in Faubourg Marigny. They have been in business for decades and hold the monopoly on good French bread in la Nouvelle-Orleans. Leidenheimer's was started in 1896, the Binder bakery in 1916, and Gambino's in 1949.

      New Orleans style French bread
      from Ledenheimer.
      Leidenheimer's is on Simon Bolivar Avenue in central city. Their loaf is 32 inches long (82 cm), and has a distinctive "alligator-skin" pattern on the crust. Gambino's makes both 24-in loaves (61 cm).

      Cross-section of New Orleans French bread.
      New Orleans-style French Breads have a light, brittle, paper-thin crust, not as thick and crunchy as the Parisian baguette, which encases a light, airy, tender, flaky, very open inner crumb. The interior texture is important for New Orleans French bread, because its mission is sponging up Gumbo, Shrimp Créole or Étouffée. The Parisian baguette, while absolutely heavenly as sandwiches with ham, cheeses, eggs, and various vegetables (Crudités), would not be as well suited for these New-Orleans-specific foods, because it would not sop up all that good sloppiness. Also, because the baguette is narrower, it would not as many fried oysters or fried shrimp on Po-Boy sandwiches, and would not absorp as much of the good dripping from that comes from them, due to its greater crunchiness and smaller grain.

      Czech veka.

      Austrian Weckerl.
      Dr. Michael Mizell-Nelson from the University of New Orleans postulated a theory that the distinctive local style of New Orleans French bread evolved as German and Austrian immigrants began to dominate local baking in the mid-19th century. This idea certainly

      Cross-section of Czech veka.
      seems to have merit, because there are several Austrian and Czech bread styles that are somewhat similar to New Orleans French bread. The Austrian Weckerl and the Czech veka in specific come to mind. Weckerl simply means "loaf" in Bavarian and Austrian German, or breadroll in Austrian German. These have a similar diameter to New Orleans French bread, and length comparable to the shorter varieties of New Orleans French bread (i.e. Gambino's). There are differences, however. Their interior is denser and not a fluffy as airy as New Orleans French bread. This, on the other hand,

      Austrian/Czech Langsemmel.
      works well for both veka and Weckerl because, when sliced transversely, the denser grain serves well as the base for Obložené Chlebíčky. Other types of Czech and Austrian pastries that are somewhat similar in terms of taste to New Orleans French bread (as opposed to the Parisian baguette) is the Czech/Austrian Langsemmel.

      To be sure, Parisian-style baguettes are made in New Orleans as well, by a newer generation of bakers, such as La Madeleine, Laurel Street Bakery, Maple Street Patisserie, Breads on Oak or Bellegarde.

  2. French-inspired dishes created in La Nouvelle-Orléans
    • Pompano en Papillote (Antoine's) - this is a New Orleans invention created in the early 1900s to honor the Brazilian-born aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont. The dish consists of a filet of pompano, baked in a sealed parchment paper envelope, with a white sauce made of wine, shrimp, and crabmeat. The dish is the epitome of New Orleans grand Créole cooking. The idea of presentation of baked fish in a paper envelope is about spectacle, a sense of specialness and celebration. Antoine's has been good at this since they opened in 1840 at 713 rue St. Louis.

      The velouté sauce is one of the 'mother' sauces, fundamental in French cuisine. In New Orleans cuisine, it has developed its own spin. The traditional seasoning in the French version would be diced onions, salt, white pepper, bouquet garni and pinch of ground nutmeg. In New Orleans, a bit more onion and garlic are used, and a pinch of cayenne pepper or a splash of hot sauce in addition to the white pepper, producing a spicier version compared to the French classic.

    • Crabmeat Ravigote.
      Crabmeat Ravigote - Ravigote sauce is a classic, lightly acidic sauce in French cuisine, which may be prepared either warm or cold. The warm sauce is classically based on a vegetable or meat broth, or a velouté, with herbs. The cold version is based on vinaigrette. The New Orleans version adds Cayenne pepper or Louisiana hot sauce. The Crabmeat Ravigote dish combines this sauce with lump Gulf of Mexico crab meat.

    • Oysters Rockefeller.
      Oysters Rockefeller (Antoine's) - a classic New Orleans baked oyster dish, consisting of oysters on the half-shell, topped with minced parsley and other green herbs, a rich butter sauce and bread crumbs, seasoned with Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and Pernod or Herbsaint, baked or broiled. For the uninitiated, Herbsaint is an anise liquor falling in the Pastis family (Pernod, Ricard etc.). Pastis is generally associated with southeastern France, particularly with Marseille.

      Oysters Rockefeller.
      Oysters Rockefeller was developed in 1899 at Antoine's by Jules Alciatore, the son of Antoine Alciatore, Antoine's founder. Antonine's is a New Orleans landmark, located on Rue St. Louis in the French Quarter, and the oldest family-owned restaurant in the United States today. Popes, presidents, movie stars and musicians (and us) dined there. Antoine ran the restaurant until from 1840 until 1874 when, being in ill-heath, he passed the management of the restaurant to his wife. He returned to France and died there within a year. His wife ran the business until 1899 when his son Jules Alciatore took over. Between 1874 and 1899, Jules served as apprentice at Antonine's for six years, then continuing hsi training in France where he served in the great kitchens of Paris, Strassburg and Marseilles. He returned to New Orleans and became chef of the famous Pickwick Club in 1887, before his mother summoned him to head Antoine's.

      Escargots à la Bourguignonne.
      Antoine Alciatore used to make Escargots à la Bourguignonne ever since the restaurant opened in 1840. Jules Alciatore developed this recipe in 1899 in the face of a shortage of French snails. He wanted to use an easily available local product, decided on gulf oysters and adapted the snail recipe in 1899 to use thhose. The dish is among the greatest culinary creations of all times. That exact recipe remains a secret, athough it has been imitated countless times, and fairly well, elsewhere. The sauce is known to be a puree of a number of green vegetables other than spinach. The original recipe is said to have been made with watercress, instead of spinach. Also, if the original 1840 recipe used flavoring by an anise liquor, it could not have been Pastis because Pastis was first commercialized by Paul Ricard in 1932. It may have been absinthe or anisette.

      According to Antoine's website, the dish was given the name Rockefeller because the green was the color of greenbacks and the whole dish was so rich that he wanted a name that would signify the "richest in the world". The first name to come to his mind was that of John D. Rockefeller, the embodiment of wealth in the United States at the time.

    • Oysters Bienville.
      Oysters Bienville (Arnaud's) - the second classic baked-oyster dish from New Orleans. It is obviously named in honor of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, the founder of New Orleans and the governor of la Louisiane. Once source says the dish was created in the late 1930s at Antoine's. Another source says it was created in 1920 at Arnaud's by Arnaud Cazeneuve, the founder or Arnaud's. Arnaud's opened in 1918.

      The dish consists of oysters on the half shell, topped with béchamel sauce flavored with sherry and Cayenne pepper and mixed with sautéed garlic, shallots, mushrooms and minced shrimp. A mixture of bread crumbs and grated cheese is sprinkled over the top, and the oysters are baked on a bed of rock salt until bubbly and browned.

    • Oysters en Brochette.
      Oysters en brochette - another traditional oyster dish. Raw, shucked oysters are skewered, alternating with pieces of partially cooked bacon. They are broiled, or breaded and either deep fried or sautéed. The traditional presentation is on triangles of toast with the skewer removed, and dusted with salt and pepper or topped with either Maitre d'Hotel butter or a Meunière sauce. When prepared well, the dish should have a crispy exterior and a soft savory center with a textural contrast between the bacon and the oyster.

    • Café Brûlot.
      Café Brûlot diabolique (Antoine's) - a drink made from coffee, orange liqueur, cinnamon stick, sugar, cloves, and orand and/or lemon peels. At Antoine's, the coffee is customarily flamed at the table when it is served as part of a dessert course. This is a show for the guests, similar to the Rüdesheimer Kaffee from Germany, involving a choreographed tableside preparation that will catch a lot of attention. Just like with the Rüdesheimer Kaffee, often the lights in the room are dimmed to accentuate the impending pyrotechnic exercise that will accompany the final stage preparation. Flaming brandy and coffee cascade down the spiraled orange pathway to the waiting silver café brûlot bowl. Yours for only $9.75...

      The name brûlot means either “highly seasoned” or “incendiary”, both of which are appropriate for this drink.

      The ingredients list in the classic café brûlot recipe is long and helps explain its elaborate nature. Most preparations call for an orange peel cut precisely as one long, intact spiral; a lemon peel cut into strips; sugar, cloves and cinnamon; cognac or brandy and hot, strong black coffee. Most importantly, the drink requires fire. It tastes very thick and sweet, with deep citrus and clove overtones.

    • Bananas Foster.
      Bananas Foster (Brennan's) - a dessert made from bananas and vanilla ice cream, with a sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur. The butter, sugar and bananas are cooked, and then alcohol is added and ignited. The bananas and sauce are then served over the ice cream. Preparation of the dish is often made into a tableside performance as a flambé.

      The dish was created in 1951 by chef Paul Blangé at Brennan's Restaurant. Owen Edward Brennan opened Brennan's Restaurant in 1946 in the French Quarter. In the 1950's, New Orleans became a major port of entry for bananas from Central and South America. According to legend, Owen Brennan asked his chef, Paul Blange, to create a dish featuring the tropical fruit. Chef Blange rose to the challenge and invented Bananas Foster. the dish was named after Richard Foster, a friend of Brennan and a regular at the restaurant. He was also the New Orleans Crime Commission chairman at the time.

      However, Bananas Foster was not created just out of the blue. Keeping in mind that New Orleans cuisine is part of le Monde Créole, it is enough to look around the Caribbean to find ancestors for this dish. After all, what is so unique about cooking bananas, the most ubiquitous Caribbean fruit, with rum, the most ubiquitous Caribbean booze? In fact, there is a similar desert in Martinique called "Caramelized Banana With Rum Sauce". The dish consists of bananas cooked in butter, topped with a sauce made of caramelized sugar, raisins, vanilla, orange juice and rum.

    • Original European pralines.
      Pralines - originally French candy created at the Château of Vaux-le-Vicomte southeast of Paris. Pralines are to the cook of the 17th-century sugar industrialist Marshal du Plessis-Praslin. Early pralines were whole almonds individually coated in caramelized sugar, as opposed to dark nougat, where a sheet of caramelized sugar covers many nuts. Although the New World had been discovered and settled by this time, pecans and chocolate-producing cocoa (both native to the New World) were originally not ingredients in European pralines. The European chefs used local, easily available and relatively cheap ingredients: nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts. The powder made by grinding up such sugar-coated nuts is called pralin, and is an ingredient in many cakes, pastries, and ice creams.When this powder is mixed with chocolate, it becomes praliné in French.

      New Orleans pralines.
      French settlers brought this recipe to la Louisiane, where both sugar cane and pecan trees were plentiful. During the 19th century, New Orleans chefs substituted pecans for almonds, added cream to thicken the confection, and thus created what became known throughout the American South as "the praline". Pralines have a creamy consistency, similar to fudge. It is usually made by combining sugar (often brown), butter, and cream or buttermilk in a pot on medium-high heat, and stirring constantly, until most of the water has evaporated and it has reached a thick texture with a brown color. Then it is usually dropped by spoonfuls onto wax paper or a sheet of aluminum foil greased with butter, and left to cool.

  3. Dishes of Spanish origin
    • Jambalaya (paella) - Jambalaya is a family of Louisiana dishes made of rice, stock, meats and vegetables, seasoned with Créole Seasoning. Some recipes involve tomatoes and tomato sauce (New Orleans Créole-style "red" jambalaya), others use only chicken or beef stock and no tomatoes (Cajun-style "brown" jambalaya).

      Paella Valenciana.
      There is a close cousin in Spain called paella. Jambalaya originated from New Orleans, as an attempt by the Spanish to cook Spanish seafood paella in the New World, when they took over la Louisiane française following the Seven Years' War. Saffron, an essential ingredient of paella, was not readily available due to import costs, therefore tomatoes became the substitute for saffron. Over time, French influence took over in New Orleans, and spices from the Caribbean changed this New World paella into a unique dish.

      Cajun Jambalaya.
      In making Créole Jambalaya, meat, usually chicken and andouille or smoked sausage, is browned in a sauce pan, followed by vegetables, tomatoes and seafood. Rice and stock are added in equal proportions, the mixture is brought to a boil and left to simmer for 20 to 60 minutes. Cajun Jambalaya comes from the Cajun Country and contains no tomatoes. The meat is browned in a cast-iron pot and the bits of meat that stick to the bottom of the pot give Cajun jambalaya its brown color. A little vegetable oil is added if there was not enough fat in the pot already. The trinity (onions, celery, and green bell pepper) is added and sautéed until soft. Stock and seasonings are added in the next step, and then the meats are returned to the pot. This mixture is then simmered, covered, for at least one hour. At the end, the mixture is brought to a boil and rice is added to the pot. It is then covered and left to simmer over very low heat for at least 1/2 hour without stirring.

      The type of rice typically used in Jambalaya is long-grain.

      A popular often heard theory tries to explain the origin of the word "jambalaya" as stemming from the Spanish and French words for ham (jamón and jambon, respectively). However, it seems much more likely that the name is simply derived from the word jambalaia, which means rice pilaf in the Provençal dialect spoken in southern France, Monaco, and parts of Spain and Italy.

      Nigerian Jollof Rice from Port Harcourt.
      Anoter dish that probably contributed to the evolution of Jambalaya is Jollof Rice from West Africa. It is thought to have originated in The Gambia and later spread to the whole of West Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana. The basic ingredients are rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onion, salt, red pepper and nearly any kind of meat (chicken, beef, bush meat, fish). We remember Jollof Rice from Nigeria made with ginger, garlic, curry powder, chile, thyme and bay leaf.

    • Mojito.
      Mint julep - an evolution of the Mojito, a classic Cuban highball. Traditionally, the Mojito consists of five ingredients: white rum, sugar (traditionally sugar cane juice), lime juice, sparkling water, and mint (spearmint or yerba buena, a mint variety very popular on the island.) Its combination of sweetness, refreshing citrus, and mint flavors is intended to complement the potent kick of the rum, and have made this clear highball a popular summer drink. The cocktail has a relatively low alcohol content (about 10 percent alcohol by volume). See our recipe.

      Mint Julep.
      New Orleans, following the Seven Years' War, being a melting pot of Spanish, French and British cultures, adapted this think substituting Bourbon Whiskey for rum. The remaining ingredients are the same. The general recipe must have come to Spanish Louisiana from Havana, while Whiskey came on river ships from Tennessee and Kentucky. A mint julep is traditionally made with four ingredients: mint leaf, bourbon, sugar, and water. Traditionally, spearmint is the mint of choice used throughout the Southern states. See our recipe.

  4. Dishes Of Caribbean Origin

    • Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico seafood.
      Créole is the ubiquitous Caribbean cuisine. Créole cuisine is a delicious mélange of French, African and Native American influences. Exotic seasonings ignite fresh seafood and poultry in prized recipes handed down from generation to generation. The cuisine draws its character from the people mix in the Caribbean: French and Spanish, mixed with African and Native.

      The ingredients that are common throughout are: rice, plantains, beans, cassava, cilantro, bell peppers, chickpeas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut, and any of various meats that are locally available like beef, poultry, pork or fish. A characteristic seasoning for the region is a green herb and oil based marinade which imparts a flavor profile which is quintessentially Caribbean in character. Ingredients may include garlic, onions, scotch bonnet chile peppers, celery, green onions, and herbs like cilantro, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon and thyme. This green seasoning is used for a variety of dishes like curries, stews and roasted meats.

      Moros y Cristianos.

      Belize Rice And Beans Stew.
      Beside the obvious, endless variety of grilled and baked seafood, some of which are unique to a particular area, there are well-established common denominators. One of them are the various dishes consisting of a combination of rice with beans, such as Red Bean And Rice in Louisiana, Moros y Cristianos in Spain, Cuba and Florida, Pabellón criollo in Venezuela, or Gallo pinto in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The other one is Créole Sauce.

      Cayenne chile pepper.
      Chile peppers are the predominant seasoning throughout the Caribbean. They accompany all main course dishes and most soups. Caribbean chiles are different from the Mexican chile pepper varieties, many of them hotter. In Louisiana Créole cuisine, the predominant chile is the Cayenne. It is a cultivar of the species Capsicum annuum, very common family of chile peppers, related to bell peppers, jalapeños, poblanos, serranos, New Mexico chile etc. The Cayenne is a hot chile, rated 30,000-50,000 on the Scoville scale. It is named after the city of Cayenne in French Guiana.

      Scotch Bonnet chile pepper.
      In other parts of le Monde Créole, chile peppers from the genus Capsicum chinense are used. These include the Scotch Bonnet, a fiery extra-hot chile, 5x to 10x hotter than the Cayenne, named so because it resembles the Scottich Tam o' Shanter cap. Other cultivars include two from Suriname, the Madame Jeanette (a small chile reaching 100,000-350,000),

      Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chile pepper.
      and the Adjoema (another small chile reaching 100,000-500,000). These are approximately 10x as hot as the Cayenne. The hottest Caribbean chiles come from Trinidad: the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, with a mean heat of over 1,200,000 on the Scoville scale and individual plants with a heat of more than 2,000,000.

      How incredibly hot these pepper are can be illustrated on the following example. If one half of a Habanero chile (which is rated at 100,000-350,000, about the same as the Scotch Bonnet) can make a stockpot of chili con carne so hot that it can hardly be eaten by a normal person, how hot would the chili become if one of these Trinidad chiles were used, which are 10x as hot as a Habanero?

      We are yet to encounter these super-hot Trinidad chiles in a recipe.

    • New Orleans Red Beans And Rice.
      Red Beans And Rice - an iconic dish of Louisiana Créole cuisine, traditionally made on Mondays. It consists of red beans, vegetables (bell pepper, onion and celery), spices (thyme, cayenne pepper and bay leaf), and pork bones or ham as leftover from Sunday dinner. It is cooked together slowly in a pot and served over rice. Meats such as Andouille sausage and Tasso ham are also frequently used in the dish.

      Red kidney beans belong to the species Phaseolus vulgaris, along with black beans, pinto beans, white beans, and are informally called Common Beans. The common bean is native to the New World. According to CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research based in Montpellier) the common bean appeared about 5,500 to 7,000 years ago in central Mexico where wild populations of it abound. Beans spread initially throughout Central and South America owing to migrating Native traders. Beans were introduced into Europe in the 15th century by Spanish explorers returning from the New World. At present, about 12 million metric tons of common beans are produced globally About half a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean use this crop as one of their primary staples.

      Rice is not native to the New World but was introduced there by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers. The Spanish Conquistadors brought Asian rice to Mexico in the 1520s. Recent research suggests that African slaves played an active role in the establishment of rice in the New World.

      Rice was known to the Classical world, having been imported from Egypt or Asia. It was introduced in Greece by returning soldiers from Alexander the Great's military expedition to Asia. Large deposits of rice from the first century A.D. have been found in Roman military installations in Germany. The Moors brought Asian rice to Spain in the 10th century, where it was grown in Valencia and Majorca. Muslims also brought rice to Sicily, where it was an important crop long before documented rice cultivation began in northern Italy in 1475, where its cultivation in Lombard plain was promoted by Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan. After the 15th century, rice spread throughout Italy and then France, later propagating to all the continents during the age of European exploration.

      Various dishes of rice and beans developed in Latin America and the Caribbean, once the age of European conquest began, making rice and beans the quintessential product of the New World. Rice and beans would have never met, had Columbus not discovered the New World. It is therefore no accident that these basically equivalent dishes are common in Spanish, Caribbean and Latin American cuisine:

      • Moros y Cristianos in Cuba and Spain,
      • Pabellón criollo in Venezuela
      • Gallo pinto in Costa Rica and Nicaragua
      • Arroz con gandules in Puerto Rico
      • Moros de guandules con coco (Moorish pigeon peas with coconut) in in the Dominican Republic. The "peas" are not garden peas but dried beans.

      Equivalent dishes developed in the anglophone parts of the Caribbean. Rice and peas is the mainstay of the cuisines of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados.

      The tradition of red beans was brought to New Orleans during the time of the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). In 1791, the slaves of Saint-Domingue rose in revolt and plunged the colony into civil war that lasted until 1803, resulting in the French losing Saint-Domingue. When the civil war Saint-Domingue began, there was a wave of emigration, which included whites, gens de couleur libres (free people of color), as well as slaves. Most of this exodus headed for la Louisiane, the only other French-speaking (although Spanish-ruled at the time) colony in North America. Within one year, thousands of Saint-Domingue refugees settled in La Nouvelle-Orléans effectively doubling the population of the city. This obviously had to have far-reaching social and cultural impact on Louisiana. The Créole refugees from Saint-Domingue settled in La Nouvelle-Orléans and brought with them distinct cultural traditions, which included architecture cuisine, music and religion. They played a major role in the further development of Créole cuisine, the perpetuation of voodoo practices and strengthening the city's French character. Red beans were among the culinary items the immigrants brought with them. In the kitchens of La Nouvelle-Orléans, the Caribbean tradition of eating rice with beans fused with Créole seasonings, and subsequently evolved in this iconic dish.

      As a side note, Jean Lafitte born in Port-au-Prince around 1782, Marie Laveau, the "Queen of Voodoo", born in Saint-Domingue in 1794, and the pharmacist Antoine Amédée Peychaud, born in Saint-Domingue in 1803, were all notable immigrants from Saint-Domingue.

      But where New Orleans Red Beans And Rice has the undeniable touch of Cayenne pepper, Cuban Moros y Cristianos brings the overtones of vinegar, a common taste in the Caribbean. Two similar dishes in principle, but two wholly different tastes. They nevertheless illustrate the culinary connection New Orleans has to the Caribbean. After all, both Havana and New Orleans were once part of the same country (New Spain), and even the same colony within New Spain, Capitanía General de Cuba between 1795 and 1800. The red beans that are essential to the New Orleans dish illustrate another Caribbean connection.

      Red Beans And Rice today is quintessentially New Orleans just as jazz or Mardi Gras, because ham was traditionally a Sunday meal and Monday was washday. A pot of beans could sit on

      Louis Armstrong's 1924 album.
      the stove and simmer while the women were busy scrubbing clothes. Many neighborhood restaurants in new Orleans continue to offer it as a Monday lunch special. Louis Armstrong's favorite food was red beans and rice. - to the point that he had an album called "Red Beans & Rice-ly Yours"! (Satchmno also signed letters "Am Ricely and Chickenly Yours" ...).

    • Shrimp Créole.
      Shrimp Créole - another dish of Caribbean Créole origin. It consists of shrimp cooked in Créole Sauce, which is a mixture of whole or diced tomatoes, roux, the "holy trinity" of onion, celery and bell pepper, spiced with Cayenne pepper seasoning and garlic. Shrimp Créole is usually served over steamed or boiled white rice. This is a relatively easy, yet exploding with flavors. Its presentation over white rice can be very festive.

      Camarones Enchilados from Cuba.
      Créole Sauce is made all over the Caribbean, expecially in the Francophone part (Haiti, Guadeloupe and Martinique), but also in the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands (Conch in Créole Sauce) and Jamaica (Jerk fish, Rice and Peas, and Créole sauce).

      • In Cuba, there Shrimp in Créole Sauce (Camarones En Salsa Criolla or Camarones Enchilados)
      • in Haiti (former colony of Saint-Domingue), there is Chicken in Créole Sauce
      • in Guadeloupe, there is Créole Ouassous Fricassée (Ouassous is a crustacean in the shrimp family similar to crawfish).

      In Louisiana, Créole Sauce is used over shrimp and chicken, but in the rest of le Monde Créole, it is used over fish, sea snails and even grilled meats. It nevertheless underscores the historic culinary connection Luisiana Créole cuisine has with the Caribbean.

  5. Dishes of African origin

    • Cameroon Seafood Soup.
      Gumbo and Okra - a rich and flavorful thick soup typically associated with Louisiana cuisine, although its roots are West African (Cameroon and Nigeria). Its main components are meat, the vegetable "holy trinity" of celery, bell peppers, and onion, and herbs in a rich broth. The meat can be crab, shrimp, crawfish, oyster, duck, quail, chicken, venison etc. Of the vegetables, one typical ingredient is okra, which came from West Africa. We used to cook gumbo in Port Harcourt, Nigeria using homegrown okra. We have also tasted a traditional spicy seafood soup in Cameroon, which tasted almost exactly like gumbo, minus roux.

      French Bouillabaisse.
      Gumbo originated in la Louisiane in the 18th century. The dish shows distinct similarities with the aforementioned West African seafood soup, as well with the French bouillabaisse. Gumbo was first described in 1802 and was listed in various cookbooks in the latter half of the 19th century. The dish gained more widespread popularity in the 1970s, after the United States Senate cafeteria added it to the menu in honor of Senator Allen Ellender. Chef Paul Prudhomme's popularity in the 1980s spurred further interest in gumbo.

      The typical explanation is that the name gumbo was derived from the word for okra (ki ngombo)in one of the thousands of languages spoken in West Africa. However, having seen the extreme variety of languages in Nigeria alone (at least 400), it would be difficult to find exactly which language it was. Or, it may derive from the Choctaw word for filé (kombo).

      Cajun gumbo with shrimp and sausage.

      Cajun gumbo with duck and Andouille sausage.
      Two main varieties of gumbo exist. Créole gumbo generally contains shellfish, tomatoes, and a thickener. Cajun gumbo is generally based on a dark roux and is spicier, with either shellfish, fowl (duck or chicken) or game (venison). Louisiana

      Créole seafood gumbo.
      Andouille (pork) sausage is often added to a gumbo made with either fowl or shellfish. After the base is prepared, vegetables are cooked down, and then meat is added. The dish boils for several hours, with shellfish and some spices added near the end. After the pot is removed from heat, filé powder can be added. Gumbo is traditionally served over rice. A third variety, the meatless gumbo z'herbes is essentially a gumbo of slow-cooked greens sometimes thickened with roux.

      Our collected gumbo recipes can be found here.

      Okra grown in North America.
      Three ways exist to thicken a gumbo: adding sliced okra, filé powder or roux. Filé powder, also called gumbo filé, is a spice made from dried and ground leaves of the sassafras tree. The tender green leaves are gathered, dried, and ground to a powder. This practice comes from the Choctaw Indians who had had a settlement at Bayou Lacombe on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain long before the white man and the black man arrived. Only a few tablespoons of the powder are enough to thicken an entire pot of gumbo and give it a spicy and pleasant flavor. The filé is always added after the pot has been removed from the fire, or it becomes stringy and unpalatable. Okra and filé should never be used together, or the gumbo will become as thick as mud.

      Filé powder.
      Filé was traditionally an okra substitute in the winter when okra was not in season. People fished in the summer, made gumbo using seafood and thickened it with whatever was most readily available fresh: okra (or roux). In the winter when it is cool (it is never "cold" in Lousiana, at least not by Siberian standards), people hunted and made gumbos with game or meat and thickened them with filé (or roux), because okra was not available. However, there is a gumbo made in Terrebone Parish around Houma year around, which uses no roux at all and relies on filé powder for thickening and on onions for color. I worked with a Cajun drilling engineer in Lagos who made his gumbo in this manner. (Imagine - a gumbo without roux! Oh Là Là!)

      Dark roux.
      Finally, there is the subject of roux. New Orleanians take roux as seriously as Brazilians take soccer, or the Germans and Czech take the subject of beer! Roux in general is a cooked mixture of wheat flour and fat (vegetable oil, clarified butter, lard), used in most western cuisines: French, Italian, Hungarian, German, Czech, as well as Créole. It is the thickening agent of three of the mother sauces of classic French cuisine: sauce béchamel, sauce velouté and sauce espagnole. Light roux provides little flavor other than a characteristic richness to various dishes in French, German and Czech sauces. New Orleans dark roux adds a distinct nutty flavor, and is made with vegetable oils because of their higher smoke point than butter. This is the roux used in Cajun and Créole cuisine for gumbos and stews. The darker the roux, the less thickening power it has: a chocolate roux has about one-fourth the thickening power, by weight, of a white roux.

  6. Native dishes

    • Leaves of Sassafras albidum.
      Sassafras-tree leaf powder (Filé) - also called gumbo filé, a spicy herb made from the dried and ground leaves of the sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum). It is a species of Sassafras native to eastern North America, from southern Maine and southern Ontario west to Iowa, and south to central Florida and eastern Texas. It occurs throughout the eastern deciduous forest habitat type, at altitudes of sea level up to 1,500 m.

      Filé powder.
      Sassafras oil is distilled from the root bark or the fruit. It has been used as a fragrance in perfumes and soaps, food, and for aromatherapy. The root or root bark is used to make tea, although most commercial "sassafras teas" are now artificially flavored. A yellow dye is obtained from the wood. The shoots were used to make root beer, a traditional soft drink carbonated with yeast, which owed its characteristic odor and flavor to the sassafras extract. Most commercial root beers have replaced the sassafras extract with methyl salicylate. Filé powder are the dried and ground leaves, used for thickening sauces and soups in Cajun and Créole cuisine, notably in the dish filé gumbo.

    • Maque Choux.
      Maque choux - a traditional dish of southern Louisiana, consisting of corn, green bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, and sometimes garlic and celery. The ingredients are braised in a pot, with bacon grease was used for the braising stage, The vegetables are then left to simmer until they reach a tender consistency, with chicken stock or water added as necessary. The dish is finished with salt and a combination of red and black pepper. Louisiana hot sauce and a bit of sugar can be added for greater complexity.

      The name is thought to is thought to originate from the French interpretation of the Native American name.

      It is usually served as an accompaniment; however, it can also act as a base for a main meal and use focal ingredients such as bite-sized portions of chicken or crawfish. Shrimp is often added in the later stages of cooking as well.

  7. Fusion dishes stemming from later culinary influences

    • New Orleans Shrimp Fettuccine.
      Shrimp fettucine (Italian Créole) - a dish combining sautéed shrimp and pasta. Fettuccine, or as it is most of the time incorrectly spelled "fettuccini", is egg and flour pasta from Rome, called tagliatelle elsewhere in Italy. The name fettuccine means "little ribbons". And, because the word fettuccia is a feminine noun, the plural has to end with an -e, not -i. So, there.

      Shrimp Fettucine Alfredo.
      Pasta tossed with cheese and butter has a long history in Italy going back to the Middle Ages. It is called simply "Pasta al burro". The evolution of New Orleans Shrimp Fettuccine started with that dish, but has gone through a complicated path, involving Rome, Hollywood and New Orleans. First, there was a restaurant called Alfredo's on Via della Scrofa in Rome, owned by Alfredo di Lelio. In 1914, they started making Pasta al burro with very rich, sweet triple-butter Di Lelio made himself, fresh fettuccine made of three kinds of four, black pepper and the heart of the best Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It was made with nothing more and nothing less: no cream, mushrooms, green peas or garlic. It became locally known as Fettuccine all'Alfredo.

      The path to international fame of Fettuccine all'Alfredo started in 1927 when Hollywood actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford ate it at Alfredo's on their honeymoon. They raved about it, journalists picked up the story and spread the news of Fettucchine All'Alfredo across the Atlantic. In the 1950s, Alfredo's restaurant, now located on Piazza Augusto Imperatore, became a mecca for visiting Americans, most of whom came to sample the dish. The dish then became ubiquitous in Italian-American restaurants across the United States, but because most cooks could not duplicate the richness of the original butter, today the dish almost always contains heavy cream. The recipe then evolved into combinations of pasta with shrimp, chicken, broccoli etc.

      In Italy today, the name "Fettuccine Alfredo" is largely unknown. The dish is simply known as "Pasta al burro".

      New Orleans Shrimp Fettucine.
      In New Orleans, the Créole-Italian version of Fettuccine Alfredo, called Shrimp Fettuccine, is made with fresh Gulf shrimp, tomatoes, herbs, white wine and Créole Seasoning. It avoids the cream business most other American versions of the dish use, and is therefore closer to di Lelio's original. But the dish is unmistakably Créole in taste, and it was Commander's Palace restaurant that made this recipe famous. See our recipe here.

    • New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich.
      Muffaletta (Créole-Italian) - an Italian-style sandwich from New Orleans, made with ham, mortadella, salami, cheeses and olive relish. It was most likely invented, in its present form, in 1906 by Lupo Salvadore at Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. It is one of the New Orleans classic foods and a pivotal part of the Italian Créole heritage.

      Mofolett Sandwich from Sicily.
      When looked at from a more global viewpoint, however, the muffuletta is basically a New Orleans twist on one of many types of Italian sandwiches, or panini. The muffuletta is Sicilian in origin. There are sandwiches made in Sicilly today called "Moffoletti" on round, flat bread made of whole-wheat dough with black pepper and anise, with grilled sausage, fish, hard-boiled eggs and vegetables. And there are other Sicilian panini that are similar. One is called "sfincione": flat soft bread with sautéed onions, caciocavallo cheese, anchovies, oregano, breadcrumbs, tomato (sometimes cheese, anchovies, herbs, spices and sauces), garnished with sliced artichoke hearts, sliced mushrooms and peppers.

      The New Orleans muffuletta is made using a round loaf of soft white bread crusted with sesame seeds. The bread they use at Central is actually not that special: white soft french bread dough with sesame seeds on top. There are frankly many other Italian breads that have much more interesting taste. But, it is the ingredients that count! The bread at Central is round, and about 10 inches across, with mortadella, ham, genoa salami, mozzarella and provolone cheeses, and most importantly its signature olive salad. Overall, it is much richer in its ingredients than the Sicilian original. The best places to get a muffuletta like that are Central Grocery on Decatur Street, Napoleon House on Chartres Street, Liuzza's on Bienville Street, Arabi Food Store on Friscoville Avenue and Progress Grocery in Metairie.

      See the Central Grocery recipe here.

    • Dobos Torte from Budapest.
      Doberge Cake (Hungarian/Austrian) - a layered dessert originating in New Orleans, adapted by local baker Beulah Ledner from the Hungarian/Austrian Dobos Torte, which is a sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel.

      The Dobos Torte was invented by Jozsef C. Dobos and first introduced at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in 1885. Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth were among the first to taste it. The cake soon became popular throughout Europe as it was different from all others. It was simple but elegant, as opposed to the multi-layer, flaming cakes of the age. Its other secret was its use of fine buttercream, which was very little known at the time; cake fillings and frostings were usually made with cooked pastry cream or whipped cream. The chocolate buttercream and the batter of the cake were both invented by Jozsef C. Dobos.

      Doberge Cake from New Orleans.
      In New Orleans, Beulah Levy Ledner, born into a Jewish family in St. Rose, Louisiana, opened a bakery in New Orleans in 1933. She became very successful after creating her "Doberge cake" adapted from the famous Hungarian/Austrian Dobos Cake. Ledner replaced the buttercream filling with a custard filling, and iced the cakes with buttercream and a thin layer of fondant.

      Ledner retired in 1981 the age of 87 and sold the shop and Doberge Recipe to Maurice's French Pastries, which is still in the business of baking and selling Doberge Cakes in Metairie.

    • Bread pudding with whiskey sauce - Bread pudding is a widely popular dessert, found in British, French, Belgian, Czech, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Argentinian as well as Louisiana Créole cuisines. The common theme is the use of stale bread, eggs, sugar, spices, and dried fruit. New Orleans bread pudding comes with one major quirk: it swims in a rich, sweet sauce containing a strong dose of booze - most often bourbon whiskey.

      Czech Žemlovka.
      One example of the European linkage is a Czech dish called Žemlovka or Zemlbába, both derived from the German word Semmel (bread roll). The recipe for Žemlovka is so remarkably similar to New Orleans Bread Pudding, down to the use of vanilla and raisins, that it would taste idential if topped with Bourbon whiskey sauce. The whiskey sauce is obviously a New World addition, using Bouron Whiskey that was being shipped down the Mississippi River on river boats.

      New Orleans Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
      from Galatoire's.
      Every restaurant in the French Quarter, fancy and casual, has bread puddding on its menu. They vary subtly. Chef Paul Prudhomme at K Paul's Louisiana Kitchen makes his bread pudding using a mixture of breads, paired with a rich chantilly cream touched with lemon. At Emeril's the bourbon goes into the pudding and the sauce is a spiced cream. Here is an elegant recipe from Galatoire's. Unlike most bread puddings, this one is light and airy, its texture resembling that of pain perdu (french toast).

      See the Galatoire's recipe here.

  8. Purely local dishes

    • Crawfish Étouffée.
      Crawfish Étouffée - a Cajun stew traditionally made with crawfish, vegetables and blonde roux, usually served over rice. The word comes from the French étouffer (to smother). The dish was invented sometime between the 1920s and 1950s in the Cajun Country, specifically at the town of Breaux Bridge, and later imported to New Orleans. Restaurants of Breaux Bridge were the first to offer crawfish openly on their menus, and it was here that the now world-famous crawfish etouffee was created.

      Boiled Louisiana crawfish.
      Louisiana crawfish is a species of freshwater crayfish, native to the Southeastern United States. It is a small crustacean, living along the Gulf of Mexico coast from northern Mexico to Florida, as well as inland up to southern Illinois and Ohio. In the Louisiana lingo, they are known as "mudbugs". In the United States, they are raised in farms. The center of crawfish farming has become the town Breaux Bridge in the Cajun Country, and being designated "the crawfish capital of the world" 1959 by the Louisiana government.

      In some ways, Crawfish Étouffée similar to Gumbo, in that the same types of Créole seasonings are used, served over rice, and made with a roux. Unlike Gumbo, Étouffée is made with a “blonde” roux, giving it a lighter color and a very different flavor.

      Crawfish Étouffée made its way to New Orleans during the second half of the 20th century, when a waiter at Galatoire's brought the dish in to his employer to try. The dish was added to their menu and other restaurants in the city soon followed. It is found today in both Créole and Cajun cuisines, and served not only at casual eateries sch as Deanie's, but also in most of the premiere restaurants in New Orleans, including Emeril's and Brennan's.

      The dish can be made using different shellfish, its most popular version being Crawfish Étouffée, although shrimp is also used. The preparation employs a technique known as smothering, a popular Cajun cooking method. It means cooking in a covered pan over low heat with a small amount of liquid (stove-top braising).

    • Blackened Redfish.
      Blackened Redfish (Paul Prudhomme) - "Blackening" is a method for cooking fish, chicken or steaks, attributed to New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme. There are common misconceptions that it is a traditional Créole way of cooking, or that it is traditional Cajun, both of which are wrong. Although on the menu in many New Orleans restaurants along with traditional haute Créole dishes, this is actually a 20th century marketing creation of Prudhomme who developed it.

      Redfish is a very common, good eating saltwater fish that lives in the coastal waters of Louisiana.

      Blackening is a unique method. The file is dipped in melted butter and then dredged in a mixture of herbs and spices (usually thyme, oregano, chile, peppercorns and salt), then cooked in an extremely hot cast-iron skillet. Blackening Seasoning creates a spicy smoked dish with a visually appealing rich, brown-black color, which results from the combination of browned milk solids from the butter and charred spices. The charred spices create a crust that seals the juices inside and the outcome is the most delightful, mouthwatering, memorable taste.

      Prudhomme's recipe can be found in our cookbook.

    • New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp.
      This dish has absolutely nothing to do with a barbecue pit or barbecuing. It consists of large shrimp that are baked whole in a savory mixture of butter, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and spices. The sauce is so incredibly good that it impressed everybody I cooked it for, from Lagos to Milano, to London, to Aberdeen, to Houston! The dish was invented at Pascal's Manale Restaurant on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans.

      Consuming this dish is a major production. First, the waiter attaches a large white plastic bib to the guest's neck. This is because this dish is extremely messy to eat. Then, they bring a large white bowl full of with colossal head-on shrimp, swimming in a rich butter sauce. Finally, they bring a loaf of freshly baked crusty French bread. The dish is eaten by hand, the shrimp heads are broken off, the shell peeled and the meat eaten, dipped in the sauce. Throughout all this, the French bread is used to sop up all that buttery goodness.

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Hot Sauces

The original French cuisine is delicious but not spicy, while Louisiana cuisine is very liberal with the use of ground cayenne pepper. The cayenne is a green chile, a variety of the species Capsicum annuum, the most common and extensively cultivated of the five domesticated pepper species. It is a Caribbean pepper named after the city of Cayenne in the French overseas department of French Guiana. Cayenne pepper is found in most seasoning used in Louisiana Créole cuisine today, such as Cajun or Créole Seasoning or Blackening Seasoning. These spices would be hard to find in a French kitchen. Similarly, a Mexican mole sauce or chile con carne would not be found in a Spanich kitchen; these are entirely New World inventions.

Chile peppers make a good transition topic to Spanish and Mexican food. The use of chile peppers is much more widespread in Mexican cuisine than in Louisiana Créole, where the Cayenne is the principal one. A group of chemicals called capsaicinoids are responsible for the heat in chili peppers. Some hot sauces are made by using chile peppers as the base, with salt vinegar and other ingredients added. Other sauces use some type of fruits or vegetables as the base and add the chile peppers to make them hot. Manufacturers use many different processes from aging in containers, to pureeing and cooking the ingredients to achieve a desired flavor.

All througout Latin America, the Caribbean and Louisiana, chile peppers are used to make hot sauce. A fairly clear distinction exists between the style of hot sauces that come from the countries that descended from New Spain (Mexico, New Mexico, Nicaragua, etc.), and those that come from le Monde Créole (those that descended from New France). This distinction lies in the use of vinegar: the Caribbean-stykle sauces use a lot of it; the Spanish-style sauces use little or none at all.

The Caribbean-style hot sauces include those from Louisiana, the West Indies, Barbados ets. Louisiana-style hot sauce contains red chile peppers (usually Tabasco or Cayenne), vinegar and salt. Occasionally, xanthan gum or other thickeners are used. This includes:

  • Original
    Tabasco sauce.
    Tabasco sauce - a medium-hot tabasco-pepper based sauce (Capsicum frutescens sp. var. tabasco), made from peppers vinegar and salt, aged in oak barrels for up to 3 years. Manufactured by the McIlhenny Company, based on Avery Island, Louisiana, but peppers are grown by foreign growers in Central and South America, to ensure consistency of taste and uninterrupted supply. This is the aged "champagne" of Louisiana-style hot sauces. The sauce is produced by the McIlhenny Company, based in Avery Island, Louisiana and represents the earliest recognizable brand in the hot sauce industry, having appeared in 1868.

    Avery Island is not an actual island, but a topographic elevation that rises above the surrounding coastal marsh. The elevation is associated with the Avery Island salt dome, a salt diapir that rises from tens of thousands of feet deep to just beneath the surface. The salt dome developed in association with a large subsurface fault, one of many along which the Guld Coast is sliding into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The particular fault that worked to allow the deep salt to move up and create the Avery Island salt dome, was also responsible for the creation of the Côte Blanche Island salt dome, some 10 miles to the southeast, where yours truly cut his teets as a petroleum geologist, developing the Chevron-Texaco field that exists there, 15,000 feet below the surface. In total, five salt domes are associated this "Five-Island Trend": Weeks Island, Avery Island, Jefferson Island, Côte Blanche, and Belle Isle. Most of these salt domes are shallow enough to allow the salt to be mined. Form an operational standpoint, the combination of a salt mine and an oil well proved catastrophic once, at Jefferson Island, when a Texaco-operated well was drilled through the salt layer into a portion of the mine the mining company did not know was there!

    As the Avery Island diapir grew, the areas around it subsided and were flooded by brackish waters creating the marsh, while the area directly above the sale dome remained as a topographic high. Exxon operated an oil field, deep below the salt dome, which had been discovered in 1941 by Humble Oil, later Exxon. In addition to this 100+ million-barrel field, the International Salt Company started mining salt here here in 1899. Incidentally, the salt used in Tabasco hot sauce comes from the Avery Island salt dome. In all, Exxon has done a very sensitive job developing the field around the McIlhenny farm, with all of their flowlines buried underground, for instance.

  • Crystal hot sauce,
    a New Orleans staple.
    Crystal Hot Sauce - a mild cayenne-pepper based sauce (Capsicum annum sp. var. cayenne), made from aged red cayenne peppers, distilled vinegar and salt, manufactured by Baumer Foods since 1923, until hurricane Katrina based on Tulane Avenue in New Orleans, now based in Reserve, Louisiana. The most commonly used in New Orleans kitchens; it has great flavor without brining unbearable heat.

  • Louisiana Hot Sauce brand.
    Louisiana Hot Sauce - Cayenne-pepper based sauce (Capsicum annum sp. var. cayenne), made from aged peppers, vinegar, and salt, manufactured by the Bruce Foods Corporation in Iberia, Louisiana since 1928

  • Trappey's sauce.
    Trappey's Hot Sauce - a mild jalapeño-based sauce (Capsicum annum sp. var. jalapeño), made from peppers, distilled vinegar, red pepper, salt, guar gum, xanthan gum and ascorbic acid, produced by Trappey's Fine Foods, Inc. based in New Iberia, Louisiana, but product is manufactured in Colombia.

Hot pepper sauces from the Caribbean are similar to those from Louisiana in that they are generally made from chile peppers and vinegar, just differ in the type of peppers (usually Habanero or Scotch Bonnet, which are hotter than Cayenne), and the addition of vegetables and tropical fruits (which do not exist in Louisiana).

Scotch Bonnet chile pepper.
The name "Scotch Bonnet" sounds innocent, but this is a deadly hot chile pepper, ranging 100,000–350,000 on the Scoville scale, putting it far higher than Cayenne and most Mexican chile peppers. Compared to the jalapeño, the spiciest Scotch Bonnet is 140 times hotter than he mildest jalapeño. The Scotch Bonnet is definitely a chile pepper that deserves respect. It goes by many local names. Throughout the Caribbean, it is called Boabs Bonnet, Bonney pepper, Caribbean red pepper, Scotty Bons, Bahama Mama, Jamaican Hot, Martinique pepper, and the Bahamian.

In the West Indies, hot sauce is used heavily in Caribbean cuisine, just as in Louisiana. Like Louisiana-style sauces, they are made from chili peppers and vinegar, but with mostly with Habanero and Scotch Bonnet peppers, the latter being the most common in Jamaica. Both are very hot peppers, making for strong sauces. Over the years, each island developed its own distinctive recipes, and home-made sauces are still common.

  • Trinidad and Tobago - arguably holding the gastronomic holy grail of the Caribbean. Six consecutive wins at the annual Taste of the Caribbean cooking competition speak in favor of that. The islands are home to the indigenous Moruga Scorpion pepper

    Moruga Scorpion chile pepper.
    (Capsicum chinense species), reaching an incredible 2,000,000 on the Scoville Scale, and named the 2012 world’s hottest by New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute. Trinidad and Tobago pepper sauces are vinegar-based and mustard-spiked and and made with insanely hot local peppers such as the aforementioned Trinidad Scorpion Marouga, but also the "milder" Marouga Red ("only" about as hot as the Habanero), Bejucal, West Indies Red (a Habanero-type variety developed by the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute, CARDI, at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago). The the palate can withstand the heat, these sauces have a reputation for excellent toppings for specialties like bake and shark, a sandwich that consists of deep-fried shark filets on a freshly baked round roll, or callaloo, a stew of leafy greens and coconut milk.

    Matouk's Hot Pepper sauce
    from Trinidad.
    The commercial brand Matouk’s is made by National Canners Limited in Arima, Trinidad. The company was started in 1967 by Matouk senior. Many of the initial recipes were traditional, developed by his mother and grandmothers in the family kitchen. The sauce is made from aged, pickled Scotch Bonnet peppers and mustard. It has a deep orange color, and is textured more like picante sauce than a Louisiana-style hot sauce. This is the hottest sauce without capsaicin extract added. Open any pantry in the country and, chances are, there will be a bottle or two of Matouk's in there.

  • The islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are another Caribbean culinary destination. The cuisine of St. Kitts’ also focuses on seafood. Fried grouper, conch chowder, lobster, shrimp, mahi-mahi all show up on local menus, many accompanied by pink peas and rice and spicy plantains. Mrs.Greaux’ Hot Pepper Sauce provides the heat. Mrs.Greaux’ is an addictive blend of local West Indian red peppers and curry leaves.

    Sauce Ti-malice from Haiti.
  • Sauce Ti-malice - traditional hot sauce from Haiti, made using either Habanero or Scotch-Bonnet peppers, onions, garlic, lime juice or vinegar, sautéed, and served warm over fish or grilled meats. Variations include minced shallots instead of onion, adding some minced red or green bell pepper for extra color, and 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
  • Bajan pepper sauce - traditional, very hot sauce from Barbados, based on Scotch-Bonnet peppers (Capsicum chinense sp. var. scotch bonnet), similar to Louisiana-style hot sauce in terms of its principal ingredients but hotter. It is made from peppers, mustard, and vinegar, with smaller amounts of cooking oil, onions, black pepper, and turmeric, sometimes also a small amount of sea water or alcohol for taste variety. Brands incluce Aunt May's, Delish and Star.
  • In Jamaica, hot sauces need little more than garlic, vinegar and native scotch bonnet peppers to achieve their heady, heated tang and vibrant red, orange or green hue. Commercial brands include Grace, Pickapeppa, Eaton's, Jamaican Gourmet, Dunn's River, Winston's' and something called "Pain is Good". However, at Negril Farmer’s Market, homemade delicious fiery blends are sold in everything from jars to recycled water bottles.

    Pickapeppa Sauce from Jamaica.
    Pickapeppa sauce - Hot to very hot sauce from Jamaica, based on Scotch-Bonnet peppers (Capsicum chinense sp. var. scotch bonnet), as the most popular peppers in Jamaica. It is made using peppers, cane vinegar, tomatoes, onions, mangoes, raisins, and spices, aged in oak barrels for 1 yerar. It has been manufactured in Shooter's Hill, Jamaica by the Pickapeppa Company, Ltd. since 1921. Several variants of the sauce are made with varying degrees of heat, ranging from hot to extremely hot.

  • In the British Virgin Islands, hot pepper sauces are typically spiked with mustard, giving them a sharp bite and a yellow color. Noted commercial brands include Sunny Caribbee Spice Co & Art Gallery on Tortola, the largest of the islands, Erica’s, a commercial brand sold at grocery stores throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines, gets its red-orange tint and bright, citrusy flavor from locally grown habaneros.

    Miss Anna's sauce from St. Croix.
    Miss Anna’s is a notable sauce from St. Croix, made based on a 100-year-old Crucian recipe. It won the prestigious Scovie Award, snaring a first prize in the Authentic Caribbean Hot Sauce category. Like other local hot sauces, this one also uses West Indian curry leaves for a smoky kick. The recipe for Miss Anna’s Hot Pepper Sauce originated with Anna Dennis, a native of St. Lucia, who has lived in St. Croix for forty or so years. More specifically, it was her grandfather, a St. Lucian fisherman. He started making this pepper sauce for his own personal use, but the unique combination of heat and rich flavor soon spread. Grandpa continued making his special pepper sauce for years, eventually passing the recipe down to Miss Anna’s mother, who passed it on to Anna Denis. She took the recipe with her when she relocated to St. Croix where the pepper sauce was successfully commercialized. The remarkable aspect of this sauce is its late kick. Most hot sauces inflict their heat the second you taste them, but Miss Anna’s comes on more gradually. It first appeases your taste buds with tangy mustard, curry, and garlic flavors, before the intense heat of the Habanero peppers hits you an second or two later. The sauce is especially good on eggs, beans and rice, or any seafood. Miss Anna’s sauce is as much of a staple in Crucian kitchens as Crystal Hot Sauce is in New Orleans.
  • Puerto Rico - hot sauces are not traditional at every meal but they are gaining a place as a staple in everyday food. Many varieties exist: every restaurant, food vendor and home has their own style of hot sauce. Some are sweet and some are insanely spicy; some just work as a nice vinaigrette. A traditional pique (hot sauce) is an oil- and vinegar-based sauce that is infused with whole peppers, garlic, onions and culantro or other spices.

    Pique Criollo sauce from Puerto Rico.
    Traditional piques include: Pique criollo, also known as Pique boricua de botella or Puerto Rican Tabasco is made of Caballero or Habanero peppers, pineapple (skin or small pieces), vinegar, oregano, peppercorns, garlic and/or onions. Sometimes, citrus fruit, cilantro, culantro, sugar, cumin, rum or chocolate are added.

    Pique mi madre sauce from Puerto Rico.
    Pique mi Madre de Puerto Rico is made of chunks of garlic, habaneros, big pieces of oregano and whole black peppercorns, floating in a sea of vinegar with sugar and water added. Mi Madre’s Pique water, vinegar, vegetable oil, peppers, oregano, garlic, black pepper, sugar and salt.

Then, there are the relative newcomers to the Caribbean hot sauce scene:

  • Sharp's original recipe.
    Marie Sharp's - Hot sauce from Belize, Central America, Habanero-based sauce (Capsicum chinense sp. var. habanero), made from Habanero peppers and fresh vegetables. A relative newcomer into the world of hot sauce, it has been manufactured by Marie and Gerald Sharp in Stann Creek, Belize since 1980. A wide range of variants are made, ranging from mild to comatose. "Mild" is the original recipe combining Habanero flavor at a low heat level; "Hot" is the same basic recipe as Mild but higher on the heat scale; "Fiery Hot" is same basic recipe as Mild and Hot but even higher on the heat scale; "Belizean Heat", "No Wimps Allowed" and "Beware" (the names tell it all...). The company also makes specialty sauces: Green Habanero (made from the Prickly Pear cactus called "Nopal"), and Orange- and Grapefruit-Pulp Habanero (made from yellow Habanero peppers, citrus pulp that enhances the Habanero flavor, fresh vegetables, and spices. These range between Hot and Fiery Hot on the heat scale.

While we are looking at the connections between Caribbean and Louisiana Créole cuisine, it leaves one big Caribbean island: Cuba. Cuba is a bit of an anomaly in the world of hot sauce. Surrounded seemingly on all sides by places that make hot pepper sauces a staple in their cuisines, you found not find a single traditional hot sauce in Cuban cuisine! Traditional Cuban cuisine is the result of Spanish, French and African (similar to s, so far), with other contributions from Arabic, Chinese, and Portuguese cultures. Traditional Cuban cooking is primarily peasant cuisine that has little concern with measurements, order and timing. Most of the food is sautéed or slow-cooked over a low flame. Unlike Louisiana Créole cuisine, which takes most of its heritage from French cuisine, in Cuban cuisine there are no complicated sauces. Most Cuban dishes rely on a few basic spices: garlic, cumin, oregano and bayleaf. Many dishes use a sofrito as their basis. The Cuban sofrito resembles the vegetable "holy trinity" of sautéed onion, bell pepper and celery. It consists of onion, green pepper, garlic, oregano, and ground pepper sautéed in olive oil. The sofrito is what gives Cuban food its flavor. It is used as the foundation for black beans, stews, many meat dishes, and tomato-based sauces. But where Cayenne pepper would be added in a Louisiana Créole or Cajun dish, Cuban food remains relatively bland. Beans, a staple of Caribbean food in general, are very common in Cuban cuisine as well as in Louisiana cuisine, subscribing to the general Caribbean tradition of eating rice with beans. But where New Orleans Red Beans and rice has the undeniable touch of Cayenne pepper, Cuban Moros y Cristianos brings the underpinnings of vinegar. A similar dish in principle, but a wholly different taste. Where Louisiana and Cuban food start departing is the use of citrus juices, such as lime or sour orange, to marinade meats and poultry. Another common staple to the Cuban diet are root vegetables such as yuca, malanga, and boniato, which are missing from Louisiana cuisine. The only attempt at a piquant sauce in Cuban cuisine is the Cuban Mojo. In Cuban cuisine, mojo applies to any sauce that is made with garlic, olive oil and a citrus juice, traditionally sour orange juice. It brings an interesting taste, but again, it lacks any spiciness whatsoever.

While Caribbean hot sauces in general can be insanely hot, Mexican hot sauces typically focus more on flavor than on intense heat. Chipotle chile peppers are a very popular ingredient of Mexican hot sauce. Although they can be hot, the flavor of the pepper is more complex and more pronounced. The second distinction is the use of vinegar. In general, vinegar is used sparingly or not at all in Mexican sauces, although some particular brands do use it, making them similar to the Caribbean-style sauces. Some hot sauces may include seeds from the achiote plant for coloring or as a slight flavor additive.

The Spanish word for sauce is salsa, and it must be stressed that we are not talking about the tomato-based hot dips typical of Mexican restaurants in the States, as in chips and salsa.

Some of the notable companies producing Mexican style hot sauce are:

  • Búfalo jalapeño sauce.

    Búfalo chipotle sauce.
    Búfalo - a popular Mexican sauce made of chile peppers (fresh or smoked jalapeño), distilled vinegar, carrots, sugar, salt and spices. The chipotle version is a sweeter and peppier hot sauce. It is made from select smoked red jalapeño peppers and has a smooth, rich smoky flavor. It is based on a centuries-old method, in which vine-ripened red jalapeño peppers are slow-smoked, which produces a rich, thick-bodied taste well balanced with heat and flavor.

    Chipotle or Chilpotle comes from the Nahuatl word chilpoctli (meaning "smoked chile"), and is a smoke-dried jalapeño.

  • Cholula Hot Sauce.
    Cholula Hot Sauce - is known as the Mexican hot sauce with the iconic round wooden cap. It is made form a blend of Piquín chile and Chile de árbol peppers, and signature spices. The chile peppers used in this sauce both belong to the common species of Capsicum annuum and register at 100,000-140,000 for Piquín and 15,000-30,000 for the de árbol, respectively. So, they are fairly serious chile peppers! This combination has defined Cholula as "The Flavorful Fire". Cholula makes a good comdiment on eggs and omelets, soups, dips, appetizers, drinks such as the Bloody Mary.

    Cholula Hot Sauce is manufactured in Chapala, Jalisco and licensed to José Cuervo. The sauce is named after the 2,500-year-old city of Cholula, in the Mexican state of Puebla, the oldest inhabited city in Mexico. The name "Cholula" is derived from the Nahuatl toponym Chollollan, meaning "the place of the retreat." Prior to its acquisition by José Cuervo, Cholula had been produced for three generations in Chapala, Jalisco. Following expansion across the Mexican market, Cholula was first introduced to the United States in Austin, Texas in 1989. During the 1990s, it has expended throughout the United States and Canada and it is not available in Europe and Asia as well.

  • Valentina Sauce.
    Valentina in a traditional Mexican hot sauce hot sauce manufactured by the Salsa Tamazula company of Guadalajara in northwestern Mexico. The sauce comes in two varieties, hot and extra hot, and the sauce is known for its taste, as opposed to only for its heat. Valentina's ingredients are chile peppers, vinegar, water, salt, spices and sodium benzoate as a preservative. Its taste is citrusy with a spicy aftertaste. It is often used as a condiment with fresh produce such as cucumbers and many varieties of fruit, such as watermelon, mangoes, oranges, and pineapple, with lemon and salt.
New Mexican style chile sauces differ from the others in that they never contain vinegar. Almost every traditional New Mexican dish is served with red and/or green chile sauce. The sauce is often added to meats, eggs, vegetables, breads, and some dishes are, in fact, mostly chile sauce with a modest addition of pork, beef, or beans.

  • New Mexico Green Chile sauce.
    Green chile: This sauce is prepared from any fire roasted native green chile peppers, Hatch, Santa Fe, Albuquerque Tortilla Company, Bueno and Big Jim are common varieties. The skins are removed and peppers diced. Onions are fried in lard and a roux is prepared. Broth and chile peppers are added to the roux and thickened. Its consistency is similar to gravy, and it is used as such. It also is used as a salsa.

  • New Mexico Red Chile sauce.
    Red chile: A roux is made from lard and flour. The dried ground pods of native red chiles are added. Water is added and the sauce is thickened.

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Spanish Culinary Influence

Mexican cuisine, although it is substantially different in taste from Créole, followed the same basic evolutionary pathway that Créole food did to evolve from French. As Créole food is a fusion of French, African, Caribbean and Native sources, Mexican cuisine is a fusion of Spanish African, Caribbean and Native. At the birth of Mexican cuisine, the Spanish introduced a large number of European foods, the most important of which were meat from domesticated animals (beef, pork, chicken, goat and sheep), cheese, various herbs and lots of spices. This blended with basic local staples, which all over New Spain, were corn, beans and chile peppers (regionally also tomatoes, squashes, avocados, cocoa and vanilla). The cuisine and cooking techniques began to blend and over time resulted in various regional cuisines based on local conditions.

Blue corn.
Corn remains as the most common starch, despite the introduction of wheat and rice by the Spanish, The most common way to eat corn in Mexico is in the form of a tortilla, which accompanies almost every dish. The other basic ingredient in all Mexican food are chile peppers. Mexican food has a reputation for being very hot, but, in fact, its dishes range from delicate to spicy. After all, the hottest chile peppers in the world do not come from Mexico but from South America, the Caribbean, Africa and India. In Mexico, chile peppers are used for their flavors and not just their heat. The fundamental truth all across Mexico is that, if food does not contain chile peppers, it is not food. Chile is as much part of Mexican national identity as pâte is French or beer is Czech and German. The main contributions of the Spanish to the culinary melting pot were meat and cheese. Indigenous diet contained very little meat beyond domesticated turkey, and dairy products were completely unknown. The Spanish also introduced the technique of frying in pork fat.

Mexican chile peppers mostly belong to the species Capsicum annuum, same as New Mexican chile. This species encompasses a wide variety of shapes and sizes of peppers, both mild and hot, ranging from bell peppers to chile peppers. The cayenne falls on the upper end of the heat spectrum, as do serranos or penguin peppers. Examples of Capsicum annuum include mild varieties such as bell pepper, banana pepper, cherry pepper, pepperoncini (peperone in Italy), Italian sweet pepper, Anaheim, guajillo, poblano. Mid-range chiles include jalapeño, Hungarian wax pepper and New Mexico chile. Very hot chiles include De árbol, Cayenne, bird's eye (Thai) and serrano. As a side-note, the world's hottest chiles are not from this species. The habanero, the Adjuma from Suriname, the Fatalii from southern Africa, the Bhut Jolokia from India (the hottest chile of the world), are part of the Capsicum chinense species.

Mexican chile peppers come in two varieties: fresh and dry, often differing in names for the same biological pepper. Fresh chiles are: chilaca, caribe, carricillo, tropmita, amarillento, habanero, jalapeño, manzano, poblano, serrano, and last not least a hot pepper with a strange name of x-cat-ik from Yucatán. Dry chiles include ancho, cascabel, catarina, chilcostle, chilhuacle, chipotle, de arbol, guajillo, morita, mulato, pasilla, piquin, puya. Some of these are used in northern Mexican cuisine and made it into Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex, New Mexico and Arizona cuisine, such as ancho, poblano, serrano or jalapeño. But some are sompletely indigenous to Mexico, pasilla oaxaqueña, chilhuacles, chilcostles and costeña.

Poblano pepper (Capsicum annuum, mild, 1,000–1,500)
red; originating in the state of Puebla; called ancho pepper when dried; closely related to the mulato
Pasilla pepper (Capsicum annuum, mild)
long and thin, 6-8 in (15-20 cm) long and 1-1.5 in (2.5-4 cm) wide; dark wrinkled skin; dried form of the chilaca pepper (in the United States often misnamed as the wider poblano); sold whole or powdered; mild to medium-hot, rich-flavored; used especially in sauces; often combined with fruits, garlic, fennel, honey, or oregano and are excellent with duck, seafood, lamb, mushrooms. Pasilla oaxaqueña is a variety of smoked pasilla chile from Oaxaca; red and hot; used in mole negro.
Mulato pepper (Capsicum annuum, mild, 2,500 - 3,000)
a mild to medium-hot chile pepper; dark green, maturing to red or brown; large (10x5 cm); closely related to the poblano but darker in color, sweeter in flavor, and softer in texture; usually sold dried, part of the famous “trinity” used in mole, as well as other Mexican sauces and stews. The dried mulato is flat and wrinkled, and always brownish-black in color. Taste after chocolate or licorice, with undertones of cherry and tobacco.
Guajillo pepper (Capsicum annuum, medium-hot, 2,500-5,000)
large; deep red in color; dried "chile mirasol"; mild, with a green tea flavor with berry overtones; used in salsas, pastes, butters, or rubs to flavor all kinds of meats, especially chicken
Cascabel pepper (Capsicum annuum, medium-hot, 2,500–8,000)
2-3 cm in diameter; pigmentation of the fresh pepper blends from green to red, darker when dried; grown in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Guerrero, and Jalisco
Jalapeño pepper (Capsicum annuum, medium-hot, 2,500-8,000)
medium-sized, 5–9 cm long; picked and consumed while still green, crimson red when fully ripened; named after Xalapa, Veracruz, where it was traditionally cultivated; grown in Veracruz, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Nayarit, Sonora, Sinaloa, Chiapas and southwestern U.S.
Serrano pepper (Capsicum annuum, hot, 10,000-25,000)
small; green; from the mountainous regions of the states of Puebla and Hidalgo; named after the mountains (sierras) of the region
Tabasco pepper (Capsicum frutescens, hot, 30,000-50,000)
small; green, ripening to bright red; belongs to a different species, to Capsicum frutescens; named after the Mexican state of Tabasco
De árbol pepper (Capsicum annuum, hot,15,000-30,000), small (5-7 cm long and up to 1 cm thick); bright red when mature; sold fresh or powdered; can be traded with Cayenne pepper (30,000–50,000 Scoville units) or Pequin pepper (100,000–140,000 Scoville units)
Pequin or Piquin pepper (Capsicum annuum, very hot, 100,000–140,000)
small (up to 2 cm in length); starts green, ripening to brilliant red; commonly used as a spice (13–40 times hotter than jalapeños); citrusy flavor (if you can survive it...), smoky (if dried with wood smoke), and nutty; commonly used for pickling, salsas, sauces, soups, and vinegars; the Cholula brand hot sauce uses piquin peppers and arbol peppers among its ingredients.

Mexican cuisine is as complex as any of the great cuisines in the world, reflecting countless local traditions. If there are any generalizations that can be made, it is that two general types of cuisine evolved: Northern Mexican and Southern Mexican. Southern Mexican cuisine has seafood, tropical fruits and vegetables, African and Native influences, while Northern Mexican food is heavier on beef and pork, wheat tortillas, and ranch-style cooking. Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex, New Mexican and Arizona cuisine fall into the latter general category.

Snapper, Veracrus-style.
In the south of Mexico (Yucatán , Veracruz, Chiapas, Oaxaca etc);

  • seafood is common along the coasts; on the Pacific coast marlin, swordfish, snapper, tuna, shrimp and octopus are generally cooked with European spices along with chile peppers, and often served with a spicy salsa
  • tropical fruits such as cactus fruit, pineapple, tamarind, plums, mamey, papaya, zapote, avocados and bitter oranges abound
  • include European herbs (i.e. parsley, cilantro, thyme, marjoram or bay leaf) and meats (i.e. beef, pork and chicken)
  • African influences i.e. plantains, yucca, sweet potatoes, and peanuts found in Veracruz
  • Indigenous influences are very apparent in Yucatán cuisine, which differs from the rest of Mexico in that it is based primarily on Mayan food with influences from the Caribbean, central Mexico, European (especially French) and Middle Eastern cultures.

Interesting local phenomenons include the use of vanilla in the cuisine of Veracruz (vanilla being native to that region). The state of Veracrus also served as the gateway to Mexico from the Caribbean, and thus the usual staple of corn is less evident here than in other parts of Mexico, with rice as a favorite.

Elsewhere, in the state of Chiapas, the fiery hot simojovel chile pepper is used, as the only locality in Mexico.

Tamale Oaxaqueño, wrapped in banana leaves,
filled with chicken and mole negro.
In the south, tamales are usually wrapped in banana leavem, not corn husks.

In the state of Oaxaca, cuisine remained more or less intact after the Conquest, as the Spanish took the area with less fighting and less disruption. It was the first area to experience the mixing of foods and cooking styles, while central Mexico was still recuperating.

Chicken with Mole Poblano,
the "national dish of Mexico".
One major feature of Oaxacan cuisine is its seven mole sauces, second only to mole poblano in importance. Moles are complex, rich, exotic sauces, with long lists of ingredients. The seven moles from Oaxaca are the Rojo (red), Negro (black), Amarillo (yellow), Verde (green), Coloradito (little red), Mancha Manteles (table cloth stainer), and Chichilo (smoky stew).

Oaxaca also adapted mozzarella, brought by the Spanish, and modified it to what is known now as Oaxaca cheese.

Birria stew.
In the states of Jalisco and Colima, there are stews such as birria (a stew originally made from goat then sheep and later beef) and chilayo (pork and chile stew), and a soup called menudo (made with beef stomach (tripe) in a broth with a red chile pepper base, and lime, chopped onions, cilantro, oregano and crushed red chile peppers).

An important Mexican foodstuff, tequila, is produced in the state of Jalisco.

In Mexico City the main feature of the cuisine is that it is a big melting pot of various influences. Many of the ingredients are not grown here, such as tropical fruits. Street cuisine is very popular, with taco stands, torta (sandwich) shops, and lunch counters on every street. Popular foods in the city include barbacoa (a specialty of the central highlands), birria (from western Mexico), cabrito (from the north), carnitas (originally from Michoacán), moles (from Puebla and central Mexico), tacos with many different fillings and large sub-like sandwiches called tortas. There are eateries that specialize in pre-Hispanic food including dishes with insects. This is also the area where most of Mexico’s haute cuisine can be found.

Tamale Oaxaqueño, wrapped in banana leaves,
filled with chicken and mole negro.
Now compare this to northern Mexican cuisine. Northern Mexican cuisine has differed from the south since the pre-Hispanic era. In the north, the indigenous people were hunter-gatherers with limited agriculture and settlements because of the arid land. The variety of foodstuffs in the north is not as diverse as in the south because of the mostly desert climate. Much of the northern cuisine of this area is also dependent on food preservation, specifically dehydration and canning (dried beans, dried chile peppers, dried corn).

When the Europeans arrived, they found much of the land in this area to be suitable for two things: raising cattle, goats and sheep; and wheat farming. This led to the dominance of meat, especially beef, in northern cuisine. Because of wheat production, this area has at least forty different types of flour tortillas! Large flour tortillas allowed for the creation of burritos, usually filled with machaca in Sonora, which eventually gained popularity in the Southwest United States.

The province of Nuevo León was founded and settled by Spanish families of Jewish origin, contributed significantly to the regional cuisine. The north has also seen waves of immigration by the Chinese, Mormons, and Mennonites, who have influenced the cuisines of Chihuahua and Baja California.

Grilled Mexican skirt steak
Some of the typical dishes from the north include machaca (dried beef preserved with ground chile), arrachera (a type of thin skirt steak), and cabrito (roasted goat). The region's distinctive cooking technique is grilling, as ranch culture has promoted outdoor cooking. The ranch culture has also prompted cheese production and the north produces the widest varieties of cheese in Mexico. These include queso fresco (fresh farmer's cheese), ranchero (similar to Monterey Jack), cuajada (a mildly sweet, creamy curd of fresh milk), requesón (similar to cottage cheese or riccotta), menonita (a creamy semi-soft cheese from Chihuahua), and fifty-six varieties of asadero (smoked cheese).

A definitive guide to Mexican cuisine, called "My Mexico: A Culinary Odyssey with More Than 300 Recipes", was written by Diana Kennedy and published in 1998 (Clarkson Potter, 1st edition October 20, 1998). A native of Essex in the United Kingdom, Kennedy moved to Mexico in 1957 with her husband, who was a correspondent researching cooking techniques and the history of Mexican cuisine. She has been publishing books on Mexican cuisine since 1972 ("The Cuisines of Mexico", Harper & Row, New York), followed by "The Tortilla Book" (Harper & Row, 1975), "Recipes from the Regional Cooks of Mexico" (Harper & Row, 1978), "Nothing Fancy" (Dial Press, 1984), "The Art of Mexican Cooking" (Bantam Books, 1989), "My Mexico..." (Clarkson Potter, 1998), "The Essential Cuisines of Mexico" (Clarkson Potter, 2000), "From My Mexican Kitchen—Techniques and Ingredients" (Clarkson Potter, 2003), and "Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy" (University of Texas Press, 2010).

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Cuisine of the American Southwest

The American Southwest,
plus Texas and California.
Now, on to the ol' U.S. of A. Given that historically California, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Texas were once called the Provinces of Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico, belonging first to New Spain and later to the Mexican Empire(s) and Republic, it follows that the regional cuisine in these places is simply an extension of Northern Mexican cuisine. Granted, there are differences between food in Texas (Tex-Mex), New Mexico and California (Cal-Mex), but these are relatively subtle nuances in the bigger picture of the Americas. Altogether, they they have more in common than what makes them different. For example, they lack the things typical for southern Mexican food: tropical fruits, seafood, and specific seasonings, and favor more ranch-style food consisting of meat, cheese and wheat.

New Mexico flag.
Of the three, New Mexican cuisine is probably closest to the true northern Mexican style of cooking, because New Mexico remained under Mexican influence the longest and, until the late 20th century, was much less of a melting pot than Texas and California. Texas went its own way first when it because independent of Mexico in 1836. California and New Mexico were separated from Mexico together during the Mexican Cession following the Mexican-American war, but New Mexico did not became a U.S. state until 1912. In comparison, the Republic of Texas joined the Union in 1846 and the California Republic in 1850.

New Mexico chiles.
New Mexican cuisine is a fusion of Spanish and Mediterranean, Mexican, Pueblo Native American, and Cowboy Chuckwagon influences. Like in Mexico, chile, beans, and corn are the basic staples and, like in Mexico, "if it does not contain chile, fresh or ground, it is not food".

Blue corn.
During this, the Spaniards brought their cuisine which mingled with the indigenous. A very good example of Native influence in New Mexico cuisine is the blue corn, also known as Hopi maize. It is a variety of corn grown in northern Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico. Varieties of blue corn range in color from powdery gray to nearly black. Blue corn is very traditional to the Hopi people. Besides being the backbone of their diet, it is an essential part of the Hopi tribe. The different colors of corn have specific meanings in the Hopi culture and spiritual matters. Present-day recipes have their roots in traditional Native breads, with a modern-day twist:

  • Blue corn tortillas
  • Blue corn tortilla chips
  • Blue corn muffins
  • Blue corn pancakes
  • Blue corn cornbread

The second staple, beans, represent one of the longest-cultivated plants in human history. Most New world beans come from the genus Phaseolus. There are five kinds of Phaseolus beans that were domesticated by pre-Columbian peoples:

  • common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), grown from Chile to the northern part of the United States
  • lima and sieva beans (Phaseolus lunatus)
  • teparies (Phaseolus acutifolius)
  • scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus)
  • polyanthus beans (Phaseolus polyanthus). It is the species Phaseolus vulgaris, or common bean, that includes the most widely used beans such as the pinto bean, kidney bean, black bean, as well as green beans, and many others.

The pinto bean is the most common bean in the United States and northwestern Mexico This is the bean most commonly used for refried beans (frijoles refritos). It also makes a good bean for chili con carne.

Red kidney beans are commonly used in chili con carne. They are also an integral part of the classic Monday-night New Orleans dish of red beans and rice.

Black beans (frijoles negros) are small, shiny variety of common beans, especially popular in Latin American cuisine, perhaps more so than in northern Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. They are used in the the black bean burrito, but there are many more dishes from the Caribbean where these bean can be found. Examples include the Cuban black bean soup, "Moros y Cristianos" and Cuban black beans. They can also be found in the Louisiana cuisine, and in the cuisines of the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

The third staple of Mexican cuisine is the chile pepper. Note that we used the proper lingo throughout this essay, and indeed throughout our cookbook. A "chile" are the peppers, either whole or ground, while "chili" is the stew that is made from them (as in Texas chili con carne). It is fundamentally improper to call a pepper a "chili".

Green and red chili from New Mexico.
Well then, on to chile peppers, perhaps the most defining characteristics of New Mexican Cuisine. If you have been to New Mexico, to ski, to hike, look for Anasazi petroglyphs, or just to drink margaritas, the essential question heard all the time in a New Mexican restaurant is "Red or green?". This is not referring to whether you prefer your car in British Racing Green or in Ferrari Red, but to which chili you like: green or red? In Texas, there is only one type of chili: chili con carne is always a deep-red dish swimming in tomatoes. A deeply satisfying and heartwarming dish to be sure, there is only one type of chili in Texas: red. In New Mexico, chili is elevated to a whole diverse family of dishes. Indeed, in New Mexico, the chile and chili run deep. Very deep!

Dr. Fabian Garcia.
All of New Mexican chile peppers (Chile Nuevo Mexicano) are from the species Capsicum annuum, just like most peppers in Mexico. But what is not generally realized by non-New Mexico folks is that all New Mexican chile peppers are the same cultivar of the species. Here is a story to help understand how major a role the chile pepper plays in the culture of New Mexico. The New Mexican chile resulted from the work of Dr. Fabian Garcia, a pioneering horticulturalist and the first director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at the present-day New Mexico State University. Born in Mexico in 1871, orphaned, brought to New Mexico by his grandmother at age 2, nearly kiled in an Apache raid at age 9 in 1880, he studied, became a horticulturalist and took on the position of the first director of the Agricultural Experiment Station of New Mexico State University in 1914. He was only one of two people in the early 20th century to experiment with chile peppers.

Garcia's farm.
His work on New Mexican chile peppers began in 1894, when he began cultivating the local chiles grown by Hispanic gardeners around the town of Las Cruces in southern New Mexico. Before Dr. Garcia developed the New Mexican chile, there was no control over the genetic constitution of the chile seeds planted, so farmers could never predict the size or heat of the pods. Dr. Garcia thought that, if he could make the chiles milder and consistent in taste, consumption would increase among the Anglo population. He had two colors of chile to choose from, red (colorado) or black (negro). He chose the red strain and cultivated this native chile with the goal to produce a cultivar that would be larger, smoother, and fleshier, He selected 14 chile accessions growing in the Las Cruces area from 3 types, pasilla (dark brown), colorado, and negro chiles. After nine years, only one line (the "New Mexico No. 9") remained. It was released in 1913, and in 1921 officially introduced a new chile pepper to the world: the New Mexican chile.

Garcia's "New Mexico No. 9".
The New Mexico No. 9 was not as hot as most of the original varieties, it seemed hot enough. The heat of New Mexico No. 9 is 1,000-1,500 on the Scoville Scale. New Mexico No. 9 had uniform heat and a standard pod size and shape. It became the chile standard until 1950, and helped establish the Mexican food industry in the United States. By creating a pod that growers as well as consumers could depend on in size and heat, Garcia made possible a mass cultivation of "red or green" chile peppers and lay the foundation for the chile industry.

All New Mexican-type chiles grown today gained their genetic base from cultivars developed at New Mexico State University. The New Mexico No. 9 was the most important one, but other cultivars based on the New Mexican pod followed:

  • New Mexico No. 6 in 1950 (milder, 700–900)
  • Sandia in 1956 (hotter, 1,500–2,000)
  • New Mexico 6-4 in 1958 (milder, 300–500)
  • Rio Grande 21 in 19667 (milder, 500–700)
  • NuMex Big Jim in 1975 (similar, 500–2,000)
  • Española Improved in 1984 (similar, 1,500–2,000)
  • NuMex R Naky in 1985 (mild, 260–760)
  • NuMex Conquistador in 1989 (very mild, 0),
  • NuMex Sweet in 1990 (mild, 200–300)
  • NuMex Joe E. Parker in 1990 (milder, 800–900)
  • NuMex Garnet in 2004 (very mild, 150–160)
  • Heritage New Mexico 6-4 in 2008 (very mild, 350)
  • Heritage NuMex Big Jim in 2008 (milder, 500–1,000>

Numex Big Jim.Numex Joe E. Parker.

Dr. Garcia's work with the New Mexico No. 9 has been aimed at producing a mild or medium-hot chile pepper, more suitable for the Anglo palate, and therefore more marketable. However, there are some very hot chile peppers that have been cultivated at the same institute, but those are based on the habanero or the Piquin. Examples are:

  • NuMex Bailey Piquin in 1991 (90,000–100,000)
  • NuMex Vaquero in 1997 (jalapeño-based, hot, 25,000–30,000)
  • NuMex Piñata in 1998 (Jalapeño-based, hot, 45,000–50,000)
  • NuMex Primavera in 1998 (Jalapeño-based, medium-hot, 8,500–9,000).

There have also been some very mild varieties of the habanero introduced in 2004, such as the NuMex Suave Red 2004 (774 Scoville units) and the NuMex Suave Orange (335 Scoville units). There was even a cultivar of the cayenne pepper introduced in 2003, the NuMex Nematador (15,500–16,000).

It is Garcia's flavorful New Mexican chile that gives the local cuisine much of its distinctive style, and is used so extensively that it is known simply as "chile". Whether chiles are red or green depends on their stage of ripeness when picked, not on the species or cultivar. Red chiles are the ripe form of the same plant. Green chiles are picked unripe, fire-roasted and peeled before further use. New Mexico chiles can range from completely mild to very hot, and can be bought in several grades of spiciness. Red chiles are generally more piquant than green chiles. They can also be roasted, but are usually dried and used whole in stews, but more often ground into powder or sometimes flakes and used as a spice.

New Mexico Red and Green Chile Sauces.

Scrambled eggs on a corn tortilla,
topped with New Mexico Red and Green Chile Sauces,
served blue cord bread.
The simplest dishes where New Mexico Red and Green Chile Sauces are used are breakfasts. Simple scrambled eggs on a soft corn tortilla, topped with red and/or green chile sauces make a simple, yet fiery kick-start for your day.

A simple American Breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon, with a topping of New Mexico Green Chile Sauce, is an example of culinary fusion at its simplest. American Breakfast, itself an evolution of the Traditional English Breakfast, consists of various eggs preparations served on a plate, next to bacon or sausage, potatoes in various forms, and sometimes grits. Breakfasts in Latin countries are completely different.

In France, Italy and Spain, breakfast is the smallest meal of the day. It typically consists of a bread roll (croissant in France and Italy, a sweet roll or a cupcake in Spain), a glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee (filtered coffee in france, espresso in Italy and Spain). In Mexico, breakfast is a bigger affair than in the old country, but nothing very similar to the American Breakfast. Mexican Breakfast varies by region and reflects Native traditions and the three centuries of Spanish rule. However, some generalizations can be made: beans, chile peppers and tortillas are almost always present. Typical Mexican breakfast dishes are: Breakfast Nachos, Breakfast Quesadillas, Breakfast Tacos, Burritos with bananas or chorizo, Chorizo Con Huevos, Breakfast Tamales Huevos Mexicanos, Huevos Rancheros, Huevos Oaxaca, Breakfast Quiche, Omelette with Chicken or Habanero Chiles, Migas, Red Chile Egg Chilada Casserole, Spinach Breakfast Tortillas, and various forms of Tostadas.

New Mexico Breakfast Burrito.

New Mexico Breakfast Burrito.
The breakfast burrito is another dish to add green chile sauce to. A breakfast burrito is a large soft corn tortilla wrapped around typical components of the American breakfast: scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions, chorizo, bacon, potatoes etc. Tia Sophia's, a Mexican café in Santa Fe, claims to have invented the breakfast burrito in 1975, filling a rolled tortilla with bacon and potatoes, served wet with chili and cheese. However, the idea of eating a burrito filled with various items for breakfast is traditional to Mexico and had existed there long before Tia Sophia's opened. However, where Tia Sophia's was original was the combination of typical ingredients of the American Breakfast being wrapped in the burrito.

The dish subsequently spread beyond New Mexico into other parts of the American Southwest, and into Tex-Mex cuisine. However, only the original New Mexico version will typically contain the New Mexico Green Chile Sauce.

See our recipe for the Santa Fe Breakfast Burrito.

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Texas Cuisine and Tex-Mex

Texas flag.

Flag of the Republic Of Texas (1836–1839).
Moving on to Texas... Texas went its separate way from Mexico in 1836 when it became an independent republic, later joining the United States. Its distinct history, combined with the local terrain and climate, has resulted in a cuisine that is somewhat different from the cuisine of New Mexico. The cuisine of Texas, known as Tex-Mex, is a hybrid of Mexican cuisine and American ingredients, a fusion cuisine that combines traditional Mexican cuisine with American tastes and cooking techniques. Tex-Mex cuisine is rooted in the Tejano culture of present-day Texas.

Beef fajitas.

Texas chili con carne.
Unlike the Créole cuisine of Louisiana, which dates back several hundred years, the term "Tex-Mex" is wholy a 20th century invention. Until the 1970s, Texans referred to fajitas, cheese enchiladas smothered in beef chile sauce, chili con carne etc. simply as "Mexican food". The term "Tex-Mex" in reference to food is credited to a 1963 article in the New York Times Magazine. However, the word "Tex-Mex" first entered the English language as a nickname for the Texas Mexican Railway, chartered in southern Texas in 1875. In train schedules published in the newspapers, the names of railroads were abbreviated. The Missouri-Pacific was called the "Mo. Pac." (as in Mo-Pac Boulevard in Austin), and the Texas-Mexican was abbreviated "Tex. Mex." In the 1920s, the hyphenated form was used in American newspapers in reference to the railroad, but also to describe people of Mexican ancestry who were born in Texas.

The writer Diana Kennedy, the grande dame of Mexican food, drew a line in her 1989 book "Cuisines of Mexico", when she said that the "Mexican food" north of the border was not really Mexican food. She is correct, and then, she is not. To a Mexican, Tex-Mex cuisine is Gringo food. Fajitas or chili con carne are dishes eaten in Texas, never in Mexico. In that sense, she would be correct. On the other hand, both Texas (Tex-Mex) cuisine and New Mexican cuisine (New-Mex) descend from Northern Mexican cuisine, from the time Texas was the province of Coahuila y Tejas and the other states along the border were the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México; both parts of the viceroyalty of New Spain, governed from Mexico City, subject to the King Of Spain, period.

It was said that Tex-Mex cuisine was rooted in the Tejano culture of Texas. So, who are Tejano? Certainly not everybody who lives in Texas. A Tejano is a persion of Criollo Spanish or Mexican heritage, born in present-day Texas. Singers Selena and Jennifer Peña, and actress Eva Longoria are examples of well-known present-day Tejanos. Historically, the term has been used differently. During the Spanish era, the term applied to Spanish settlers of the province of Tejas, first as part of New Spain and after 1821 as part of Mexico. In the Republic Of Texas, the term also applied to Spanish-speaking Texans and Hispanicized Germans and other Europeans. In modern times, the term is used more broadly to identify a Texan of Mexican descent.

That begs the next question: who is a Criollo? In New Spain, Criollo people were a social class in the casta system, describing locally born people of Spanish ancestry. In this sense, Criollo is analogous to the original definition of the Créole, which meant a person of French ancestry, born in one of the French colonies in the Caribbean or in La Louisiane, mixed with African blood. Tis were the original definitions of Criollo and Créole. Today, the term "creole" is applied to many ethnic groups around the world who have no historic connection to France or Spain. The Brazilians call themselves creole, for example.

In Spain, Portugal and New Spain, a Casta was a term used in 17th and 18th centuries throughout New Spain to describe in general the mixed-race people who appeared in the post-Conquest period. The Criollo class ranked below that of the Peninsulares, the high-born (yet class of commoners) colonists born in Spain. Criollos had a higher status than all other castes: people of mixed descent, Amerindians, and African slaves. According to the casta system, a Criollo could have up to 1/8 (one great-grandparent) Amerindian ancestry, and not lose social place.

People like:

  • Agustín de Iturbide (first emperor of Mexico, Agustin I),
  • Juan Ponce de León II (16th century governor of Puerto Rico),
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (17th century Hieronymite nun, scholar, writer and poet in New Spain),
  • Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (Jesuit-trained, Mexican priest and a leader of the Mexican War of Independence),
  • Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi (key figure in the Venezuelan War of Independence),
  • Simón Bolívar (key role in the Mexican War of Independence),
  • Hugo Chávez (Venezuelan dictator),
were all Criollos.

Like the French-speaking Créoles of La Louisiane, keeping track of one's proportion of mixed ancestry was essential. The Criollos of New Spain were defined by the proportion of Native and European ancestry, similar to the way Créoles differentiated between different proportions of European and African blood. A "Mulatto" was a person who was biracial, with one African parent and one European parent. A "Quadroon" was a person of one-quarter African ancestry, that is one biracial parent (black/white) and one European parent; in other words, one African grandparent and three European grandparents. In Latin America, some terms for Quadroons were "morisco" or "chino". The term "Octoroon" referred to a person with one-eighth African ancestry; in other words, one African great-grandparent and seven European great-grandparents. today, the term "Mulatto" became a general term to refer to all persons of mixed race. Examples of famous "Mulattos" are people such as:

  • Alexandre Dumas (of the "Three Musketeers" fame),
  • Alessandro de Medici (Duke of Venice, who was born in 1510 to a black servant called Simonetta da Collavechio and Cardinal Giulio de Medici, who later became Pope Clement VII),
  • Marie Laveau (the voodoo priestess of New Orleans)
  • John James Audubon (ornithologist, naturalist, and painter),
  • Lewis Hamilton (of Mercedes Formula 1 Team fame...),
  • Halle Berry, Mariah Carey, Vanessa Williams, Lenny Kravitz, Barack Obama, Vin Diesel, etc.

The other ingredient of the Tejano culture are people of Mexican heritage. Known in Mexico as mexico-americanos, norteamericanos de origen mexicano or estadounidenses de origen mexicano, about 10% of the population of present-day United States is made up by people of Mexican descent (about 34 million, plus the estimated 7 million Mexican folks who live in the United States less than legally). Linda Ronstadt, Oscar De La Hoya, Carlos Santana and Anthony Quinn are examples of well known Mexican-Americans.

In the province of Tejas, Spanish and indigenous cuisines were combined in the same way they were fused in other parts of New Spain. In much of Texas, the cooking styles on both sides of the border were the same until a period after the American Civil War. With the development of railroads, In the 20th century, American ingredients and cooking appliances became common on the Amecian side. Consequently, Tex-Mex took on such Americanized elements as yellow cheese, as goods from the United States became cheap and readily available. The ranching culture of South Texas and Northern Mexico straddles both sides of the border. A taste for cabrito (kid goat), barbacoa de cabeza (barbecued beef heads), carne seca (dried beef), and other products of cattle culture is common on both sides of the Rio Grande. From the South Texas region between San Antonio, Rio Grande Valley and El Paso, this cuisine has had little variation.

Present-day Tex-Mex cuisine can be divided into two categories:

  1. Typical dishes unique to Tex-Mex

    • Fajitas.
      Fajitas - is sliced grilled meat, cooked with onions and bell peppers, eaten in a folded tortilla, garnished with a combination of salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, shredded lettuce, cheese and tomato. The original fajitas recipe called for skirt steak, marinated overnight; chicken, shrimp or pork are also used in present day. The dish is a twin of the Arrachera from northern Mexico. Both date back to the 1930s in the shared history of northern Mexico and Texas, specifically the Rio Grande Valley in southwestern Texas. Ranch hands would be paid part of their wages in meat, and the least desirable throwaway parts such as the skirt went to them. The vaqueros had to learn to make the best of a tough cut of beef through tenderizing and marinading. The meat would then be grilled on open fire and eaten with tortillas, Fajitas were successfully commercialized during the 1970s in Austin and Houston and spread out from there, first across the United States and then worldwide. Botht eh Arrachera and Fajitas are an evolution of the Mexican taco, which is a Native recipe thousands of years old.

    • Tex-Mex style enchiladas,
      smothered with gravy,
      topped with cheese.
      Enchiladas with cheese - corn tortilla rolled around a filling, covered with a chile pepper sauce, and baked. Tex-Mex enchiladas can be filled with a variety of ingredients: meat, cheese, beans, potatoes, vegetables, seafood or combinations.

      Enchiladas originated in Mexico, where the practice of rolling tortillas around other food dates back at least to Mayan times. They are eaten throughout all of the countries that descend from New Spain: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Southwestern United States. This includes Texas. Texas-style enchiladas consist of gravy-like chili sauce over either cheese-filled or beef-filled corn tortillas, topped with a layer of cheese, and baked. They are usually served with refried beans and rice.

      In general, an enchilada is a maize tortilla stuffed or covered with meat and tomato and chile sauce. The name derives from the the past participle of the Spanish verb enchilar, "to add chile pepper to" or to "season (or decorate) with chile".

      New Mexico-style Red and Green Stacked Enchiladas.
      enchiladas_montadas In comparison with New Mexican cuisine, there is a recipe for New Mexico-style enchiladas called Enchiladas Montadas (Stacked Enchiladas), in which corn tortillas are fried flat until softened but not tough, then stacked with red or green sauce, chopped onion and shredded cheese between the layers and on top of the stack. Ground beef or chicken can be added to the filling, but meat is not traditional. The stack is often topped with a fried egg. Shredded lettuce and sliced black olives may be added as a garnish.

      A good recipe can be found here.

      In comparison, Mexican enchiladas are:

      • Enchiladas de mole with a tamale,
        in San Pedro Atocpan, Federal District, Mexico.
        Enchiladas con chile rojo (with red chile) - a traditional red enchilada sauce, composed of dried red chili peppers soaked and ground into a sauce with other seasonings, Chile Colorado sauce adds a tomato base,
      • Enchiladas de mole - served with mole instead of chili sauce,

      • Enchiladas de Michoacan, Las Manitas
        on Congress Avenue in Austin.
        Enchiladas de Michoacan - made with vegetables and poultry,

      • Enchiladas Tasajo Ocotlan in Oaxaca.
        Enchiladas poblanas - soft corn tortillas filled with chicken and poblano peppers, topped with oaxaca cheese,
      • Enchiladas potosinas - originate from San Luis Potosi and are made with cheese-filled, chili-spiced masa,
      • Enchiladas San Miguel - San Miguel de Allende-style enchiladas, flavored with guajillo chilies by searing the flavor into the tortillas in a frying pan,

      • Enchiladas suizas.
        Enchiladas suizas ("Swiss"-style) - topped with a white, milk or cream-based sauce, such as béchamel. This appellation is derived from Swiss immigrants to Mexico who established dairies to produce cream and cheese,

      • Tortillas Enchiladas con Chorizo Tlaxiaqueño
        in San Agustín Tlaxiaca.
        Tortillas Enchiladas con Chorizo Tlaxiaqueño - a corn tortilla folded over, covered in a mild green chile sauce, topped with chorizo sausage; from the municipality of San Agustín Tlaxiaca in the Central Mexican state of Hidalgo.

      • Enchiladas Verdes
        with green chile sauce.
        Enchiladas verdes (green enchiladas) are made with green enchilada sauce composed of tomatillos and green chiles,
      • Enfrijoladas - topped with refried beans rather than chili sauce; their name comes from frijol, meaning "bean",
      • Entomatadas - made with tomato sauce instead of chile sauce,
      • Enchiladas Durangueños - made with red chile sauce stuffed with queso cotija and minced onions.

      The farther one travels from Texas, the more different enchiladas look. Nicaraguan enchiladas resemble those in Mexico: corn tortillas filled with a mixture of ground beef and rice with chilli, folded and covered in egg batter and deep fried.

      Honduras-style enchiladas.
      Honduran enchilada - look and taste very different from those in Mexico in that they are not corn tortillas rolled around a filling, but instead are flat, fried, corn tortillas topped with ground beef, salad toppings (usually consisting of cabbage and tomato slices), a tomato sauce (often ketchup blended with butter and other spices such as cumin), and crumbled or shredded cheese.

      Guatemalan enchilada - look much like Honduran enchiladas but the recipe is different. It usually starting with a leaf of fresh lettuce, next a layer of picado de carne, which includes a meat (ground beef, shredded chicken, or pork) and diced vegetables (carrot, potato, onion, celery, green bean, peas, red bell pepper, garlic, bay leaf), followed by the curtido layer that includes more vegetables (cabbage, beets, onions, and carrots), followed two or three pieces of sliced hard-boiled egg, followed by a layer of thinly sliced white onion, followed by a layer of drizzled red (not spicy), finished by a layer of either queso seco or queso fresco topped with cilantro.

      Costa Rican enchilada pastries.
      Costa Rican enchiladas are completely different: a small, spicy pastry made with puff pastry dough, filled with diced potatoes spiced with a common variation of tabasco sauce or other similar sauces, eaten as a snack whi coffee.

    • Texas Chili Con Carne (no beans).
      Chili con carne - a fusion dish, involving the Native American staples of beans, chile peppers and corn, but developed by European and American settlers who came to the area of present-day U.S. states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, which are historucally part of New Spain.

      "Chīlli" is the Nahuatl word for “chile pepper”. "Carne" is obviously Spanish for “meat”. Note that we use the proper lingo: "chile" are the peppers, either whole or ground, while "chili" is the stew that is made from them. It is fundamentally improper to call a pepper a "chili".

      The general concept of mixing meat, beans, chile peppers, and herbs was known to the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayans long before Columbus and long before the Conquistadors. During colonial times, chili became popularized throughout the American Southwest by cattle drivers and trail hands. The original recipe consisted of dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers and salt. They were pounded together, formed into bricks and left to dry. The mixture could then be boiled in pots on the trail. This does not sound too appealing... Over time, people living in small towns along cattle trails started to cook chili and make a living from selling it to passing cattledrivers. They would use wild herbs, chile peppers, onions and any kind of meat. Cattle trail chili grew in popularity throughout Texas. San Antonio, who claims that chili was invented there, had the institution of "Chili Queens", women, mostly Mexican, who sold highly seasoned stew called "chili" from carts on Military Plaza. This practice started sometime around 1880. The Queens made their chili at home and then loaded it onto colorful wagons, rolled them to the plaza, along with pots, crockery, and all the other gear necessary to feed the nineteenth-century night people. They build mesquite fires on the square to keep the chili warm, lighted the wagons with colored lanterns, and squatted on the ground beside the cart, dishing out chili to customers who sat on wooden stools to eat the delightful and fiery stew. All this went on from nightfall until just before sunrise. The plaza become known as "La Plaza del Chile con Carne." This tradition lasted until the late 1930s. Over time, they began to refine and add sophistication to the dish, until it evolved to today's taste. Chili was introduced outside of Texas in 1893 at the Chicago World's Fair, in the form of the "San Antonio Chili Stand". By that time, San Antonio was a tourist destination and that helped Texas-style chili con carne spread throughout the American South and SouthWest.

      The Great Chili Debate involves two points of contention: does chili include beans or not, and does it include tomatoes? Beans are, and have been for many centuries, one of the essential staples of the Natives throughout the former New Spain for centuries. Tex-Mex,

      Chili Con Carne.
      New-Mex and Cal-Mex are part of the greater family of Northern-Mexican cuisine and, as non-Texans, we think there is nothing inauthentic about the inclusion of beans in chili con carne. We put beans in our Texas-style chili con carne.

      Nevertheless, the question of whether they belong in Texas Chili Con Carne has been a matter of contention among chili cooks for a long time. According to Texas tradition, Texas-style chili should not contain beans and may even be made with no other vegetables except chile peppers. If beans are used, they are usually small red beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, great northern beans, or navy beans. However, the Chili Appreciation Society International specified in 1999 that, among other things, cooks are forbidden to include beans in the preparation of chili for official competition, nor are they allowed to marinate the meat. So, here you have it!

      Tomatoes are another key ingredient, on which opinions differ. Wick Fowler, a Texas newspaperman and inventor of "Two-Alarm Chili", insisted on adding tomato sauce to chili: one 15-ounce can per three pounds of meat. He also believed that chili should never be eaten freshly cooked but refrigerated overnight to seal in the flavor. While tomatoes are very often found in Texas chili, they would be found only very rarely in New Mexico chili, as the desert climate of the Southwest is simply not condusive to growing tomatoes.

      New Mexico-style chili is quite different from Texas chili. First of all, New Mexico chile is not called "chile con carne". This is because Texas chili is more like the Italian Ragù alla bolognese, in that it is a slow-cooked rich meat mixture. This is in complete contrast to New Mexico chili, which is a sauce rich in vegetables. New Mexico chili can be red or green, depending on the type of chile used, and is served as a sauce over other dishes, such as tacos, posole, chile beans, enchiladas or burritos. Green chile is made with chopped roasted chiles, while red chile is usually made with chiles dried and ground to a powder. Thickeners like flour, and various spices are often added, especially ground cumin, coriander and oregano. A thicker version of green chile, with larger pieces of the plant, plus onions and other additions, is called green chile stew and is popular in Albuquerque-style New Mexican food.

      New Mexico Green Chili.

      New Mexico Red Chili.
      New Mexico Chili verde (green chili) is a moderately to extremely spicy chili. It can be in the form of a stew or sauce, usually made from chunks of pork that have been slow-cooked, garlic, tomatillos, and roasted green chilis. Tomatoes are rarely used. The spiciness of the chili is controlled by varying the proportions of the poblano, jalapeño, serrano, and occasionally even habanero chile peppers that are used. Chili verde is a common filling for the Mission burrito. Red New Mexico chili is a different animal. While green chili is made from chopped fresh peppers, red chili is made from dried chile peppers or chile powder.

    • Nachos with melted cheese,
      black olives and jalapeños.
      Nachos - a simple dish of tortilla chips covered with melted cheese, toped with sliced jalapeño peppers and/or olives peppers. The dish originated in 1943 the city of Piedras Negras in the Mexican state of Coahuila. Piedras Negras was founded in 1849 and named after the coal seams outcropping in the area. It was renamed Ciudad Porfirio Díaz in 1888, to please the dictator/president of the time, Porfirio Díaz, but reverted to its original name following the Mexican Revolution. The San Antonio Express-News reported the origin of the nachos as follows. In 1943, a group of 10 to 12 officers' wives, whose husbands were stationed at Fort Duncan Air Base, traveled across the border to eat at the Victory Club in Piedras Negras. When the maitre d' could not find the cook, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He went into the kitchen, picked up tortillas, grated some cheese on them (Wisconsin cheese to be precise), and put them under the broiler. He topped them with slices of jalapeños and served them. When the guests asked what the name was, the maitre d', whose name was Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, said "Nacho's Especiales". The name was later shortened to simply "nachos." Anaya went on to work at the Moderno, which is still in business today, as well as his own Nacho's Restaurant in Piedras Negras. The Anaya family tried to trademark the name in 1960, but it was too late. By then, the dish has proliferated and was part of the public domain. The dish spread through Texas but basically unknown anywhere else. The recipe was changed to tortilla chips instead of soft tortillas, and the cheese was changed to a cheesy chile con queso sauce that stayed nicely gooey and junky. Nachos became inextricably linked to the sports world, providing a crunchy, salty, gooey junky snack. According to Smithsonian Magazine, they were being sold at Texas Rangers football games in Arlington Stadium by 1973, and at Dallas Cowboys games in 1978. The next break came for Nachos came in 1978, during Monday Night Football. The sports journalist Howard Cosell took a liking them and started promoting them. Because Cossell was a household name, the popularity of nachos grew exponentially.

      In present time, common additional toppings include black beans, cilantro, chorizo sausage, guacamole, lime, onions, pickles, Pico de gallo sauce, Tex-Mex salsa, sour cream, tomatoes, Oaxaca cheese, shredded cheese, Chili con carne, ground beef, chicken, or carne asada.

  2. Tex-Mex versions of dishes that exist elsewhere in Mexico

    • Chile con queso.
      Chile con queso - an appetizer or side dish consisting of runny melted cheese dip, gently souped up with morsels of green chile and tomato. It is typically served in Tex-Mex restaurants as a dip or sauce for nachos. It is a part of Tex-Mex cuisine today, but it originated in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua as a version of Queso chihuahua and Queso flameado.

      Queso Chihuahua menonita.
      Queso chihuahua is a soft white cow's-milk cheese is good for melting and is similar to a mild, white cheddar or Monterey Jack. It may be used in queso fundido (fondue style melted cheese), choriqueso, quesadillas, chilaquiles - and chile con queso. The cheese was first produced in Mennonite settlements in northern Mexico. The Mennonites are a conservative Protestant sect, part of the Anabaptists, based on the teachings of the Dutch religious leader Menno Simons (1496–1561). The Mennonites from Chihuahua migrated there from Manitoba and Saskatchewan during the 1920s, after Canada passed laws they found too restrictive, such as mandatory school attendance.

      Queso flameado de Oaxaca.
      Queso flameado ("flamed cheese") is a dish similar to Fondue. It consists of hot melted cheese and spicy chorizo sausage, and is often served flambé. It is almost unique to Mexican cuisine, spefically to Northern Mexican cuisine. North of the border, it has been widely adapted and is considered a native dish in El Paso. Typical main ingredients are melted cheese and a characteristic meat sauce of loose fresh chorizo, tomato, onion, chile and spices. It is served in a small, shallow casserole or other ceramic or metal heat-proof baking dish.

      The Tex-Mex dish of Chile con queso evolved from these roots. It is a smooth, creamy sauce, made from a blend of melted cheeses (Monterey Jack, cream cheese or a processed cheese), cream, and canned chile peppers. Many Tex-Mex restaurants serve chile con queso side by side with other dipping sauces such as pico de gallo or guacamole.

    • Tamales steamed in cornhusks dripped with gravy and cheese - the Tex-Mex version of a dish ubiquitos all over Latin America. Unlike chili con carne, which is indeed a Tex-Mex creation, the tamale is not. What is unique about this particular dish, however, is the gravy and melted cheese that are typically Tex-Mex and would not be found elsewhere in Latin America.

      A Tamale from the Mexican state of Chiapas.
      In its most basic form, a tamale (or tamal in Spanish) is a roll made of masa (a starchy dough, usually corn-based), typically several inches long and about an inch across (although, for instance, Nicaraguan tamales are much bigger), filled with meats, sauces and other ingredientes, wrapped in leaves or corn husks, and steamed or boiled. Think of the Austrian Serviettenknödel, but made of corn flour, and stuffed with tasty and spicy sauce, shreeded meat and other good stuff. In latin America they are usually served as a snack in twos or threes, by themselves, or as little dumplings to be dipped in sauces or woups. Here is an example of a dissected tamale from the Mexican state of Chiapas, filled with shredded meat and red sauce.

      Tex-Mex tamale filled with meat,
      and smothered in gravy
      and melted cheese.
      This Tex-Mex dish makes a much bigger production of the tamale. Like its Latin-American counterparts, it is filled with shredded meat but leaves out some of the more exotic ingredients sucha s raising or chocolate that are sometimes used in tamales from various parts Central America. But it makes up for it with the sauce. After the tamale gas been steamed and unwrapped from the corn husk, it is covered with Southern-American style gravy with red chile, melted cheese and baked. It served with cilantro as garnish.

      The tamale is a very common dish in all of the succesor countries of New Spain (and even beyond, in Panama and South America, which were part of a different Spanish colony, the Viceroyalty of Peru, governed from Lima). This is because tamales are a very old dish, daring back thousands of years. Tamales originated in Mesoamerica 8000-5000 BC. Aztec and Maya civilizations, as well as the Olmeca and Tolteca before them, used tamales as portable food, often to support their armies, but also for hunters and travelers. Tamale use in the Inca Empire had been reported long before Spanish colonization. Tamales have been traced also to the Mayas, who prepared them for feasts as early as the Preclassic period (1200–250 BC).

      Generic Mexican tamales wrapped in corn husks.
      In its most basic form, a tamale is a roll of soft dough, several inches long and about an inch across, filled with some good spicy stuff. In Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica, they are served in twhos or threes, as a snack with nothing else. Here is an example of a dissected tamale from the Mexican state of Chiapas.

      Tamal Oaxaqueño, wrapped in banana leaves,
      filled with chicken and mole negro.

      Tamal Dulce from Oaxaca,
      a sweet breakfast tamale.
      In The Mexican state of Oxaca, tamales are made stuffed with shredded chicken and mole negro. and wrapped in and unwrapped in banana leaves. Sweet tamales and made for breakfast, filled with pineapple, raisins and blackberries.

      The global capital of the tamale is, however, Guatemala. There are hundreds of varieties of tamales in Guatamala including:

      • Guatemalan Tamal colorado eaten for breakfast.
        Red tamales (Tamales colorados) with tomato and achiote (annato seed) that give them their color, wrapped with corn masa, and stuffed with tomato recado (a flavorful thick sauce), roasted red bell pepper strips, capers, green olives, and chicken, beef or pork,
      • Black tamales (Tamales negros) - darker and sweeter due to the chocolate, raisins, prunes and almonds that are added to them. Other black tamales are not sweet but are simply made out of blue/black corn,
      • Sweet corn tamales (Tamales de elote) - made of sweet corn rather than the typical masa. These may contain whole kernels of corn in the masa and do not generally contain meat.
      • Chuchitos ("small dogs") - very typical kind of Guatemalan tamale made using the same corn masa as a regular tamale but they are smaller, have a much firmer consistency and are wrapped in dried corn husks instead of plantain leaves. Chuchitos are often accompanied by a simple tomato salsa and sprinkled with a hard, salty white cheese traditional from the Zacapa region,
      • Tamalitos de masa are small tamales with no filling and are used to dip in soups, salsa or beans,
      • Tamalitos de chipilín and Tamales de loroco are other variants of the aforementioned tamalitos de masa, that have said ingredients added to the mix.
      • Paches are a kind of tamale made from potatoes or rice instead of corn.

      Costa Rican tamale being assembled.
      In Costa Rica, a typical tamale is made made with cornmeal, cracked corn, achiote rice, carrots, Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), peas, pork, sweet pepper and cilantro.

      Panamanian tamale being assembled.
      In Panama, tamales are made from corn flour, filled with shredded chicken and/or pork, and red sauce made from ketchup, pickles, onions, peppers, and possibly raisins, green olives, onion sofrito, achiote and peas. It is wrapped in banana leaves and tied with string. It is boiled, not steamed.

      Cooked Nicaraguan Nacatamal.

      Nicaraguan Nacatamal being assembled.
      In Nicaragua, there are several styles of tamales, such as the the plain tasting Tamal pizque (wrapped in a banana leaf, and served and eaten with cheese and cooked red beans), the Yoltamal (made of from grains of sweet corn, stuffed with ground sugar cane, wrapped in banana leaves), and the king of the Nicaraguan tamales, Nacatamal. This is the typical national dish of Nicaragua. Tis is a large tamale, with a soft consistency, made of cornmeal stuffed with pork marinated with achiote, bacon, rice, sliced potatoes, mint, tomato, onion, chile congo, and sometimes plums, olives and raisins desired. It is wrapped in banana leaves, tied with the dried bark of the banana or with string, and then baked for about four hours.

      Tamales made it to the northern reaches of New Spain and became domesticated in the presenet-day U.S. states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Latin Americans look at the tamale as literally "their cultural gift to the Gringos" through the extensive cultural exchange with Mexico. In English, the tamal became a "tamale" after the "s" was dropped from the plural tamales. Once north of the bordern, the tamale has adapted to American tastes, and new varieties have been created by adding fillings that differ from the traditional Latin-American tamale varieties.

      Tamales from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California are generally similar, compared to the tremendous varieties that exist throughout Mexico. They are rolls typically about 4-5 inches long and an inch across, made with shredded pork, wrapped in corn husks, and steammed. That said, regional varieties do exist. In texas, pork tamales are seasoned with a paste made from chile peppers, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and typically served with salsa. Other fillings could include refried beans, chorizo, pickled jalapeños. The Tex-Mex dish we described here goes a step further, in that it employs Southern-style gravy, albeit made with red chile pepper, which is used to smother the tamale, and melted cheese to covered the whole thing during baking. What can be more American? A chili-cheeseburger meets the tamale sort of a thing!

      Tamales in New Mexico consist of a masa dough, and filled with a sweet or savory filling, wrapped in corn husks and steamed. New Mexican tamales can be made like Tex-Mex type with shredded pork (some of the most common tamales in the American Southwest). This type of tamale filing is usually seasoned with garlic, salt, black peppercorns, bay leaves and red chile sauce. There is also a recipe made with beef brisket (obviously with the ubiquitous New Mexican green chile sauce). There are even sweet tamales made with chocolate and almonds, pineapple and habanero, and chocolate and cranberries. Nothing says Christmas holidays to folks from the American Southwest like a warm tamale. Unwrapping the tamale is like unwrapping a little present.

      Arizona tamales differ in that chicken and beef can be used in place of pork, and the chile pepper type may be the California Anaheim pods. They may be served topped with sour cream, or with a mixture of sour cream and salsa. The filling is usually meat and red chile sauce, brimming with flavor with just small amount of heat. In the Arizona-Sonoran cuisine, a black olive in put the middle.

    • Qesadilla - a simple dish consisting of a flour tortilla or a corn tortilla, filled with a savory mixture containing cheese, other ingredients, and/or vegetables, folded in half to form a half-moon shape. This dish originated in Mexico, and the name is derived from tortilla and queso (cheese).

    • Burrito.
      Burrito - wheat flour tortilla wrapped to a cylindrical shape to completely enclose the filling (unlike a taco, which is generally formed by simply folding a small tortilla in half around a filling, leaving the semicircular perimeter open).

      Like the taco and the fajita, the burrito is based on the Native American tradition of wrapping foods into tortillas. This tradition is thousands of years old. The Natives in Mexico used tortillas to wrap chili peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, squash, and avocados. The Pueblo people of the American Southwest also made tortillas with beans and meat sauce fillings prepared much like the modern burrito. The burrito originally came from northern Mexico, a wheat-producing area where flour tortillas are common than corn tortillas. It was created as a portable meal for ranchers and miners. The modern burrito probably originated in the early to mid-19th century, probably with vaqueros in northern Mexico, farmworkers in the fields of the Central Valley in California, or with northern Sonoran miners of the 19th century.

      A burrito means "little donkey" in Spanish, a diminutive form of burro. The dish is named after the donkeys that carried all of the mining or farming supplied in long round bags. Just like the bags carried all of the supplies, the burrito is stuffed with all of the ingredients.

      Nex-Mexico-style burrito
      from Santa Fe.

      Mission-style burrito
      from San Francisco.

      The original burrito was simple: spiced meat wrapped in a tortilla. The modern-day Tex-Mex burrito is not much different. It is larger, and tends to consist only of ground meat or beans and cheese. In comparison, the New Mexican version is similar but smothered in the ubiquitous New Mexican green chile sauce. The Southern Californian and Northern Mexican burritos usually just have meat and salsa, and sometimes beans. However, some American burritos are brimming with fillings, such as meat, rice, refried beans or beans, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, cheese, and sour cream The huge Mission Burrito from San Francisco, nicknamed The Silver Torpedo because of its size and the aluminum-foil wrapper, is an example of that.

    • Tex-Mex chimichanga.
      Chimichangas - a deep-fried burrito that is popular in Southwestern cuisine and the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora. The dish is typically prepared by filling a flour tortilla with a wide range of ingredients, most commonly rice, cheese, machaca, carne adobada, or shredded chicken, and folding it into a rectangular package. It is then deep-fried and can be accompanied with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and/or cheese.

    • Sonoran Chivichanga.
      Culinary historians argue about exactly where chimichangas were invented. Several Tucson restaurants claim bragging rights to having invented the chimichanga in the 1950s. However, there are similar dishes in Northern Mexican cuisine, such as the Sonoran Chivichangas It is quite likely that it was cross-pollinated to Arizona by immigrants through Nogales during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. The dish subsequently spread throughout the American Southwest and Texas, and became an integral part of tex-Mex cuisine, although it definitely did not originate in Texas.

    • Sonoran Chimichanga.

    • Chimichanga Arizona-Style
      from What's Cooking America?.
      In Mexico, Chivichangas (or Chimichangas are eaten in the states of Sonora and Sinaloa. There are some differences in preparation and the size of the tortilla used, but the essential fact that it is basically a deep-fried burrito remains. The tortilla size varies from small to plate-size. Sonoran tortillas used for making chimichangas are large. A rectangular burrito is made and filled with a variety of items: beans, rice, cheese, and meat. It is then fried in oil or butter. It can be served with guacamole, cheese or a little hot sauce. In Sonora, chimichangas are commonly accompanied with a sauce made from mayonnaise, chopped tomato, chille, and coriander. In the Mexican state of Sinaloa, it is served with chopped or grated vegetables (cabbage, carrot, cucumber), and garnished with sour cream, grated cheese, sauces and lemon.

Now that we have taken our time to explained what Tex-Mex and Northern Mexican cuisine have in common, let's refocus on how they differ from each other. There are some essential ingredients that would not be typically found in Northern Mexican cuisine:

  • using meats such as ground beef,
  • using melted cheese as a topping,
  • using gravy.
Specifically the gravy is a contribution by the country-style cooking of the American South. In general Southern country cooking has had more influence on Tex-Mex than it has had on New Orleans Créole cuisine (if it had any).

Obviously, there are other cooking styles in present-day Texas than just Tex-Mex. As one moves away from the Mexican border, away from the traditional New Spain and closer to the other traditionally Southern states, Southern country cooking will predominate. These are simple foods, typically associated with the redneck South, In Texas, this is evidenced by Chicken fried steak, which is a traditional Texas dish, and biscuits with country gravy. But redneck cooking was not the only external influence on present-day Texas cuisine. Central Texas, approximately the triangle between Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, has a sizable population of Czech, Austrian and German immigrants, who came in the second half of the 19th century. Consequently, there are variations on the Wienerschnitzel, bratwurst, and kolachees that are made locally. Southeastern Texas has strong Cajun influences.

Czech kolache in Texas.

Shiner beer.
In Texas, people historically looked at cuisine in a very different way. First, Texas, is not considered the Southwest; it is Mid-West. Although it was once part of New Spain and later Mexico, just like New Mexico and Arizona, after it went independent it has been much more of a melting pot than New Mexico or Arizona. While the food culture of New Mexico was formed by a fusion of Spanish/Mexican and Native foods, Texas food does include a great deal of Mexican cuisine, it also has a great deal of Southern influence, including country meals such as gravy and biscuits. ("Southern", being written with a capital "S", as in the Confederate States of America"). However, beside the stereotypical country fried steak, gravy and biscuits, Texas food also includes unique German and Czech influences, brought in by German and Czech speaking immigrants who arrived via the port of Galveston in the second half of the 19th century and settled Central Texas. Present-day Texas food include such non-Mexican dishes such as Czech kolachees (koláče) and German wurst in New Braunfels of Fredericksburg. The Spötzl brewery in Shiner, Texas, is another example. The brewery was founded in 1909, with Herman Weiss as the first brewmaster. Something like this would never be found in the cuisine of New Mexico or Arizona.

So, how does find a good Tex-Mex restaurant? Here are a few guidelines. First, it has to be family-owned. Just like with Créole and Cajun food, forget anything that is a chain. Thankfully, there are not many chain-restaurants in the Créole and Cajun food business, but there is a huge number of them in the Tex-Mex business. Chains like Taco Bell have ruined the good image of Mexican food in the United States. Second, it is a good sign if it is a rather ramshackle-looking space with added-on rooms, It means the business has grown as its clientele expanded. Third, it is an added benefit if the patrons in the dining room are a mix gringos and Mexican-looking folks. Finally, take a careful measure of the chips and salsa. As that is the first thing to hit the table in a Tex-Mex joint, it is possible to judge the whole establishment by it. If the salsa is home-made and the chips taste fresh and warm, that is a god sign. But if they taste like they are from a bag and a jar, meaning the restaurant is trying to save money, leave.

Bowl of New Mexico green chili.

Texas chili.
In summary, there are the following differences between Tex-Mex and New-Mex food.
True Tex-Mex includes the following:

  • Traditional Northern Mexican or New Mexican cuisine does also not include sour cream, which is an American addition made possible by the invention of refrigeration. American food and American cooking techniques have had a much greater influence on Tex-Mex, relative to New-Mex.
  • Chili con carne, Fajitas, and Nachos are genuine and well-documented Tex-Mex creations. There is chile sauce in New Mexican cuisine, but it is a completely different thing compared to chili con carne.
  • Seafood is an unknown.
  • A true Tex-Mex join should:
    • Offer chips and salsa with every meal
    • Have the option of crispy tacos (crispy and soft tacos are a fundamental question arising when comparing Mexican and Tex-Mex food)
    • have refried beans made with pork fat (or bacon or similar) - not exactly health-conscious in this day and age, but not't tell your cardiologist...
    • serve cheese enchilladas made with real cheese (not synthetic cheese-like products)
    • serve both flour and corn tortillas
    • have Nachos on the menu
    • have at least one of the following items: Fajitas, Burritos, Chulapas, Guacamole, or Quesadillas

On the other hand....

  • You knew you are in New Mexico, if the response to "I am sick" is "I'll make green chile stew".
  • You knew you are in New Mexico, if putting a fried egg on enchiladas makes them breakfast
  • You knew you are in New Mexico, if you know the difference between "chili" and "chile"
  • You knew you are in New Mexico, if the questions "Red or Green?" is basically like "Sophie's Choice."
  • You knew you are in New Mexico, if "Christmas" isn't just a holiday, it's a food preference
  • And finally, you knew you are in New Mexico, if Ristras (red chiles hung in a decorative bunch), even though made of food, are a decoration

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Arizona-Sonoran Cuisine

Arizona flag.
Until 1850s, the time after the Mexican-American War when the northenr part of Mexico was ceeded to the United States, the vast majority of population in present-day Arizona were the Natives. Today, 22 tribes still call Arizona home, and their culinary traditions are a major component of Arizona cuisine. In the 17th Century, the Spanish began extending Catholic missions north into Arizona. However, despite the missions, few other outsiders came to settle in Arizona until the mining boom of the 1850s. When they did, they were Cornish (from the Cornwall region in southern England) and Slavic parts of Europe, but neither left much impact on Arizona cuisine.

Who made a significatn contribution to Arizona cuisine were Mexican immigrants who came during the Mexican Revolution in 1910. Thousands of Sonorans fled to Arizona, escaping one of the greatest upheavals of the 20th century. The revolution, started in 1910 with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero Porfirio Díaz, a seven-term el Presidente, who liked his job as a dictator so much, he he hung onto it for almost 30 years! Díaz had risen to the rank of General, leading the revolt against Emperor Maximilian at the end of the Second Mexican empire. Having seized power in 1876 in a coup against president Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, Díaz and his allies then ruled Mexico for 35 years. The revolution, also called Mexican Civil War, lasted until about 1920. Over time, the revolution changed from a revolt against the established order to a multi-sided civil war with frequently shifting power struggles.

Because of this, a a substantial part of Arizona cooking reflects Sonoran cuisine. For instance, in Sonora wheat is a common grain, and wheat tortillas are eaten more frequently in Arizona than corn tortillas. Sonoran dishes in Arizona include green corn tamales, flat enchiladas (Sonoran-style enchiladas), and carne seca (dried beef). Green corn tamales are not green in color, but made with fresh white corn instead of the more typical corn masa treated with lime. Cheese, a black olive or a strip of green chile down the center adds extra flavor to a green corn tamale. Sonoran-style enchiladas are cakesm, consisting of thick corn masa cakes seasoned with red chile and often cheese. They are fried and eaten with red sauce. Carne seca is made of strips of plain or seasoned sun-dried beef, pounded or shredded into pieces to make machaca. Both machaca and carne seca are used in egg dishes, taco fillings, and enchiladas. Many favorite Sonoran stews and soups have become popular in Arizona. This includes the Sonoran menudo, a soup made with hominy and tripe, and the similar pozole made with pork, or occasionally chicken or seafood. Other popular soups include Caldo de queso (cheese and potato soup), tortilla soup, and Sopa de albondigas (meatball soup). A number of other Sonoran dishes served in Arizona include the burrito and its smaller relative, the burro, chimichangas (deep fried burros), tostadas (crispy tortillas piled with toppings), and chilaquiles (tortilla strips, fried and covered in sauce).

Over time, the food eaten in Arizona becamwe known as "Arizona-Sonoran cuisine".


Spanish Cuisine in California

California flag.
The present-day U.S. state od California was part of the territory ceeded by Mexico to the United States in 1848. This part of New Spain was caleld by the Spanish Alta California, as opposed to Vieja California, the regional around Baja California, which Mexico kept. Because of its Spanish colonial roots, Mexican culinary influence is widespread over southern California. Burritos, refried beans, tortas, tacos, nachos, quesadillas and carne asada fries are widely popular. Countless Taco shops can be found throughout California. Traditional Mexican food is still widely prepared and abundant in the areas of San Diego, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and in Mexican-American enclaves throughout California. Examples of these foods include tamales, tortillas, tostadas, mole, menudo, pozole, sopes, chile relleno and enchiladas. What sets Cal-Mex cuisine apart from the rest of the Southwet and Texas is the use of fruits and vegetables such as avocado, and the use of seafood, which is completely absent in Tex-Mex and New Mexian.

Mission-Style Burrito.
The Mission burrito is an iconic burrito from California. It originated in the 1960s in the Mission District of San Francisco, and is credited to the "La Cumbre" Taqueria, specifically to its owners Raul and Michaela Duran. This is a huge burrito wrapped in aluminum foil. It is one of three major styles of burritos in the California, following the earlier, simple burrito consisting of beans, rice and meat, and preceding the California burrito containing cheese and potatoes that was developed in the 1980s. Many taquerías in the Mission and in the San Francisco Bay Area specialize in Mission burritos.

Anaheim chile.
Like New Mexico, California too has its own chile pepper, the anaheim chile. It is is visually and genetically similar to the New Mexico chile cultivated by Dr. Fabian Garcia, but milder with less distinct flavor and texture. The name name "Anaheim" dates to the time when Emilio Ortega, a Californian farmer, brought the seeds to the city of Anaheim southeast of Los Angeles, in the early 1900s. They are also called California chili or Magdalena, and dried as chile seco del norte. As Anaheim peppers originated from New Mexico, they are also sometimes known as New Mexico peppers.

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What About the Natives?

The Apaches, Comanches, Zunis, Hopis and Navajos

Now back to a bit of history. The area of the American Southwest and Texas was historically inhabited by several Native tribes: the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Comanche, and Mescalero and Chiricahua Apache. A short word about their story is in order.

Comanche Empire.
The Comanche are a Plains Indian tribe. They expanded to the American Southwest from present-day Wyoming in the early eighteenth century, and settled the territory known as the Comancheria, in present-day eastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas. They were hunter-gatherers with a horse culture, numbering about 45,000 in the late 18th century. They became the dominant tribe on the Southern Plains. Like the Apaches, the Comanche never formed a single cohesive tribal unit but were divided into numerous autonomous groups, called bands. They never fought each other, but as as whole, the Comanches were they were, at one time or another, at war with virtually every other tribe on the South Plains. Warfare was a major part of Comanche life. They were formidable opponents who developed strategies for using traditional weapons for fighting on horseback. They maintained an ambiguous relationship with settlers. The Comanche were valued as trading partners but were feared for their raids against settlers in Texas and northern Mexico. Comanche raids into Mexico traditionally took place during the full moon, when the attackers could see at night, leading to the term "Comanche Moon" used to this day. The Comanche raided for horses, cattle, people, and weapons often selling the captives as slaves. By the mid-19th century, the Comanche were supplying (stolen) horses to French and American traders and settlers, and later to migrants passing through their territory on the way to the California Gold Rush, along the California Road. The Comanche had stolen many of these horses from other tribes and settlers. They managed to maintain their independence and increase their territory until the mid-19th century, but after that they faced near-annihilation due to European diseases, such as cholera, smallpox and measles, to which they had no immunity.

Chiricahua Apache chief Geronimo
The Apaches were from two principal tribal groupss: the Chiricahua and the Mescalero. At the time of the Spanish conquest, The Chiricahua lived in southwestern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, northern Sonora and Chihuahua. There was conflict from the beginning, as they competed for land and resources with the Spanish. There had been more than 100 years of Spanish colonial and later Mexican incursions and settlements on the Apache land. When many Mescalero bands were displaced by the enemy Comanche from the Southern Plains in northern and central Texas between 1700–1750, they took refuge in the mountains of New Mexico, western Texas, and Coahuila and Chihuahua in Mexico. After the Mexican-American War (1848) and the Gadsden Purchase (1853), Americans began to enter the territory in greater numbers. The Apaches were not hostile to the Americans, considering them enemies of their own enemy, Mexico, but this did increase the potential for incidents and misunderstandings. The Apache viewed the United States colonists with ambivalence and, in the early years, joined with them as allies against the Mexicans. When American settlers arrived, they were newcomers to the competition for land and resources in the Southwest. They had lived peacefully with most Americans in the New Mexico Territory up to about 1860 The Chiricahua became increasingly hostile to American encroachment in the Southwest, fueled by incidents with miners and prospectors as well as the US Army. By the mid 1860s, the Chiricahua began to see the Americans as enemies. From that time, they waged almost constant war against American settlers and the US Army for the next 23 years. One of the last 34 hold-outs was Geronimo who surrendered the army in September 1886. The Mescalero Apaches are a tribe of Southern Athabaskan Native Americans. The name comes from the mescal agave, which was a staple food source for them. In times of need and hunger, they depended on and survived because of stored mescal. Therefore they were called by the Spaniards since 1550 Mescaleros. Originally the Mescaleros lived in an area between the Rio Grande in the wes, and the eastern and southern edge of the Llano Estacado and the West Texas; and from Santa Fe in the northwest and the Texas Panhandle in the northeast deep down to the Mexican provinces of Chihuahua and Coahuila to the south. The diverse landscape of this area is documented by the high mountains up to 4,000 meters with watered and sheltered valleys, surrounded by arid semi-deserts and deserts, deep canyons and open plains.

Present-day Navajo
reservation in
Momument Valley.
The Navajos, the third major tribal group in the Southwest, and the Apaches are believed to have migrated together to the American Southwest from northwestern Canada and eastern Alaska around 1400 AD. The Spanish first used the term Apachu de Nabajo in the 1620s to refer to the people in the region east of the San Juan River and northwest of present-day Santa Fe, New Mexico. By the 1640s, the Spanish began using the term "Navajo".

The fourth group are the pueblo people, the Zuni and the Hopi. The Spanish made first contact with the pueblo people in 1539, when Moorish slave named Estevanico led an advance expeditionary party. The Zuni promptly caught him and killed him as a spy.

Zuni Pueblo, 1850.
The leader of the expedition, Marcos de Niza, returned and told about a city of vast wealth called Cíbola, and that Estevanico had been killed by the Zuni citizens of Cíbola. He claimed that Cíbola appeared as wealthy and as large as Mexico City. Hearing that, in 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado,

Hopi Pueblo, 1901.
the governor of the Kingdom of Nueva Galicia, and Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza invested large sums of their own money (including pawning Mendoza's wife's estates) in the mission to find the seven golden cities. After several months of grueling travel, they arrived at Cíbola to find out that it was just a complex of simple pueblos constructed by the Zuni Indians. Coronado's people took by force several Zuni and Hopi settlements, but in all found nothing of what they were looking for. They did discover the Grand Canyon, however.

Taos Pueblo
planning grounds for
the pueblo revolt.
In the 17th century, the Spanish built Catholic missions at Hawikuh in 1629 and and in Halona in 1643. Zuni resisted, ultimately leading to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. After the revolt the Zuni retreated to the mesa of Dowa Yalanne. After the establishment of peace and the return of the Spanish, the Zuni relocated to their present location, only briefly returning to the mesa top in 1703. Spanish Catholic priests were only marginally successful in converting the Hopi and persecuted them in a draconian manner for adhering to Hopi religious practices. The Spanish occupiers in effect enslaved the Hopi populace, compelling them. Spanish oppression and attempts to convert the Hopi caused the Hopi over time to become increasingly hostile towards their occupiers. The Hopi and Pueblo Revolt was the first time that diverse Pueblo tribed staged a coordinated resistance with the aim to drive out the Spanish colonists

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The Seven Years' War
And the End Of New France

Origins of the Seven Years' War

Now back to history and to wrap up how North America ended up the way it is today, politically as well as food-wise. We left the New World in the middle of the 18th century, just before the outbreak of the Seven Years' War. Two immense colonial empires, New France and New Spain, built by Spain and France in North America dominated the scene there. However, this was about to change as a result of wars and politics in faraway Europe.

Frederick the Great
(Friedrich der Grosse),
Der Alte Fritz (the "Old Fritz").

Maria Theresa>.
It all started during the 1740s. Frederick the Great, known also as Frederick II, the King of Prussia, a master military strategist, winner of wars as well as a musical composer (nicknamed the "Old Fritz"), annexed Silesia from Austria obviously to the great dismay of the Austrian leader, the empress Maria Theresa, the mother of emperor Joseph II and Marie Antoinette. This was known as the War of the Austrian Succession. Following (and losing) the war, Austria abandoned its alliance with Britain and the centuries-old enemies, France, Austria and Russia, formed a single alliance against Prussia. The political map of Europe had been redrawn in a major way!

Prussian expansion
uring the 18th century.
However, the victorious Prussia found a new ally in Great Britain, whose reigning dynasty saw its ancestral Hanoverian possessions in Germany being threatened by France. The two allied powers complemented each other well: Britain had the largest and most effective navy in the world, and Prussia had the most formidable land force in continental Europe. This allowed Britain to allocate more military resources on colonial expeditions in North America. This was needed, because as the British colonies expanded westward, they began to clash with New France. A good example of this were the colonial wars fought over Acadia, which were a prelude to the much larger conflict of the Seven Years' War. Acadia was one of the three main colonies comprising New France (Acadia, Canada and Louisiana). Rstablished in 1604 and covered the Canadian Maritime Provinces, eastern Québec and a part of modern-day Maine. The population was a mixed race of French settlers and Wabanaki natives. No less than six colonial wars were fought over Acadia throughout the 17th and first half of 18th century, until it was conquered by the British in 1710, ceeded to Britain in 1713 in the Treaty of Utrecht, and renamed to Nova Scotia. France and New France made significant, albeit failed, attempts to regain Nova Scotia between 1713 and 1755. France lost present-day New Brunswick just before the Seven Years' War.

Toward the south, in order to forestall the British westward expansion of Virginia and Pennsylvania, the French built a line of forts in present-day western Pennsylvania in the mid-1750s. The British efforts to dislodge them started the French and Indian War, in which fighting began two years before the onset of hostilities in Europe. In 1756, war broke out in Europe. It was a major military conflict that involved all of the European powers of the time. The war spread globally and effectively became the first "world war". Fighting took place not only in Europe, but also in India, North America, the Caribbean, the Philippines, and coastal Africa.

Battle of Québec.
The war pitted Prussia, Britain, Portugal and a coalition of smaller German states against France, Austria, Spain, Russia, Sweden, and Saxony. The British were on the move. In 1762 the British invaded and captured Havana in Cuba and Manila in the Philippines Things were not going well for the French on the mainland, either. The French lost the Battle of Québec in September 1759. That loss was a pivotal moment in the war. The French having evacuated the city, their remaining military force in North America came under increasing pressure from British forces. Following the last battle of the French and Indian War in North America, the Battle of Signal Hill in September 1762, the victorious British gained control of all the provinces of New France located in present-day Canada. Seeing that, Louis XV of France ceded la Louisiane française to Spain in a secret agreement called the Treaty of Fontainebleau of 1762. The treaty was kept secret beyond the end of the Seven Years' War and during the French negotiation and signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

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The Treaty Of Paris and the end of New France

Treaty of Paris
(click to enlarge).
The Treaty of Paris of 1763 completely re-drew the map of North America. The Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, parts of eastern Québec and present-day New England, all became British. French local names were replaced with English ones. The treaty divided la Louisiane française at the Mississippi River: the eastern half was ceded to Britain, while the western half, including Ile d’Orléans (the area around New Orleans) were nominally retained by France. Spain did not contest Britain's control of eastern Louisiana, as it already knew it would rule in western Louisiana. Under the same treaty, Spain ceded Florida to Britain in exchange for eastern Louisiana. The newly gained Spanish posession retained the name "Louisiana", but on later maps would now be known as "Spanish Louisiana".

The treaty did provide a period of 18 months, during which French-speaking (and Catholic) colonists living in Canada, who did not want to live under British rule, could emigrate to other French colonies. However, there had been mass deportations already at the begining of the war, starting in 1755. Known as the Great Upheaval (Le Grand Dérangement), this was a mass campaign of property seizure, and forced and systematic deportation of about 10,000 people from Acadia to the British colonies, to England and to France. This was part of a greater British military aim to get rid of the French-speaking population of New France in those areas conquered already prior to the onset of the Seven Years' War. The 21st century terms "enthnic purging" or even "genocide" could be applied here, but this has been standard practice throughout colonial history (and not only there). The French had done the same to the English at the end of the 17th century during King William's War (known in Europe as the War of the Grand Alliance, War of the League of Augsburg, or the Nine Years' War, 1688–97). Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, who is celebrated in Louisiana history as a very positive figure, destroyed nearly every English settlement on the island of Newfoundland, resulting in nearly the entire English population of the colony being either killed, captured for ransom, or expelled back to England.

After the Severn Years' War, many Acadians returned from wherever they had been forcibly exiled to. Some returned to Acadia, but most migrated to other French-speaking and French-ruled colonies such as Louisiana, with a smaller portion moving to Québec and Saint-Domingue. Only after many Acadians had moved to Louisiana, seeking to live under a French government, did they discover that Louisiana was in fact Spanish! The formal announcement of the transfer was not made until December 1764...

The Acadians took part in the Rebellion of 1768 in an attempt to prevent the transfer, but Spain formally asserted control in 1769. The Spanish governor Bernardo de Gálvez later proved to be hospitable and permitted the Acadians to continue to speak their language and practice Catholicismn. Later, Acadians also fought in the American Revolution for the Spanish General Galvez because of the age-old principle of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Their joining the fight against the British was partially a reaction to the British having evicted them from Acadia.

Acadiana (Cajun country).
The Acadian exiles settled along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in the present-day southwest part of Louisiana. This area became known as Acadiana (L'Acadiane in Cajun French), or simply as "Cajun Country". It is important to realize that the Acadian exiles, although they spoke French, had historicaly nothing to do with the Créoles. This is the cornerstone of the distinctions between the two French-speeaking cultures of Louisiana. The Créoles were earlier descendants of French and Spanish settlers, born in the colony and often mixed with Black and Native blood, living in New Orleans and its environs, making a living as tradespeople, merchants, businessmen and plantation owners. On the other hand, the Acadians were rural folks who settled the coastal areas of southwest Louisiana, and became later known as "Cajuns". Both groups had distinct dialects, customs and culture, including cuisine. Modern-day Cajuns descend not only from these Acadian exiles who settled in south Louisiana in the eighteenth century, but also from intermarriages with other groups: British, Spanish, German, Italian, Native American, Métis and French Créole settlers. Although Cajuns today are portrayed as cozy, mellow country folks, not everything has gone smoothly for them. Every society tends to create nostalgia for an idealized version of the past. During the early part of the 20th century, attempts were made to suppress Cajun culture by measures such as forbidding the use of the Cajun French language in schools. "Cajun" was formerly considered an insulting term.

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The Rise of Britain As the Dominant Colonial Power In North America

North America before
the Seven Years' War.

North America after
the Seven Years' War.
But back to 1763. The British Empire has just effectively emerged as the victor from the Seven Years' War and completely changed the balance of power in the New World! It strengthened its colonial position through the 1763 Treaty of Paris and confirmed its status as a new globally dominant colonial power. This was the end of the Vice-royauté de Nouvelle-France. The loss of New France was the consequence of France’s military defeat by Britain, but it also illustrated the lack of interest manifested by authorities in France for Canada and Louisiana. By the 1740s and 1750s French possessions in North America were eclipsed by its Caribbean colonies, especially Saint-Domingue and Martinique, which were undergoing a period of rapid expansion and development. France’s Caribbean colonies were at the heart of its long-distance colonial trade and had become, in the eyes of metropolitan officials, the pearl of the French-American empire. This point of view was evident when, during negotiations for the Treaty of Paris, French diplomats made the Caribbean colonies a priority and sought to preserve their sovereignty over the colonies on the mainland.

However, there is still a piece of New France surviving today: the overseas French territory of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, situated on islands off the southern coast of Newfoundland. This is the only remnant of the former colonial empire of New France that remains under French control, with a population of 6,080 at the January 2011 census.

New France was history, but the rivalry between France and Britain for dominance in the Americas did not end with its dismantling in 1763, or with the overthrow of British authority during the American Revolution in the years 1776-83. Indeed, the global military struggle the two European powers initiated in the 1680s continued sporadically through at least 1815. Franco-British relations throughout the 18th century irrevocably shaped France’s involvement in North America, from participating in the founding of the United States to deciding to sell Louisiana to the young republic in April 1803.

New Spain in 1795
click to enlarge.
The new map of North America now showed Spain and Britain as the new rulers of North America. New Spain became significantly bigger: everything west from the Mississippi River all the way to the Pacific coast would now be Spanish! The city of La Nouvelle-Orléans became Spanish (Nueva Orleans. Spanish Louisiana (or Luisiana in Spanish) became part of the Capitanía General de Santo Domingo ruled from Santo Domingo until 1795. Between 1795 and 1800 when Luisiana was retroceeded back to France, it was ruled from Havana as part of the Capitanía General de Cuba. To the east lay the British colonies and, after 1776, the United States of America. To the west was another administrative unit of New Spain, the Comandancia de las Provincias Internas

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Spanish Louisiana

Original Créole Architecture, the fire of 1788 and Spanish-style Rebuilding

Spanish-era wrought-iron architecture.

Ursuline Convent.
Unlike in Florida and Mexico which became thoroughly Spanish, Spain never managed to leave its mark on la Louisiane as a whole. The territory was far too large and Spain never invested enough money or manpower to make it a viable Spanish colony. Spain was largely a benign absentee landlord, administering Spanish Luisiana from Havana, and contracting out governing to people from many nationalities as long as they swore allegiance to Spain. During the American War of Independence, the Spanish funneled their supplies to the American revolutionists through New Orleans and the vast Louisiana territory beyond.

Unlike the French Créole settlers, the Spanish never formed a cohesive community, and throughout Spanish rule, French Créole culture still dominated. Any lingering Spanish influence dissipated once Louisiana became American in 1803. Although the Spanish only maintained its colony of Luisiana for 40 years, they did leave a very significant mark on the city of New Orleans. Several fires destroyed the original French architecture of the city during Spain’s forty-year rule. Consequently, the Spanish were largely responsible for establishing much of the present-day architectural character of the Vieux Carré (the French Quarter of New Orleans). Nearly all of its surviving 18th century architecture are actually Spanish colonial era constructions. Also, Spanish control of the region continued and strengthened the Catholic influence that had begun with the French.

New Orleans in 1728 (click to enlarge).
By 1770, the city grew by three more streets parallel to Bourbon (Dauphine, Burgungy and Rampart), and added city walls flanked by guard houses and small forts. Burgundy Street was named in honor of Louis, Dauphin of France, Duke of Burgundy, the father of the infant King Louis XV. Dauphine Street was named most likely after Louis, Grand Dauphin, the eldest son and heir of Louis XIV, King of France, and his spouse, Maria Theresa of Spain. The fortifications were typical 18th-century angled ramparts, geometric and symmetrical, in line the with Englightenment mentality of the time. The 18th century was a time of intensive military activity in Europe as well as in the Americas. Fortified cities were the rage. The period from the 1680s to the French Revolution has been called the “classic century of military engineering,” New Orleans remained a fortified city until 1804, when the Americans began to demolish the forts. The walls had already fallen into disrepair, and Fort St. Charles by the river remained as the only work of military importance until 1826.

New Orleans fire of 1788
click to enlarge.
There was the devastating fire of 1788. Tragedy struck at 1:30 p.m., on March 21 at the home of Army Treasurer Don Vincente José Nuñez, the military treasurer of the colony, on the corner or Rue Toulouse and Chartres. More precisely, the fire was started in the chapel of his home, by a burning candle falling against the lace draperies of the altar. As the fire happened on Good Friday, priests refused to allow church bells to be rung as a fire alarm. The fire engulfed the southern part of the present-day French Quarter, between Rue Conti and the main square (Plaza de armas, present-day Jackson Square). The fire was fed by a strong wind from the southeast, which led to its spreading toward the northwest, thus sparing all the buildings fronting the river, inclusing the including the Customs House, the tobacco warehouses, the Governor's Building, the Royal Hospital and the Ursulines Convent. However, in the opposite direction, the fire spread as far as Rue Dauphine and burned everythign in its path. Within five hours, the fire spread through the Plaza de armas, destroyed the original Cabildo Building, the St. Louis Cathedral, the municipal building, the army barracks, armory, and jail. Only two fire engines were operational, and they were destroyed by the fire. The fire stopped at Rue Dauphine because there was nothing else left to burn. In all, 856 buildings were destroyed. Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró set up tents for the homeless.

Governor Miró summarized the suffering: "If the imagination could describe what our senses enable us to feel from sight and touch, reason itself would recoil in horror...". The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 comes to mind when we, as expatriates, watched on television and the Internet with complete disbelied a similar human catastrophy unfold in our beloved city, with an ill-prepared government unable to stop it. Governor Miró further wrote: "... and it is no easy matter to say whether the sight of an entire city in flames was more horrible to behold than the suffering and pitiable condition in which everyone was involved."

The rebuilding of Nueva Orleans took place in Spanish style. The original wooden buildings from the French era were replaced with brick structures with thick brick walls, courtyards, arcades, and wrought iron balconies. Among the new buildings were the signature of present-day New Orleans: the St. Louis Cathedral, The Cabildo and the Presbytere Buildings. Only one example of the pre-fire architecture remains: the Old Ursuline Convent, which is built in a French neo-classical style.

After 6 years of rebuilding, on December 8, 1794, another fire hit the city. While not as devastating as the fire of 1788, nevertheless another 212 buildings were destroyed. The fire again spared the riverfront buildings, and also the Customs House, the tobacco warehouses, the Governor's Building, the Royal Hospital and the Ursulines Convent. Despite widespread fire damage, the St. Louis Cathedral was dedicated just 2 weeks later, on December 23, 1794.

The Cabildo building in New Orleans.

Municipal Hall>
Rebuilding continued and most French-era architecture was eliminated from the city. In 1795, Spanish philanthropist and nobleman Don Andrés Almonester y Roxas agreed to pay for construction of a new town hall building known as the Cabildo (Spanish for council house). It replaced an earlier structure that had been destroyed by the fire. Almonester had already commissioned Gilberto Guillemard to design the new cathedral and Presbytere. The new Cabildo was built with Spanish arches and a Baroque-looking French-style mansard roof.

A matching building, The Presbytère, originally called the Casa Curial (Ecclesiastical House), was built on the other side of St. Louis Cathedral. It was designed in 1791 to match the Cabildo, but the upper floor was not completed until 1813. The French-style mansard roof was added in 1847. As with the Cabildo and the Cathedral, construction was financed by Don Andrés Almonester y Roxas. It derives its name from the fact that it was built on the site of the residence, or presbytere, of Capuchin monks. While intended to house clergy, it was never used as a religious residence.

St. Louis Cathedral in 1794.

St. Louis Cathedral today.
The St. Louis Cathedral (or as it is officially called "Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France") of Jackson Sqare (Place d' Armes, Plaza de Armas), as it appears today, primarily dates to 1850. Three Roman Catholic churches have stood on the site since 1718. The first one was a crude wooden structure from the early days of the colony. Construction of a larger brick and timber church started in 1725 and was completed in 1727. It was destroyed in the fire of 1788. The cornerstone of a new church was laid in 1789 and the building was completed in 1794.

In 1793, the church was elevated to cathedral rank as the See of the Diocese of New Orleans. In 1819 a central tower with the clock and bell was added. The cathedral was completely rebuilt in 1850. Everything, including the exterior walls were demolished and rebuilt. Very little of the Spanish colonial structure survived.

Wrought-iron balcony.
The city also had an opera house. Opera has long been part of the musical culture, with regular performances held since the 1790s, and throughout the 19th century. New Orleans had a resident company regularly performing opera. The French Opera House burned down in 1919.

Arched Entresol Design
Louis Lanoix House on Rue Touluse.
The Spanish style of the present-day French Quarter of New Orleans is evident from the design of common buildings as well in the form of courtyards, covered courtyard entryways, mezzanines, iron balconies, alleys and secluded patios.

Arched entryway to the
Bosque House Courtyard.
Beside the Ursuline Convent, the only surviving features from the French era is the city plan with a central square overlooked by church and state.


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The Faubourgs

Bernard de Marigny.
Toward the end of the 18th century, exiles from both France and Haiti started flocking to the city in substantial numbers in following the French Revolution and the Haitian Revolution. Forty years of Spanish rule also attracted a number of people from Spain and Spanish colonies. Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the city started to grow out of the original Bienville plan. The first expansion was in the down-river direction. Bernard de Marigny was a wealthy Créole

Marigny Plantaion House in 1803.
landowner who owned a large plantation just outside the city walls in the down-river direction. His full name being "Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville", he was the son of Pierre Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville Ecuyer and Chevalier de St. Louis, and Jeanne Marie d'Estrehan de Beaupré, born in 1785. He was a nobleman, politician, and late the President of the Louisiana Senate in 1822-1823. He also attained the reputation of a playboy, who brough to New Orleans from England was the dice game Hazard, which became locally known as Crapaud (Craps). The historian John Smith Kendall described him in his 1922 book as being "a gentleman of the old school, typically Créole, wealthy, well born, refined. At his mansion were entertained in 1798 Louis Philippe, then Duke of Orleans, afterwards King of France, and his two brothers, the Duke de Montpensier and the Count de Beaujolais".

View of New Orleans from
the Marigny plantation
(after 1803).

It was obvious that his plantation was prime real estate to accomodate the growing population of New Orleans. At the same time, Bernard had gambling debts. In 1805, he decided that that subdividing his family plantation into building lots, and selling them as real estate would be more profitable than farming it. With the crumbling city walls being dismantled following the Louisiana Purchase, Bernard began by extending the streets of La Nouvelle-Orléans downriver.

Map of Fauborg Marigny from 1815
by City Surveyor Jacques Tanesse
(click to enlarge).
Needing to maximize his profit, Bernard realized that the smaller the land parcels, the more there would be to sell. The area grew rapidly with lots being sold all the way into the 1820s. Marigny's development was immediately popular. He spent most of 1806 and 1807 selling 60-foot lots. The main street, a broad boulevard bisecting the fauborg and leading to his house, was called Elysian Fields Avenue, named either after Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, or after Elysium, the place of the blessed dead in Greek mythology, or both. The neighborhood boundaries are Esplanade Avenue on the upriver (west) side, St. Claude Avenue on the north (lake) side, and Franklin Avenue on the downriver (east) side.

Another faubourg which was laid out about the same time was Faubourg Tremé, located on the north side of the original city. It was laid out by Claude Tremé on a plantation belonging to him. St. Claude Street was named by him in honor of the saint whose name he bore. During the 18th century, in colonial times of La Louisiane and Spanish Louisiana, slaves were commonly allowed Sundays off from their work. They were allowed to gather in the Place des Nègres, known informally as Place Congo (part of present-day Armstrong Park), where they would set up a market, sing, dance, and play music. The tradition continued after the city became American. The weekly gatherings at Congo Square became a famous site for visitors from elsewhere in the U.S., becaue black music had been suppressed in the Protestant colonies and states. In addition, because of the immigration of refugees fleeing the Haitian Revolution, New Orleans received thousands of additional Africans and Créoles during the early years of the 19th century, further reinforcing African traditions in the city. The tradition of gatherings in Congo Square gradually disappeared in the years before the American Civil War, as the government grew more anxious about unsupervised gatherings of slaves.

Faubourg Tremé is large, at least twice as large as the original city of La Nouvelle-Orléans. Its traditional borders are Rampart Street on the south, Canal Street on the west, Esplanade Avenue on the east, and North Broad Street on the north. Claiborne Avenue is a primary thoroughfare through the neighborhood. Most of the original architecture of Faubourg Tremé is a mix of Créole Cottages and Shotgun Houses. As in Fauborg Marigny or in the French Quarter, most residences are set along the front property line, with no front setback. The grand residences on Esplanade Avenue were set on large lots with small setbacks from the street, often marked by wrought-iron fences.

Map of Faubourg Sainte Marie from 1815
by City Surveyor Jacques Tanesse
(click to enlarge).
At the time of the Louisiana Purchase, the population of New Orleans was approximately 8,000, including 4,000 whites, 2,000 slaves and about 1,300 gens de couleur libres. With the original city of La Nouvelle-Orléans being flanked on to the north and east by Faubourg Marigny and Faubourg Tremé, Faubourg Sainte Marie was developed to the southeast, on the Uptown side of La Nouvelle-Orléans in an aread the Spanish had called Barrio de Santa María. Faubourg Sainte Marie became part of the "American section" and the hub of most business activities, following the Louisiana Purchase.

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French Attempts To Regain Louisiana

Calle de Bourbon
(Bourbon Street)
in New Orleans.
The Treaty of Paris of 1763 ceeded La Louisiane to Spain, but it did not eliminate French influence in the region. As both France and Spain were allied under the same Bourbon dynasty, Spanish authorities did not challenge French interests in Louisiana. There was, however, initial resistance to Spanish rule by Louisiana Créoles. In an attempt to restore the territory to France, they staged a rebellion of 1768, forcing the governor Antonio de Ulloa to flee to Spain. The rebellion was crushed in the following year, Spanish Louisiana was to be administered by superiors in Cuba, with a governor onsite in New Orleans. Overal, Spanish policy toward Louisiana Créoles was largely tolerant and French communities continued to grow.

Ever since the end of the Seven Years' War, the French never fully reconciled with the loss of Louisiana, but the path to retrosession was not an easy one. All of the traditional players in North America opposed France. First, there was the United States. The young republic did not want a strong Old World colony on its doorsteps, one that would hinder expansionist desires of its own. Next, there was Spain. Distorically, the Kingdom of Spain and the Kingdom of France had been allies, because ever since the War Of the Spanish Succession, both countries were ruled by a Bourbon king. However, in 1789, France has gone through an internal upheaval of its own, the French Revolution, which resulted in the Old Regime being dismantled and the Bourbon dynasty out of power. That left Spain to carry on the Bourbon banner, which made the Kingdom of Spain and the French Republic instant enemies. The Spanish chief minister Manuel de Godoy put Spain at war with France in 1793 in the War Of the First Coalition. However, in 1796 he allied Spain with France War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). The French government smelled an opportunity and sent a secret expedition to map the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in 1796, in preparation for the possible retrocession of Louisiana to France. Britain, who would be France's traditional enemy no matter what government was in charge in France, was the third power that was opposing France's territorial ambitions in North America. They managed to take territory away from France 1711 and 1763, following the last two major wars, they were not about to see those gains reversed.

Napoléon as First Consul.
However, First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte did manage to regain Louisiana in 1800. This was done through a secret agreement with Spain, known as the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, so secret that even Chief Minister Godoy did not know about it until the Spanish King ratified it! Under the agreement, the French Republic would establish a territory on the Italian Peninsula on behalf of the young prince Louis Francis of Bourbon-Parma, Spain would hand over six warships to France, plus retrocede the colony of Louisiana, including the city of New Orleans, back to France. The treaty was part of a greater Napoléon’s plan for the creation of a new colonialempire North America. It was to be centered on the Caribbean sugar trade, but also on other commodities such as sugar, coffee, and cotton. All of it would be produced by slave labor. Saint-Domingue would be the colony's centerpoint. Having just managed to re-acquire la Louisiane from Spain in the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, and Martinique and Guadaloupe from Britain in the Treaty of Amiens (both in 1800), these colonies were to play a support role to Saint-Domingue. For instance, la Louisiane was to serve as a depot for sugar and other products. Napoléon envisioned his new colonial empire to stretch from the Floridas to French Guiana (northern coast of South America), and from the West Indies to Louisiana. It was to serve not only as an economic engine for France, but also as a buffer to U.S. settlements Britain’s growing dominance in international trade.

Battle at San Domingo.
Napoléon’s “Western Design” hinged, however, on the restoration of France’s authority in its most prized colony, Saint-Domingue in present-day Haiti. In 1791, the slaves of Saint-Domingue rose in revolt against France and plunged the colony into civil war that lasted until 1803.

When the civil war in Saint-Domingue began, there was a wave of emigration, which included whites, gens de couleur libres (free people of color), as well as slaves. Just like with the forced expulsion of the French settlers from l'Acadie 40 years before that, most of this exodus headed for la Louisiane, the only other French-speaking (although Spanish-ruled at the time) colony in North America. Within one year, thousands of Saint-Domingue refugees settled in New Orleans, effectively doubling the population of the city. This obviously had a far-reaching social and cultural impact on Louisiana that remains to this day. The Créole refugees from Saint-Domingue settled in the city and brought with them distinct cultural traditions, which included architecture cuisine, music and religion. They played a major role in the further development of Créole cuisine, the perpetuation of voodoo practices and strengthening the city's French character. Jean Lafitte born in Port-au-Prince around 1782, Marie Laveau, the "Queen of Voodoo", born in Saint-Domingue in 1794, and the pharmacist Antoine Amédée Peychaud, born in Saint-Domingue in 1803, were all notable immigrants from Saint-Domingue.

In 1803, a window of opportunity opened for Napoléon to resolve the situation in Saint-Domingue. There was break in Europe between the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802), during which the imperial powers of the time did their best to crush the young French republic, and the Napoleonic Wars that would erupt in 1803, during which the imperial powers of the time would resume doing their best to crush the young French republic. Taking advantage of the truce with Britain, Napoléon mounted a military campaign in the Caribbean to bring Saint-Domingue back under French control. However, the expedition ended in disaster: the French were defeated by the guerilla tactics of the Haitians and a yellow fever epidemic that raged through the French ranks. With the French loss in the Battle of Vertières, Saint-Domingue was declared an independent republic on January 1, 1804, the République d'Haïti (Republic of Haiti). Napoléon abandoned his efforts to subdue the former colony. Without Saint-Domingue, however, there would be no renewed French colonial empire in North America. Because Saint-Domingue had been the keystone on Napoléon’s “Western Design”, the restoration of French colonial empire in North America, with Saint-Domingue lost, the importance of hanging onto la Louisiane faded. Napoléon’s decision to sell Louisiana to the Americans was a direct result of the loss of Saint-Domingue.

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The Louisiana Purchase (Vente de la Louisiane)

In early 1803, a new war with Britain was about to break out in Europe (the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars), which would force Napoléon to focus on Europe, rather than the Caribbean. Napoléon made his decision to sell la Louisiane to the young United States of America, the enemy of his arch-enemy, Britain. This played well into the Americans' hands, because trade disputes with the Spanish authority running the port of New Orleans even led Jefferson's government to considering an invation to take the city of New Orleans by force. An independent move on Napoléon's part to sell la Louisiane was unexpected by welcomed. On May 2, 1803, in a transaction known as the Louisiana Purchase (Vente de la Louisiane for the French), Napoléon sold all of his Louisiana possessions to the United States of America for $15 million. Considering the size of the territory, this amounted to about 4 cents an acre! The entire former Spanish Louisiana, which Napoléon had received from Spain in 1800, passed to American hands. The territory was enormous: east to west from western Montana to eastern Minnesota, and north to south roughly from the present-day Canadian border to the Gulf Of Mexico. In comparison, this area is larger than present-day Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Holland, and Britain combined.

James Monroe.

Robert Livingston.
The American negotiators, James Monroe and Robert Livingston, first anticipated that only the area of New Orleans and parts of the Floridas would be on offer, to consolidate the U.S. position in the southeastern part of the continent. When Monroe was departing the United States to join Livingston in the negotiations, Jefferson gave Monroe discretionary powers to spend $9,375,000 and instructed him that the future of the United States hinged on the success of these negotiations. Unbeknownst to Monroe, by the time he arrived in Paris on April 12, the situation had completely changed, in that Napoléon had already decided to sell the entire la Louisiane. There was also backdoor diplomacy. On April 7, Napoléon’s brothers

Napoléon as First Consul.

President Thomas Jefferson.
Joseph and Lucien tried to convince Napoléon not to sell la Louisiane. It is not quite clear that they did this for patriotic reasons (not to voluntarily give up an important French holding on the American continent), or because Britain had offered Joseph a bribe of £100,000. However, Napoléon’s mind was already made up. The French finance minister, François Barbé-Marbois, received his marching orders from Napoléon on April 11, 1803. Napoléon told him: "I renounce Louisiana. It is not only New Orleans that I will cede, it is the whole colony without reservation. I renounce it with the greatest regret. ... I require a great deal of money for this war [with Britain]." The possibility of such a deal was communicated to a surprised Livingston on the same day by his diplomatic counterpart, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.

François Barbé-Marbois.
An official offer was made by Barbé-Marbois to Livingston the following day, on April 12, during a dinner Livingston gave to welcome Monroe to Paris. The asking price was $22.500 million. Monroe and Livingston coubntered $8 million on April 15. Barbé-Marbois bluffed that Napoléon lost interest, but by April 27, he was saying that $15 million was as low as Napoléon would go. The deal was struck for April 29 at $15 millionon. The treaty was signed by Barbé-Marbois, Livingston and Monroe on May 2 and backdated to April 30.

Territory of Louisiana Purchase
(click to enlarge).
At 4 cents an acre, buying la Louisiane was undeniably a bargain, the U.S. Treasury did not actually have $15 million to pay Napoléon. Interestingly, it was a British bank that actually financed the Louisiana Purchase. Through Barbé-Marbois connections, Baring & Co. Bank agreed, along with several other banks, to make the actual purchase and pay Napoléon cash. The bank then turned over ownership of la Louisiane to the United States in return for bonds, which were repaid over 15 years at 6 percent interest. the final price tag the U.S. government paid for la Louisiane was about $27 million.

It could be argued that Napoléon sold la Louisiane for a bargain basement price. However, he was in a hurry to get cash for the depleted French treasury to finance the anticipated war with Britain. At the same time, he managed to sell something that he did not really have any control over. la Louisiane had just been retroceeded from Spain a few year before,

Pierre Clément de Laussat.

William Charles Cole Claiborne.
and there was no French administration in place. In fact, the new French colonial prefect, Pierre Clément de Laussat, had just arrived in New Orleans in March 1803, only to be told a month later la Louisiane had just been sold! His only significant achievement in office therefore was organizing the official handover of power on December 20, 1803, William Claiborne and General James Wilkinson. The French tricolor was lowered in the Placed’Armes, and the Stars And Stripes were raised. The era of la Louisiane was definitely over. From now on la Louisiane would be no more. It would be called "Louisiana Purchase" by the Americans.

Ceremony at Place d'Armes New Orleans
marking the transfer of Louisiana
to the United States on 10 March 1804.
The local Créole and Spanish population saw it for what it was: a military occupation. They resented, complaining that they were no more than conquered subjects who had not been consulted. Relations with Louisiana's Créole population were initially rather strained: Claiborne was young and inexperienced, did not speak French. The Créole elite were initially alarmed when Claiborne retained the services of the militia of free people of color, which had served with considerable distinction during the preceding forty-year Spanish rule. But Claiborne gradually gained the confidence of the Créole elite, saw the territory take in Francophone refugees from the Haitian Revolution, and was Governor during an event reported as a slave revolt in the area around La Place.

Paradoxically, not all of the present-day U.S. state of Louisiana was part of the Louisiana Purchase. The agreement did include the city of New Orleans, but the soutwestern and eastern portions of the present-day state were not included. In the east, this included the eastern side of the Mississippi River north of Lac Pontchartrain, an area known loally as "the Northshore". During the 18th and early 19th centuries, this area was part of West Florida and, unlike most of the old colony of la Louisiane, this region had been under British and then Spanish control, and was therefore not part of the Louisiana Purchase. At present, these counties ("parishes", in modern-day Louisiana) are known ase "Florida Parishes". They include the pParishes of East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Washington, and West Feliciana. This area was part of the colony of West Florida. West Florida along with East Florida remained Spanish until the Florida Purchase in 1819. In that year, under the Adams–Onís Treaty, Spain sold them to the United States for $5 million.

In the southwestern part of Louisiana, following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, there was an disputed area between the United States and New Spain. This was known as "Neutral Ground", "Neutral Strip", "Neutral Territory", "No Man's Land of Louisiana" or "Sabine Free State". Spain considered the border to be the Arroyo Hondo (present-day Calcasieu River), while the United States argued that the Sabine River, or possibly even the Rio Grande River, was in fact the western boundary of the Louisiana Purchase. Negotiations broke down and it nearly ended in war. The American Gen. James Wilkinson resolved the problem by establishing the Neutral Strip or No-Man’s Land east of the Sabine River and west of the Arroyo Hondo. This area had neutral status from 1806 to 1821. The dispute was resolved in the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, ratified in 1821. Spain surrendered any claim to the area and the new border between the United States and New Spain, namely the province of Tejas, was set at the Sabine River.

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Louisiana In the American Era

Louisiana Territory

What remains to be told is the rest of the story of what happened to the Louisiana Territory in the years following the Louisiana Purchase. Governing the Louisiana Territory was more difficult than acquiring it. The people were a melting-pot mix of Créoles (ethnic French and Spanish), African and Native, they were Catholic, they spoke French and they generally considered themselves the products French culture. They also held slaves, as Spain had continued the international slave trade. Controversies lurked everywhere: over race, religion, law, language and culture.

Between 1803 and 1812, la Louisiane went from being a New Spain colony to a U.S. Federal Territory to becoming the 18th state in the Union, to being at war with Britain. Quite an active 9 years, one may say. But compare it, for instance, to the present-day European Union. Czech Republic went from being a Soviet colony to an independent Czechoslovakia at the end of 1989, to splitting with Slovakia and becoming Czech Republic in on January 1, 1993, to rejoining Slovakia as a happy member of the European Union in 2004.

But back to Louisiana. In retrospect, the Louisiana Purchase was obviously a good thing for the United States, giving it a territory of immense value in terms of mineral resources and fertile land. But at the time, it encountered opposition from many angles, and not just from the local population. The Louisiana Purchase unleashed a host of social and racial issues. The local Créoles hated it because they saw it as a military occupation, a deal involving them made without them. A bit perhaps like the Munich Agreement of 1938, in which Britain and France sold out Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany where the Czech also had no say-so. The existing white population of the territory were the Créoles born in the old la Louisiane (people of French descent born in the colonies, sometimes mixed with African or Native), and the more recent immigrants from l'Acadie (the Cajuns) and Saint-Domingue, as well as France itself. There were also recent Spanish additions stemming form the 40 years of recent Spanish rule. In all, these people were anything but the same as the Anglo-Americans who started to move to the Louisiana Territory following the Purchase. They spoke French, they were Catholic and they considered themselves the product of French culture.

Another form of opposition came from the U.S. government itself: there were politicians who claimed that the Louisiana Purchase was in fact illegal, because France never compensated Spain in the retrocession of la Louisiane in 1800. This may have been the popular conspiracy theory in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol, given that the terms of the Treaty of San Ildefonso had been kept secret for so long.

Yet another form of opposition was cultural and came from the largely puritanical East of the United States. La Nouvelle-Orléans was a city with a unique culture, which included a great deal of social life, elegance, aristocratic goodbreeding, dancing, music, art, but also prostitution, gambling, drinking and the inevitable violence that goes with it. As a catholic city, New Orleans has always been more lenient toward alcohol and prostitution than the rest of the United States, which has traditionally been dominated by the more prudish protestants. Since its early days, New Orleans had a large red light district and there was a broad tolerance toward the consumption of alcohol. Something like this would inevitably be seen as mayhem by many devout American politicians, unfit for inclusion into the sacred Union.

Another cultural rift was in the form of the old Créole family traditions, customs and form of government, which did not seem democratic enough, despite the fact that the opposite was often true. Women, for instance, enjoyed a far higher degree of social importance within the Créole society and ran businesses, which was unheard of in anglophone societies at that time. Another major difference was the completely different attitude toward slavery. The sizable population of Gens de couleur libres (Free People of Color), some of whom were very wealthy and influential businessmen who played a vital role in economic and cultural life was sacrilege to most Americans of the time. The other states to the east stemmed from the British colonial experience, while la Louisiane and its Créole traditions descended from French and Spanish Divine-Right monarchies. The legal system of the old la Louisiane was (and still is) based on the Napoleonic Code, not British Common Law.

Furthermore, the old la Louisiane was Catholic! Plus, the people living in la Louisiane spoke foreign languages: French and Spanish! This was indeed foreign land! How could this society ever be assimilated into the Union?

U.S. states and territories in 1812
(click to enlarge).
In the following years, the territory of former la Louisiane was gradually carved up into U.S. Territories, which would eventually become U.S. states. Parallels, meridians, and natural boundaries such as rivers were used to demark the new administrative units. In 1804, the U.S. Congress voted to divide the Louisiana Purchase into two parts: the "Territory of Orleans" (present-day U.S. State of Louisiana) and the "District of Louisiana" (the rest of the old la Louisiane, reaching all the way to the present-day Canadian border). The dividing line between the Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana was the 33rd parallel. This dissection angered local Créoles, but they lacked the ability to do anything about it. William Claiborne was named the first governor of the Territory of Orleans, and the process immediately began for admission into the Union.

The District of Louisiana was later renamed "Louisiana Territory" and still later, when Orleans Territory became the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Territory was renamed the "Missouri Territory". The Missouri Territory was huge and overed most of the old la Louisiane north of the 33rd parallel. The Anglo-American Convention of 1818 established its northern boundary with the British territory of Rupert's Land at the 49th parallel. The southwest and southeast borders were not firmly established until 1819 when the Adams–Onís Treaty with New Spain was signed. This defined the borders with the New Spain its colonies of Tejas and Santa Fe de Nuevo México. The United States also surrendered a significant portion of the Missouri Territory to New Spain in exchange for La Florida (Spanish Florida).

In 1819, the Territory of Arkansaw was carved out of the Territory of Missouri. The new Territory of Arkansaw covered that part of the Missouri Territory south of the 36°30' parallel. The southeastern portion of the Missouri Territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Missouri in 1821. The remaining portion of the Missouri Territory, consisting of the present U.S. states of Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, most of Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana, and parts of Colorado and Minnesota, effectively became an unorganized territory after Missouri became a state. In 1834, the portion east of the Missouri River was attached to the Michigan Territory. Over time, various territories were created in whole or in part from its remaining area: Iowa (1838), Minnesota (1849), Kansas and Nebraska (both 1854), Colorado and Dakota (both 1861), Idaho (1863), Montana (1864), and Wyoming (1868).

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The War Of 1812 and the Battle Of New Orleans

In 1812, the United States declared war against Britain over trade restrictions, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of Indian tribes against American expansion and more. The war was fought in three principal theatres: at sea, on the American–Canadian border, and in the American South and along the Gulf Coast. This involved the Orleans Territory. The young United States had the upper hand at first, thanks to the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, where Britain had to commit most of its military. However, the defeat of Napoléon in 1814 allowed the British to adopt a more aggressive strategy and send in more troops. The British invaded and burned Washington, D.C., but were repulsed in their attempt to invade Baltimore and New York. Although the war technically ended in a military stalemate with no clear victors or losers, it ended on a high note for the Americans and a sense of euphoria over a "second war of independence" against Britain.

A late battle in the war took place in New Orleans in 1815. On January 8, a British force of 8,000 under General Edward Pakenham attacked American forces commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson. Although the Treaty of Ghent had been signed on December 24, 1814, the war would go on in New Orleans until British forces terminated their assault on January 18. Transatlantic mail took weeks to deliver. The net result was that New Orleans and the vast territory of the Louisiana Purchase were not invaded.

Jean Laffite.
The Battle of New Orleans was far from a clean-cut engagement of regular armies. On the side of the Americans fought a motley crew of locals, consisting of pirates and smugglers associated with one Jean Laffite. Laffite was one of the memorable Neworleanians who had moved here following the unrests in Saint-Domingue where he was most likely born. He and his elder brother Pierre were making a nicely profitable living by smuggling. Until 1807, Jean ran a warehouse in New Orleans to help disperse the goods smuggled by his brother Pierre, when the U.S. government shut them down. The Laffite boys moved their operations to an island in Barataria Bay south of New Orleans, between the Mississippi delta and Grand Isle. Barataria Bay was well chosen because

Barataria Bay.
it is a maze of shallow bays, bayous, lakes and marshes, a good place to hide a smuggling operation. By 1810, their new port was very successful and the Laffites continued their successful smuggling operation. Among the investors in the smuggling venture was one Jean Blanque, a member of the state legislature. After 1812, the Laffite boys also started to generate additional handsome income from piracy.

After the war broke out, in 1814, Jean and his men were offered British citizenship and land grants in the British colonies in the Americas, in a letter bearing the seal of King George III, if they promised to assist in the naval fight against the United States. Jean, being a talented and shrewd businessman, believing that the United States would eventually prevail in the war, sided with the Americans, and committed him and his men to Governor Claiborne to defend New Orleans. Going through the governor and Jean Blanque, his brother was allowed to "escape" from jail.

Nevertheless, in 1814, the federal authorities did invade the Barataria operation and captured most of Lafitte's fleet. Governor Claiborne wrote to the U.S. Attorney General and to General Jackson, requesting a pardon for the Baratarians, probably inspired by Lafitte's offer to help defend Louisiana, Claiborne argued that, by capturing Lafitte and his ships, the federal attack had destroyed a potential first line of defense of Louisiana! Jackson first refused, but when he later arrived in New Orleans on December 1 and found the city completely defensless, he knew that the Laffite brothers were his only option. The city had approximately 1,000 unseasoned troops and two ships. Although the city kept the extra ships captured from Lafitte, it did not have enough sailors to man them, with Laffite's men sitting in jail. Seeing no other choice and the British force around the corner, in mid-December, Jackson met with Lafitte. Lafitte agreed to help Jackson defend New Orleans in exchange for a full pardon for him and his men. Legislation was passed, and Laffite and many of his men joined the New Orleans sailors to man the ships or as militia and artillery. Only four days later, on December 23, advance units of the British fleet reached the Mississippi River!

Major General Sir Edward Pakenham.
The British commander, Major General Sir Edward Pakenham was 36 at the time, and no stranger to combat. He was the son of Edward Pakenham, 2nd Baron Longford, who who fought against France in the Seven Years' War and against the Americans in the American War Of Independence. Edward Pakenham Jr. was born at Tullynally Castle, County Westmeath, Ireland, was educated at The Royal School, Armagh, and his family purchased the commission of lieutenant in the 92nd Regiment of Foot when he was only sixteen. He cut his teeth in combat with the 23rd Light Dragoons cavalry regiment of the British Army against the French in Ireland during the 1798 Rebellion. He later served in Nova Scotia, Barbados, and Saint Croix. He led his men in an attack on Saint Lucia in 1803, fought in the Danish campaign at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1807 and in Martinique against the French Empire.

Major General Andrew Jackson.
The American commander, Major General Andrew Jackson, was born in 1767 in the Carolinas, to Scots-Irish colonists Andrew and Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, who had immigrated from Ireland 1765. Unlike his opponent, young Andrew received only sporadic education in the local school. During the American War Of Independence, he joined a local militia at age thirteen. He lost his two older brothers in the war and gained an intense hatred for the British. He lost his mother at age 14, after she died of cholera working as a volunteer nurse in Charleston Harbor. Later, he taught school and studied law in Salisbury, North Carolina. Even though his legal education was scanty, he knew enough to work as a country lawyer on the frontier. In 1788, he was appointed prosecutor of the Western District and held the same position in the government of the Territory South of the River Ohio after 1791. He was elected as a delegate to the Tennessee constitutional convention in 1796. When Tennessee achieved statehood that year, Jackson was elected its U.S. Representative. T In addition to his legal and political career, Jackson was also a prosperous planter, merchant and slave owner. His military career began late, in 1801, when he was appointed commander of the Tennessee militia and given the rank of colonel. He was later elected major general of the Tennessee militia in 1802. His only combat experience as officer was from the Creek War, during which he led American, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Lower Creek Natives against the Muscogee Creek people. Sam Houston and David Crockett served under Jackson in this campaign. At the time of the Battle Of New Orleans, he was 45.

Location of Chalmette Battlefield
relative to Lake Borgne.
So here it was: two Irishmen and a French pirate about to fight a war. On the American side, Jackson assembled around 4,000 men which included the 7th US Infantry, a variety of militia, as well as free blacks and Native Americans, and Jean Laffite's combat-hardened pirates and smugglers. Commodore Daniel Patterson oversaw the U.S. Navy's forces in the area. On the British side was a force of about 8,000-9,000 men, commanded by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane and Major General John Lambert, with Major General Sir Edward Pakenham in overal command. The British goal was to capture the city of New Orleans and with it the recently acquired U.S. Territory Of Orleans, because they made their approach via Lake Borgne, which would put their force closer to the city, rather than up the Mississippi River, which would have meant an 80 mile trip against the current of the mighty Mississippi River. Military historian Kennedy Hickman described the unfolding of the battle as follows. Vice Admiral Cochrane's fleet arrived in Lake Borgne on December 12 and scored the first victory when the British forces swept American gunboats from the lake, landed on Pea Island and established a British garrison. A force of 1,800 men reached the east bank of the Mississippi River on December 23 and set up camp in Villeré Plantation. The American forces responded the same night by attacking the British, inflicting more casualties than they sustained, and then falling back after the battle. The American attack did not win the war but put the British off balance, causing them to delay their advance on the city. That gave Jackson time to establish a line along the Rodriguez Canal in Chalmette. Two days later, Pakenham arrived in Chalmette and was angered by having to face an increasingly strong American fortification. His initial plan was to move his force through the Chef Menteur Pass to Lake Pontchartrain and outflank the Americans, but he was convinced by his staff in a fateful decision to attack the American position directly, as they believed the small American force could be easily defeated.

Repelling initial British attacks on December 28, at the suggestion of Jean Laffite, Jackson's men began constructing batteries, extending the defensive line on the west bank of the river. Laffite was a good tactician, and his advice to General Jackson was instrumental in not being encircled by the British force and losing the main battle right at the beginning. As Pakenham's main force arrived on January 1, an artillery duel began. Unlike the regular soldiers, Laffite's pirates were expert marksmen and gunners, with practice gained by having captured hundreds of ships. Laffite's band of smugglers and pirates had the British force outgunned! The first British attack was repulsed by an artillery crew manned by two of Lafitte's former lieutenants, Renato Beluche and Dominique Youx.

1815 painting by
Jean Hyacinthe de Laclotte,
a participant in the battle.
For his main assault, Pakenham planned to attack on both sides of the Mississippi river. Part of the force was to cross to the west bank and assault the American batteries there, while the main body would attack on the east bank from the right. However, this plan quickly ran into problems. First, it was found that the terrain between Lake Borgne and the Mississippi River was far too marshy to move boats, which would be needed to cross the Mississippi River, across it quickly. This delay was worsened by the fact the Mississippi current forced the British force to land further downstream than intended. In the end, they were not in place when Pakenham decided to start the attack. Second setback for the British force occurred when the 44th Irish Regiment found itself lost in the morning fog and could not be found. With dawn approaching, Pakenham nevertheless ordered the attack to begin. As his men moved onto the Chalmette plain, Pakenham hoped that the dense fog would hide them. This was did not happen as the fog melted away under the morning sun, the Americans saw the British column and opened an intense artillery and musket fire.

Chalmette battlefield, cannon battery No. 4.
The main British column came under heavy fire as they were approaching the Rodriguez Canal in front of the American line but lacked the bridging equipment to cross it. The 44th Irish Regiment finally arrived at the scene, but despite their arrival, the advance remained stalled and Pakenham was soon wounded in the arm. The 93rd Highlanders were ordered to angle across the field to the right flank to aid the main attack, but absorbing heavy fire from the Americans, the Highlanders soon lost their commander. With his army collapsing, Pakenham ordered Major General John Lambert to lead the reserves forward. Moving to rally the Highlanders, Pakenham was wounded in the thigh, and then mortally wounded in the spine. The loss of Pakenham was soon followed by the death and wounding of two other top commanders. In a matter of minutes, the entire British senior command on the field was down. Lambert was met by the remnants of the attack columns as they fled towards the rear. Seeing the situation as hopeless, Lambert ordered to pull back.

The American commanders praised Lafitte's men for their artillery skills. The pirate gunners continued to earn praise as the battle unfolded. Who knows how the Chalmette battle had turned out, had General Jackson only had his regular army!

Ron Chapman wrote in the March-April 2012 issue of Louisiana Life that
"The value of Louisiana’s statehood to the Union would be proved by combat on a sugar plantation in Chalmette during the Battle of New Orleans. The very people denigrated by some members of Congress just two years before would secure the nation’s freedoms in America’s Second War of Independence."
Laffite's men were certainly instrumental in preventing the British from capturing Orleans Territory. But, given their Créole origin and their background as smugglers, it is a difficult to see that this band of renegades was defending the United States, rather than defending La Nouvelle-Orléans, their city and their way of life. Plus, they needed their pardons... They had two adversaries, the British and the Americans, and they simply made a pragmatic choice.

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Development of Uptown and the Architecture of American-era New Orleans

An era of fundamental sociological and cultural restructuring of the New Orleans began. The relationship of the Créole and the Americans was rocky at the beginning. Not only did the Créole and American populations not mix and lived in different areas of the city, they even ran separate municipal governments during the period of 1836-1852, to avoid severe political, economic and cultural clashes. When the Americans started arriving in large numbers, they were shocked at the mix of cultures and races: there were French and Spanish Créoles, people of mixed French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Native American origin, free people of color, plus the Cajuns in the rural part of southwestern Louisiana. The arriving Americans were often wealthy businessmen, expected to come quickly take over the city with their laws and ways of life, but they soon realized that was going to be very hard. The Créoles saw the arriving Americans and saw then as speculators and adventurers, who came to New Orleans to take advantage of the ports and plantations. A cultural dichotomy quickly developed. The Créoles also understood little of the Anglo-Saxon American ways and customs. This was particularly thu in politics, where the Americans were rooted in republicanism, while the Créoles were used to monarchies. They thought the new government administrators were poorly selected and ignorant of their needs, while in turn, the Americans believed it was them who shouild dominate, because they were the ones who understood how a democratic government should work. English was made the official language in 1812, when Orleans Territory became the State of Louisiana. This caused further resentment within the Créoles towards the Americans. French and Spanish continued to be spoken, with French being heard in the French Quarter until the 1920s.

The city needed to grow to accommodate the new population. The old Faubourg Sainte Marie (present-day Central Business District) became Americanized first. The original Créole section of the city was separated from it by a broad “commons” (present-day Canal Street). The median of the wide boulevard became a place where the two contentious cultures could meet and bilingually do business. As such, it became known as the "neutral ground". Consequently, every median on every boulevard in New Orleans is called a "neutra' ground" to this day. New settlements were being built in the up-river direction, in the "American section". This was land, which was part of the 1719 land grant to Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville in 1719, and was later divided into smaller plantations in 1723.

Map of Sainte Marie from 1833
by surveyor Charles Zimpel
(click to enlarge).
The present-day neighborhoods of Garden District, Uptown and Carrolton were developed during the 19th century, mostly from land that had been plantations in the Colonial era. The development followed the higher ground along the natural levee of a wide gradual bend of the Mississippi River. Several separate towns were formed: Lafayette, Jefferson, Hurst, and Carrollton. These were initially small settlements at steamboat landings a few miles upstream of New Orleans.

Lafayette was the one closest to New Orleans. The sugar plantation once owned by Francois Livaudais and situated along the Mississippi River between present-day Philip, Pleasant and LaSalle streets was sold to developers in 1832. It was subdivided and incorporated in April, 1833 as the City of Lafayette. The center of town was around Jackson Street. The would become present-day Garden District. Lafayette annexed Faubourg Delassize in 1844, bringing the boundary with New Orleans to Toledano Street. In 1853, New Orleans annexed Lafayette, moving the New Orleans city limit further upriver. The seat of Jefferson Parish moved to Carrollton. However, the boundary between Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish remained at Felicity Street until 1870, when it was moved to Lowerline Street.

Jefferson was formed by the aglomeration of several smaller municipalities, namely the Bouligny and other plantations around it. The Bouligny Plantation was bought by Louis Bouligny in 1829. It was the land bordered by the present day streets of Upperline and General Taylor. It had previously been owned by Valentin Robert Avart and General Wade Hampton of South Carolina. Bouligny bought it with the intention of subdividing it and selling the lots to prospective homebuyers. The New Orleans engineer and cartographer Charles Zimpel laid out streets, but it was Pierre-Benjamin Buisson, the surveyor of the City of Lafayette (present-day Garden District), who named them. Buisson had been an artillery officer in Napoleon's Grande Armée and, paying tribute to his Emperor, Buisson named the main street in the municipality "Napoleon Avenue",

Curch of St. Stephen on
Napoleon Avenue, present day.
and the parallel streets on its sides important battles of the Napoleonic wars, most of which were decisive French victories: Austerlitz, Marengo, Jena and Cadiz. The neo-gothic Catholic church of St. Stephen was built on Napoleon Avenue between 1868 and 1887, served teh large german population in that area. It s the second largest Catholic church in New Orleans, with a six-sided spire more than 200 feet high, and stained-glass windows designed by the Franz Mayer of Munich, Architectural Glass and Mosaic. The company was founded in 1847 by Joseph Gabriel Mayer, awarded the status of “Royal Bavarian Art Establishment“ by King Ludwig II in 1882.

St. Charles Avenue streetcar, present day.
At the same time Bouligny began to subdivide and develop his property, the New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad was built between the cities of New Orleans and Carrollton along Nayades Street (present-day St. Charles Avenue). The company was chartered in 1833 and operations began in 1835. It was one of six short-line rail systems built to connect the city of New Orleans with surrounding neighborhoods. The line was 4 1/2 miles long, laid out on top of a slight rise, the remains of an olded natural levee, and used steam locomotives to pull the passenger cars instead of the traditional horses or mules. The line later evolved into the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar Line. In connection with the railroad, a broad avenue was laid out, with roadbeds on both sides of the railroad. The with mass transit running down the center helped fuel the development of Uptown in the 19th century. The avenue itself became the favored site for construction of mansions of the wealthy in the 1890s.

In Faubourg Bouligny, the railroad acquired property on the corner of Nayades Street and Napoleon Avenue and built a car depo and other facilities. Napoleon Avenue became the stop on the route to Carrollton, causing Bouligny to boom. Neighboring plantation owners caught onto the idea and also decided to subdivide and develop. The municipalities of Plaisance, Delachaise, St. Joseph, Avart and Rickerville were formed. By 1850, the these municipalities were combined and incorporated into Jefferson City located just north of the City of Lafayette, and south of the City of Carrollton. The administrative unit of Jefferson parish was created. The City of New Orleans began to annex these municipalities beginning in the 1850s. In 1870, New Orleans annexed Jefferson City, Hurstville, Bloomingdale, Burtheville and Greenville. It also annexed the undeveloped area between Greenville and Burtheville that would later become Audubon Park.

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, present day.
Cornelius Hurst, developer of Faubourg Hurstville, sold a square block to the City of Lafayette for a cemetery in 1833. known today as Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. The land is bounded by Washington Avenue, 6th Street, Coliseum Street and Prytania Street.

Map of Carrollton from 1833
by surveyor Charles Zimpel
(click to enlarge).
Carrollton was laid out by Charles Zimpel in 1833 on the site of the Macarty Plantation. This was the uppermost part of the 1719 land grant to Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. Historically, the boundaries were the Mississippi River to the south, present-day Lowerline Street in the east, Fig Street to the north and Monticello Avenue to the west. New Orleans Canal and Banking Co. purchased half of the McCarty Plantation to obtain right of way for a planned extension of the New Basin Canal. Investors Laurent Millaudon, Senator John Slidell and Samuel Kohn bought the other half and hired planner Charles Zimpel to create the street grid. The main thoroughfare in historic Carrollton was Canal Avenue (present-day South Carrollton Avenue).

Convent Of the Sacret Heart, present day.
By the 1850s, the town had a racetrack, fine gardens, a hotel and an elegant train station. Carrollton was considered a resort town. It was a trip destination for New Orleans families, who took the “long” train ride along Nyades Stree (St. Charles Avenue), sometimes with an overnight stop at the Sacred Heart Convent, to break up "arduouos journey" (4 1/2 miles), to vacation in “The Historic Town of Carrollton.”

Carrollton was the seat of Jefferson parish government in 1852-1874. It was annexed by New Orleans in 1874.

As the development of Uptown continued, Streets were laid out in two directions: paralleling the meander of the Mississippi River, or perpendicular to it, resulting in a whell-with-spokes pattern. The streets paralleling the bend in the river are: Tchoupitoulas Street, Magazine, Prytania, St. Charles Avenue, Simon Bolivar, La Salle, Freret, and Claiborne Avenue. The "spokes" perpendicular to the river were named Melpomene, Jackson, Washington, Louisiana, Napoleon, Jefferson and Nashville Avenues, Broadway, Carrollton Avenue, and Leonidas Street. Many of these were formerly the main streets of, or boundary lines between, the various early 19th-century towns hich were absorbed into the city New Orleans.

The architecture that developed Uptown was obviously quite different from that of the French Quarter. The Spanish building style of the French Quarter dating after the fire of 1788, consisted of townhouses set right at the property line, with continuous front walls, so as to make it easy to fight an band of invading bad guys, mysterious gated vaulted entryways, alleys and brick patios. Uptown was developed more like a country village. Broad streets with iron fences, houses st back to allow for a flowering front yard, trees, flowers and lawns. Several new building styles evolved:

  • the Shotgun House: a narrow and long house with rooms arranged in a series behind one another; for those on a budget,
  • the Raised Center-Hall Cottage: a wide, one-and-a-half storey house raised house sitting on low brick piers, with a front gallery with Greek-revival columns,
  • the Double-Gallery House: a two-storey house sitting on low brick piers, with giant order columns (columns spanning two stories) supporting two-story galleries,
  • Mansions: sizable structures built mostly in Greek Revival style, comparable in their enormity and complexity of decorations any baroque nr Neo-Classical palace in France, Italy, Austria or Czech Republic; for those on a very big budget.

American Townhouse on Julia Street
built in the 1830s, present day.
The areas that were developed first during the American era were the old Fauborg Saite Marie (Central Business District) and the City Of Lafayette (the Lower Garden District). In these areas, there is a building style found called the American Townhouse, which is still reminiscent of the Créole Townhouse found in the French Quarter. It is a narrow, three-story structure set near ground level (i.e. not raised), with its front façade is set at the property line (the sidewalk), a balcony on second floor, and an asymmetrical arrangement of façade openings, and exterior façade made of brick or stucco. This was the building style during the 1820s to 1850s.

Most of the Garden District, Uptown and Carrollton is populated by the Shotgun Houses, Raised Center-Hall Cottages and Double-Gallery Houses. The Shotgun House was the most popular style of house in the Southern United States from the end of the American Civil War (1861–65), through the 1920s. It is a narrow rectangular rsidence, usually no more than 12 feet (3.5 m) wide, with rooms arranged behind one another, usually with a living room in the front, followed by a bedroom, ending with a kitchen and bathroom. Interior doors are positioned identically on each wall. There is an entrance door at each end of the house. The name derives from the theory that, if a person opened all the doors and fired a shotgun, the shot would travel throughout the entire house.

The Shotgun House.
The most modest accommodations were being built closest to the Mississippi River, by workers from the harbor and commercial enterprises operating to support the harbor. A classic Shotgun House is a narrow, rectangular, one-storey structure, raised on brick piers, with rooms arranged behind one another. The living is in the front, followed by a bedroom, and a kitchen/bathroom combination. Interior doors are on the same side of the house, and there are front and back entrances arranged accordingly. This gives the Shotgun House its name; if an person was to open all the doors and fire a shotgun from one end of the house, the pellets would travel through the entire house without hitting anything (or anybody). Most Shotgun Houses have a narrow front porch covered by a roof apron and supported by columns and brackets, often with Greek revival, and later with lacy Victorian, ornamentation. The exterior is typically wood. The variants of the Shotgun House are the Shotgun Double (two shotgun houses arranged side-by-side under the same A-frame roof), and the Camelback House, which is a Shotgun House with a second story set at rear of house. This was the most common budget-minded building style in New Orleans between 1850 and 1910.

Raised Center-Hall Cottage: "The Marigny" at 2524
St. Charles Avenue built by John Vittie,
was completed in 1857. Photo by Jean-Paul Gisclair
This is a common architectural type found in the Garden District, Uptown and Carrollton. It is a one-and-a-half storey house raised two to eight feet above ground on brick piers. It has a front gallery running the ful width of the house, framed by six columns supporting the entablature. There are five openings with front door in the center. Side-gabled roof, often broken by central dormer. Exterior is made of wood.

This particular house is "The Marigny" at 2524 St. Charles Avenue. It was built in 1857 by John Vittie for Sophronie Claiborne-Marigny, the daughter of William Clairborne, the first American governor of the Orleans territory and later the first governor of the state. Sophronie was also a lady of French Queen Amelie’s Court.

Double-Gallery house
"The Diocesan House" at 2265
St. Charles Avenue
designed by James Gallier, Jr.,
was completed in 1857.
Photo by Jean-Paul Gisclair
This was the building style of the affluent during the period of 1820-1850. It is found in the Lower Garden District, Garden District and Uptown. It is a two-storey structure raised on low brick piers, with a side-gabled or hipped roof. It is always set back from the property line, with a small but manicured front yard with an iron fence. It has covered two-storey galleries framed by giant order columns (columns spanning two stories) supporting the entablature. It has an asymmetrical arrangement of façade openings.

This particular house is "The Diocesan House" at 2265 St. Charles Avenue. It was designed by James Gallier, Jr., and was completed in 1857. The Greek-revival design of the home marks a departure for Gallier from the Italianate Style popular in many Garden District homes at that time.

Italianate designs in New Orleans.

Italianate designs in New Orleans.
The Greek Revival style was popular throughout Uptown and the Garden District, and its architectural elements were applied to everything from small Shotgun Homes to large Double-Gallery Houses.

The style has its roots in the Neoclassical Style that started in Europe in the mid-18th century. In its simplest form it is a style principally derived from the architecture of Classical Greece and Rome. The style emphasizes geometric designs and symmetry, rooted in the Enlightenment (the Age Of Reason), as a reaction against the exuberance of the Rococo and Baroque Styles.

Statue of Napoleon in the courtyard
of Palazzo Brera in Milan.

Estates Theatre in Prague (1783).
In New Orleans, during the late 1850s, the Greek Revival began to take a different character. It started to mimic the Neoclassical Style of the time that was being built in northern Italy. Starting with the 1860s, it became known in New Orleans as the Italianate Style, and characterized by porches, full length windows, shutters and iron work. The onset of the Italianate Style in New Orleans approximately coincides with the onset of Italian immigration, and it may seem that there is a connection. However, most of the Italians coming to New Orleans were from Sicily, not from northern Italy. In fact, the Italianate Style arrived to New Orleans from Britain. The Italianate style was first developed

Osborne House, Isle of Wight,
England, built between 1845 and 1851.

The Cliveden mansion at the Taplow estate,
Buckinghamshire, England.
Neo-Renaissance style by Charles Barry (1851).
in Britain about 1802 by John Nash. The Italianate style was further developed and popularised by the architect Sir Charles Barry in the 1830s. Barry's Italianate style drew heavily on the buildings of the Italian Renaissance, specifically on the designs of the Renaissance villas of Rome, Lazio and Veneto. The Italianate style of architecture was a distinct 19th-century phase in the history of Neoclassical architecture. In the Italianate style, the models and architectural vocabulary of 16th-century Italian Renaissance architecture, were synthesised with picturesque aesthetics. The style of architecture that was thus created, though also characterised as "Neo-Renaissance", was essentially of its own time.

Lobby of the National Museum in Prague Neo-Renaissance Style (1891).

The John Muir Mansion
in Martinez, California (1849).
The style was not confined to Britain and was employed in varying forms throughout the rest of Europe, the British Empire, and the United States. From the late 1840s to 1890, it achieved huge popularity in the United States. In California, the earliest Victorian residences were versions of the Italianate Style, such as the James Lick Mansion, John Muir Mansion, and Bidwell Mansion.

The Van Benthuysen-Elms Mansion on 3029 St. Charles Avenue.

2805 Carondelet Street.
In New Orleans, notable examples of high-end Italianate houses in Uptown and the Garden District include:

  • 1331 First Street, designed by Samuel Jamison,
  • the Van Benthuysen-Elms Mansion at 3029 St. Charles Avenue, and
  • 2805 Carondelet Street (technically located a block outside the garden district).
The Greek Revival style, and its offshoot, the Italianate Style, are clearly associated in New Orleans with the onset of the American period following the Louisiana Purchase. While the old Créole neighborhoods of the original La Nouvelle-Orléans, Faubourg Marigny and Faubourg Tremé were largely unaffected by early American architectural styles, the wave of Americans who began to pour into the city strongly identified with American architecture. This meant that, naturally, the Greek Revival style is common in neighborhoods that were developed by the newly arrived Americans: Faubourg Sainte Marie (present-day Central Business District), the City Of Lafayette (the Garden District), and Uptown exhibit large numbers of Greek Revival style buildings.

Italianate house on 1331 First Street,
designed by Samuel Jamison.

Typical East Lake architectural elements.
In the 1870s, the Italianate designs were falling from favor and, as the world marched into the Victorian era, were gradually were begin gradually replaced by the Queen Anne and Eastlake styles. Elements of both styles are similar and often intermixed. The most striking feature of Queen Anne and Eastlake styles are the frilly decorations using pierced, cut, turned, and other patterned wooden trim, quoins, brackets, porch posts and rails, often in conjunction with wooden shingles. East Lake/Queen Anne continued to be influential until the first decade of the 20th century.

Finally, there are the palaces on "Millionaire Row" along St. Charles Avenue. Originally known in the first half of the 19th century as "Nyades Street",


The section between Canal Street and Tivoli Circle (present-day Lee Circle), was and is an important corridor through downtown, with buildings including Gallier Hall and City Hall. The section between Tivoli Circle toward Carrollton is famous for its stately southern live oaks and abundant green spaces. The oak trees were added during the early 20th century. Similar additions were made on other New Orleans main streets, such as Carrollton, Napoleon and Canal, becoming one of the city's most memorable features.

The street was laid out atop a slight rise, the remains of an old natural levee, in connection with the construction of the New Orleans & Carrollton Railway, which became the St. Charles Streetcar line.

The "Morris-Downman Home"
at 2525 St. Charles Avenue.
The Avenue itself became the favored site for construction of mansions of the wealthy during the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Morris-Downman house dates to 1888 when John A. Morris, the founder of the Louisiana State Lottery Company, had it built for his family. The house was bought by Robert Downman, a prominent Louisiana merchant and landower, in 1906, and has remained in the family since then.

The "Wedding Cake House" at
5809 St. Charles Avenue.
The Victorian mansion at 5809 St. Charles is often called the “Wedding Cake Mansion” because of the layers of intricate plaster decorating the facade. It was built in 1896.

John R. Rouse-Harp-Mitchell-Kirkpatrick House
at 3711 Saint Charles Avenue.
The "John R. Rouse-Harp-Mitchell-Kirkpatrick House" at 3711 St. Charles Avenue.

Incredibly, a number of these old mansions were torn down during the mid 20th century until the area was declared an historic district.

The first half of the 19th century constituted the golden age of New Orleans as a great cotton port. The first steamboat to reach the city, in 1812, was appropriately called the New Orleans. Mississippi River steamboats increased to 400 by 1840, and local commerce skyrocketed in value, reaching $54 million by 1835. By 1840 the city was rated the fourth port in the world; after the 1840s canals and railroads diverted produce eastward to New York City. German and Irish immigrants arrived in New Orleans in large numbers in the 1840s. By 1850 the city’s total population had swelled to 116,375. During the first half of the 19th century, New Orleans became the wealthiest and third-largest city in the United States. Its port shipped the produce of much of the nation’s interior to the Caribbean, South America and Europe. Thousands of slaves were sold in its markets, but the free black community thrived.

New Orleans, however, had not learned to cope with the health hazards of its mushrooming growth: drinking water came from the river or cisterns, no sewerage system existed, drainage was deficient, and flooding was common after heavy rains. The results were sporadic outbreaks of cholera and yellow fever, the worst of which was the yellow fever epidemic of 1853, accounting for more than 8,000 deaths.

Until 1830, the majority of its residents still spoke French, but that was gradually changing. The cultural look and feel of the city was taking a different direction as its social makeup was changing. This was not the old Créole city of Bienville anymore. It was changing its face and becoming an American city, resembling other Southern cities such as Charleston or Savannah. The new American culture was taking over the city. Neoclassical and later Victorian designs were being used throughout the development of the Garden District, Uptown and Carrollton. Houses with porches were set back from the front property lines bordered with iron fences, along shady streets with trees. This was a completely different feel from the Spanish New Orleans built in the French Quarter in the late 18 century.

Outside of New Orleans, upriver along the Mississippi, lavish plantation houses were built. While the plantations of the Créole era were simple cottages, painted in bright Caribbean colors, the later plantation houses built in the 19th century during the American era were opulent mansions. They were once the mainstays of the agrarian economy that drove the region, not to mention the bastions of a genteel culture. The Southern plantations as equivalent to European chateaus, in that both were centers of wealth, which was accumulated largely through slave labor, but architectural gems nevertheless.

Destrehan Plantation.jpg, present day.
The oldest plantation in the lower Mississippi River Valley in the Destrehan Plantation, built in 1790 by Robert Antoine Robin de Logny, a short distance up-river. It is built in a combination of Colonial and Greek Revival styles. The Colonial style is evidenced by it being a raised house with above-ground basement (to handle annual floods), and by the upper residential floor surrounded by a wide covered colonnade on all four sides (to handle summer downpurs during the rainy season). This style is typical for many older Louisiana plantations built during the Créole era, and is modeled after the sugar plantations of the West Indies. This style is also called "Louisiana Colonial". The Greek Revival style is evidenced by the pillars, square windows, and decorative elements in the façade.

Oak Alley Plantation, present day.
An example of a similar combination of Colonial and Greek Revival styles is the Oak Alley plantation. Although much younger (completed in 1839), it has similar features. Oak Alley (originally known as he Bon Séjour Plantation) was built by Jacques Télesphore Roman from acquired the land from his brother-in-law, François-Gabriel "Valcour" Aimé, a sugar baron and one of the wealthiest men in the South. The house has a square floorplan, organized around a central hall that runs from the front to the rear on both floors. The rooms all have high ceilings and large windows. The exterior features a free-standing colonnade of 28 Doric columns on all four sides. Constructed of bricks made on site, the 16" walls are finished with stucco on the exterior and painted white to resemble marble, and the interior is plastered. The roof is made of slate and originally had four dormers on each side of the hipped roof.

Houmas House, present day.
Examples of other plantations built in such a combination Colonial and Greek Revival styles with colums, moldings and cornices, and Colonial-style colonnades, include the Ormond Plantation (1790), the Burnside Plantation (known also as The Houmas House, 1840), the Evergreen Plantation (1832), the Malus-Beauregard House (1830), San Francisco Plantation (1849) St. Joseph Plantation (1840).

Bocage Plantation, present day.
The Bocage Plantation was built in 1837 by Marius Pons Bringier on the site of an older 1801 Créole cottage that burned down. The new house was designed by James Dakin in elaborate Greek Revival style. Distinctive features of the façade include the massive entablature (the superstructure of moldings and bands which lie horizontally above the columns), with pediment(the gable placed above the horizontal structure of the entablature) design on the parapet and denticulated cornice (the horizontal decorative molding that crowns the building), supported across the entire front by square, giant order columns (columns spanning two stories) forming a double gallery. The upper gallery opens into the main floor, where rooms open into each other, without halls, in the Créole style, with a cabinet-loggia at the rear.

Nottoway Plantation, present day.
Examples of other well known Louisiana plantations built in Greek Revival style include the Madewood Plantation (1846) and Nottoway Plantation (1858).

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Slavery vs. Serfdom

One can argue that the entire Créole civilization and the American society that succeeded it were based on slave labor, on exploitation and human rights abuses. This is 21-st century logic and 21st century sentiment applied to societies that existed two centuries ago. The western world of the 18th and 19th centuries was simply different, and 21st century measures of right and wrong cannot be simply applied. Although the French and Spanish had very attitudes toward slavery compared to the American era, and it was common for free people of color to live on the same standards of living as the French and the Spanish, there was slavery nevertheless. But such was the world in the 18th century.

New France, New Spain and the United States had slavery, and Europe had serfdom. Both were very similar and both generally lasted until the second half of the 19th century. Serfdom was the status of peasants under feudalism, a condition of bondage dating back to the High Middle Ages. Serfs were required to work for the Lord of the Manor who owned that land, in his fields, mines, forests and roads, and pay him taxes. In return, they were entitled to protection and the right to grown small fields within the manor to maintain their own subsistence. Serfs were bound legally, economically, and socially to their lord, could not marry or move without the lord's permission. A serf owned "only his belly"; even his clothes were the property of his lord. A serf was allowed personal property and wealth, and a well-to-do serf might even have been able to buy his freedom. Now compare that to slavery: slavery was a similar system, under which people were forced to work on the land belonging to the Master, and could not move or demand compensation. Serfs, like slaves, were property of the landowner. The principal difference between slavery and serfdom was that serfs came with the land and when the Lord sold the land, the serfs were transferred as part of the property to the new owner; while slaves were traded like commodities in exchanges and were not tied to a specific lot of land. But this was just semantics; the reality was that life sucked for slaves as much as it did for serfs.

It was the Age of Enlightenment that fundamentally changed things, and laid the foundation for Western societies to become what they are today. In England, serfdom became obsolete in England during the 15th and 16th century. In other European kingdoms, such as Savoy, Baden, Denmark, Schleswig-Holstein, Prussia, Mecklenburg, Bavaria, Nassau, Württemberg, it lasted until the late 18th or early 19th century. It was abolished in the Austrian Empire in 1848 and in Russia in 1861. In such sweetspots of democracy such as Afghanistan, Bhutan and China, the practice of serfdom lasted until 1923 and 1959, respectively. In comparison, slavery was abolished in Mexico in 1829, in all of the British Empire in 1833, and in the United States in 1863. In such havens of progressive though as Mauritania or Niger, slavery lasted until 1981 and 2003, respectively...

Until the end of the 18th century, castles and chateaus in Europe, plantation mansions along the Mississippi River, townhouses in La Nouvelle-Orléans we all inevitably built by slave or serf labor. What changed the Western World were people like Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, John Locke, Voltaire, David Hume, Isaac Newton, Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and countless other intellectuals. Obviously, countries such as Niger or Afghanistan that have never, even remotely, been exposed to anything close to the philosophy of the Enlightenment, remain - and will remain - unchangeable in their treatment of people.

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New Spain in the Second Half of the 18th and Early 19th Centuries

The End Of New Spain And the Birth Of the Mexican Empire

The rest of the story that remains to be told is what happened to New Spain. Empires come and go; each has its time measured in terms of survivability in the ambient political world it exists in. The Roman Empire lasted a long time, 523 years. New France folded in 1763, after 229 years of existence. The empire of New Spain lasted longer, until 1821 (302 years). In comparison, as of 2014, the United Kingdom has lasted 307 years since 1707, and the United States 238 years, since 1776.

Starting in 1769, New Spain built 21 new missions were built in present-day California along California's El Camino Real. The expeditions of Coronado (1540-1542) and de Oñate (1598) had convinced the government of New Spain that there were no wealthy Indian empires like that of the Aztecs north of present-day Mexico. The government of New Spain began to view that the northern frontier of the empire as a defensive barrier, as well as a fertile ground where a few pagan souls might be saved through proselytization. In present-day Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, missions were being founded throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries to propagate the faith. To protect these missions (as well as mining operations and ranches), the government established "presidios", fortified garrisons of troops. When the Spanish began to settle in the present-day U.S. state od California (Alta California), Father Junípero Serra accompanied the expedition of José de Gálvez in 1769 and founded the Mission San Diego de Alcalá (present-day San Diego), the first of 21 Franciscan missions in California. The last was San Francisco Solano (1823), located in the Sonoma Valley.

In an effort to exclude Britain and Russia from the eastern Pacific, King Charles III of Spain sent forth from Mexico a number of expeditions to the Pacific Northwest between 1774 and 1793, all the way to Alaska.

North America after the Second
Treaty of Paris (1783).
Spain, who entered the American Revolutionary War as an ally of France in June 1779 against the British, did not do badly. A Spanish army defeated the British in the Battle of Pensacola in 1781. The Spanish made gains against the British Michigan, where they captured the British Fort St. Joseph in 1781, in 1782 when Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, captured the British naval base at New Providence in the Bahamas. On the Gulf Coast, Gálvez led the re-acquisition of East and West Florida in the peace settlement at the end of the American Revolutionary War, as well as to controlling the mouth of the Mississippi River after the war. The American Revolutionary War ended with the Second Treaty of Paris in 1783. The treaty returned all of Florida to Spain in return for the Bahamas.

New Spain in 1820
click to enlarge.

In 1820, New Spain consisted from a large number of administrative units, reaching from the present-day U.S. states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and south Texas, to southern Central America (at that time still including Guatemala, Nicarague, etc). The end of New Spain came when the government of New Spain desired a greater degree of independence from Spain. Their intention was to not to fully break away from the mother country, but to establish a commonwealth, in which the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, would also be Emperor of Mexico. Both countries would, however, be governed by separate laws and each would have its own legislative office. Failing Ferdinand's acceptance of the Mexican throne, there was a provision for a member of the House of Bourbon accede to the Mexican throne. However, the Spanish king not only did not accept the Mexican throne, he declared the whole thing invalid. He held that Spain would never allow any other European prince to take over the throne of Mexico. Hearing that, the Mexican parliament, installed the president of the regency, Agustín de Iturbide, as the emperor of Mexico. ndependence from Spain was declared on September 15, 1821. Thus emerged a new, large, country on the North American continent.

As a side-note, the festival of Cinco de Mayo is not commemorating Mexican independence from Spain, as is generally (and wrongly) believed in Texas. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of a Mexican victory over the French during the Franco-Mexican War in 1862. In the United States, it commemorates the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War, and as a celebration of thanks to Mexico in fending off would-be French support for the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. That Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with a vengeance in Texas is a bit confusing, given than Texas was part of the Confederacy ... hmmm.

First Mexican Empire.
After the declaration of independence from Spain, Mexican history went generally downhill. The First Mexican Empire was very short-lived, lasting only eight months from July 21, 1822 to March 19, 1823. In December 1822, Generals Antonio López de Santa Anna (of San Jacinto fame) and Guadalupe Victoria overthrew the monarchy and replaced it with a republic. Agustín de Iturbide re-installed the Constituent Congress, which he had previously abolished, abdicated the throne, and fled the country on March 19, 1823. A republic was established on 4 October 1824 and called "United States of Mexico" (Estados Unidos Mexicanos).

North America 1840.
This new government, in an effort to populate its northern territories, awarded extensive land grants in the province of Coahuila y Tejas to thousands of settlers from the United States, on condition that the settlers convert to Catholicism and become Mexican citizens. A key factor in the decision to allow Americans in was the belief that they would protect northern Mexico from Comanche attacks and buffer the northern states against westward expansion of the United States. That policy failed completely on both counts. The Tejas settlers, calling themselves Texans (or Texians) now, tended to settle far from the Comanche raid zones. Moreover, they used the failure of the Mexican government to suppress the raids as a pretext for declaring independence. They did so on March 2, 1836, at Washington-on-the-Brazos, effectively creating the Republic of Texas. The revolt was seen as necessary to protect basic rights and because Mexico had annulled the federal pact.

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The Republic of Texas

Republic Of Texas.
As would be expected, a war with Mexico followed, lasting from October 2, 1835 to April 21, 1836. It pitted settlers in the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas against the government of the United States of Mexico. In early 1836, the Mexican president and general Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna personally led a large but poorly-trained force of 6000 men toward Texas. Santa Anna led the bulk of the troops to San Antonio de Bexar to besiege the Alamo Mission, while General Jose de Urrea led the remaining troops toward the north from the town of Matamoros along the coast. Urrea's force gradually defeated all the Texian resistance along the coast, and executed 300 Texian prisoners of war (Goliad Massacre). Meanwhile, Santa Anna's force surrounded nearly 200 Texians in the Alamo, of of the missions built by the Spanish when they colonized New Spain. After a thirteen-day siege, they overwhelmed the Alamo and killed all the defenders. "Remember the Alamo!" became a battle cry of the Texas Revolution (the equivalent of the Battle Of the White Mountain or the Battle of Lipany to the Czechs). After several weeks of maneuvering, on April 21, 1836, the Texian army, commanded by General Sam Houston, attacked Santa Anna's forces near the present-day city of Houston during the Battle of San Jacinto. They captured Santa Anna and forced him to sign the Treaties of Velasco, ending the war and confirming the independence of Texas.

The Alamo (1960).
Some big names that have since entered into popular culture were involved in the Battle Of the Alamo. Davy Crockett and William Travis mean something only to those familiar with Texas history, but one name it spoken even today at camp fires as far as Germany of the Czech Republic: that of James Bowie. He was an american pioneer, soldier, smuggler, slave trader, and land speculator, who became internationally famous as a result of a feud with Norris Wright, the sheriff of Rapides Parish, whom he disemboweled during a duel on September 19, 1827, with his large knife with a blade 9 1/4 inches (23.5 cm) long.

Nine years after the battle of San Jacinto, in 1845, the U.S. Congress ratified the petition of Texas for statehood.

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Mexican Decline

Mexican Cession of 1848
click to enlarge.
Meanwhile, in Mexico, after Texas separated, Mexican history went downhill. There was a war with the United states in 1846–1848 (The Mexican-American War), and there was a war with France in 1860. Mexico lost both. The outcome of the Mexican-American war was that Mexico had to sell its northern territories to the United States, in exchange for forgetting some foreign debt, and citizenship and voting rights for the Mexicans living in that area. After that war, in 1853, President Santa Anna sold off the Gadsden Strip to the United States, who wanted to build a railroad to California. Santa Anna kept or squandered most of the money. He was finally deposed in 1855.

Mexican civil war.
A long struggle between Mexican liberals and conservatives followed. It dominated Mexican history of the 19th century. The liberals wanted a federalist government, limiting the ifluence of the Catholic Church and of the military, while the conservatives wanted a centralist government, even a monarchy, with the Church and military keeping their traditional roles and powers. This struggle erupted into a full civil war lasting 1857–1861, when the Liberals began to implement a series of laws designed to strip the Church and military of its rights, powers and property. The war lasted until Conservative forces surrendered in December 1860 in Veracruz. The conservative forces may have lost the war, but the conservatives in Mexico would conspire with French forces to restore monarchy in Mexico and install Maximilian I as emperor.

The war with France happened like this. In 1861, Mexican president Benito Juárez suspended interest payments to foreign countries, which did not go well with Mexico's principal creditors: Spain, France and Britain. They signed a treaty, Instigated by Napoléon III of France (nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte), uniting their efforts to receive payments from Mexico, including the use of military force, claiming this was in the broad interest of their foreign policy of commitment to free trade. With this on paper, in late 1861, the Spanish fleet and troops arrived at Mexico's main port, Veracruz, to get their money. When the British and Spanish discovered however that France planned to seize all of Mexico, they quickly withdrew. Napoléon's man goal was to install a friendly government in Mexico, which would ensure European access to Latin American markets. Napoléon also wanted the silver that could be mined in Mexico to finance his own empire.

Second Mexican Empire.
The subsequent French invasion resulted in the end of the United States of Mexico and the formation of the Second Mexican Empire. The empire was engineered by Napoléon III as an attempt to establish a monarchist ally on the American continent, and had the support of the Mexican Congress, the Roman Catholic clergy, many conservative elements of the upper class, and even some indigenous communities. it lasted from 1864 to 1867.

Emperor Maximilian I.
The Royal House of Austria supplied the emperor. It was Maximilian Ferdinand, or Maximilian I, the brother of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I. Maximilian's consort was Empress Carlota of Mexico. The Imperial couple chose as their home Chapultepec Castle. The Imperial couple noticed how the people of Mexico (and especially the Indians) were mal-treated, and wanted to ensure their human rights. They were interested in a Mexico for the Mexicans, and did not share the views of Napoléon III, who was more interested in silver and cotton. Maximilian was a liberal but installed by strongly conservative powers. This made his political career very difficult. He wanted the establishment of a limited monarchy, one that would share its powers with a democratically elected congress. This was too liberal for Mexico's conservatives, but too conservative for the liberals who refused to accept monarchy in general. This left Maximilian with few enthusiastic allies within Mexico.

France had other interests in this Mexican affair, such as seeking reconciliation with Austria, which had been defeated during the Franco-Austrian War of 1859, counterbalancing the growing American Protestant power by developing a powerful Catholic neighboring empire, in addition to exploiting the rich mines in the north-west of the country.

Napoléon's economic ambitions notwithstanding, France never made a profit in Mexico and the Mexican expedition grew increasingly unpopular. With the United States having been engaged in a full-scale civil war of its own, it had been temporarily But in the spring of 1865, with the American Civil War over, the United States demanded the withdrawal of French troops from Mexico. In 1866, choosing Franco-American relations over his Mexican imperial ambitions, Napoléon III announced the withdrawal of French forces. That was a nail in the coffin of the Maxmillian's empire. The republicans won a series of victories taking immediate advantage of the end of French military support. They occupied Chihuahua, Guadalajara, Matamoros, Tampico and Acapulco. Napoléon III urged emperor Maximilian to abandon Mexico and evacuate with the French troops. Maximilian's French cabinet members resigned in September, the republicans defeated imperial troops in in October, occupied the whole of Oaxaca, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí and Guanajuato in November. The French evacuated Mexico City in February. Surrounded, emperor Maximilian attempted to flee through the enemy lines. He was caught, court-martialed, sentenced to death and shot in June 1867, by the forces loyal to president Benito Juárez.

The republic was restored and Benito Juárez was returned to power. More struggle for power between the liberals and the conservatives followed, including Juárez's re-election in 1871 despite a constitutional prohibition of re-elections, two revolts by general Porfirio Díaz who captured the presidency, which he effectively held through eight terms until 1911.

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The Cession of 1848

Meanwhile, the northern Mexican states grew increasingly economically and politically isolated, due to incessant Comanche raids. New Mexico in particular began questioning its loyalty to Mexico and gravitating toward the Comancheria. By the time of the Mexican-American War in the mid 18th century, the Comanches had raided and pillaged large portions of northern Mexico, resulting in sustained impoverishment, political fragmentation, and general frustration at the inability of the Mexican government to put a stop to it.

Expansion of the United States
during the 19th century.
The first half of the 19th century was also a period if the most vigorous territorial expansion the United States has experienced. First came the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which almost doubled U.S. territory at the stroke of a pen. Then came the cession of Florida and southwestern Louisiana by New Spain in 1819. Then came the admission into the Union of the Republic of Texas in 1845. And finally the Mexican Cession in 1848, which added the entire present-day Southwest of the United States and the former provice of Alta California (present-day U.S. state of California).

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Final Evolution Of Créole And Mexican Food In North America

So, here it is: the 20th century and the present-day U.S. states of Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Louisiana basically derives its cuisine from French- and Spanish-speaking Caribbean, a flamboyant mix of exotic spices and seafood blended with French and Spanish cooking techniques, the grandeur of the Parisian society being superimposed over it. The latter three states were part of New Spain and derive its cuisine from back-country cooking of the northern reaches of the empire. The cuisine is interesting in its own right, but nowhere close to the elegance and grandeur of the Créole society of southern La Louisiane. While La Louisiane had been, until the Seven Years War, the focal point of a large and prosperous colony, one of the pillars of New France, the provinces of Texas, Santa Fe de Nuevo México and Alta California were, let's face it, the back country of an empire whose focus was in Mexico City.

Although Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California have been U.S. states for at least a century, it is important not to overlook the completely different histories that are behind each one of them, histories that completely set them apart from anglophone North America:

  • Louisiana: the French colonial period of la Louisiane, Spanish Louisiana, more French-speaking immigration from l'Acadie and Saint-Domingue, the transformation following the Louisiana Purchase, the Italian, Irish and German immigration during the 19th and early 20th centuries
  • Texas: the formation of the colonial empire of New Spain, the growth of New Spain, the independence of the Mexican empire from the Spanish crown, the secession from Mexico and the era of the Republic of Texas, leading to the U.S. State of Texas)
  • Arizona and New Mexico: the shared Spanish colonial and Mexican histories, the Indian raids, the cession of 1848, the Arizona and New Mexico Territories, leading to statehood in 1912
  • California: the shared Spanish colonial and Mexican histories, the cession leading to statehood in 1850.


New Orleans

Present-day Louisiana Créole cuisine blends French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Native, and African influences. Louisiana Créole cuisine is similar to Cajun cuisine in ingredients, but the important distinction is that Créole cuisine tends more toward classical European styles adapted to local ingredients, and evolved in the homes of well-to-do aristocrats, while Cajun cuisine is a cuisine of the peasantry, stemming from rustic, provincial French cooking adapted by the Acadians to Louisiana ingredients.

The Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Canarian contributions were in the heat of the peppers, the wide usage of citrus juice marinades, the supreme importance of rice, and the introduction of beans. The Portuguese, Spaniards and the Italians also used tomatoes extensively, which had not been a frequent ingredient in the earlier French era. Pasta and tomato sauces arrived during the 19th and early 20th century when New Orleans was a popular destination for Italian settlers (roughly, 1815 to 1925). Many of them became grocers, bakers, cheese makers and orchard farmers, and so influenced the Créole cuisine in New Orleans and its suburbs. African influences came about because many of the servants were African, as were many of the cooks in restaurants and cafes.

The first Créole cookbooks date back to the era before the Louisiana Purchase. The first Créole cookbook in English was "La Cuisine Creole: A Collection of Culinary Recipes, From Leading Chefs and Noted Creole Housewives, Who Have Made New Orleans Famous For Its Cuisine", written by Lafcadio Hearn and published in 1885. By that time Créole was already an identifiable regional cuisine recognized outside of Louisiana.

Starting in the 1980s, Cajun cuisine began influencing New Orleans Créole cuisine, spurred by the popular restaurant of Chef Paul Prudhomme, a Cajun from the town of Opelousas. An interest in Cajun cuisine developed, and many tourists visiting New Orleans were expecting to find Cajun food there, being unaware of the distinctions between Cajun and Créole, so entrepreneurs opened or rebranded restaurants to meet this demand. Mulate's and Mike Anderson's Seafood Restaurant are good examples of this trend.

Yet another trend that started in the 1990s is the New Créole strain of New Orleans cooking, sometimes called Nouvelle Créole or Neo-American Créole Fusion. A new generation of chefs, many of whom trained at Commander's Palace opened their own restaurants and started to apply innovative, new-age twists on the classic Créole dishes. New Créole is characterized by a renewed emphasis on lighter preparations and fresh ingredients, as well as by an outreach to other culinary traditions: including Cajun, Southern, Southwestern, and even Southeast Asian. While the Cajun food craze eventually passed, New Créole has remained as a predominant force in most major New Orleans restaurants. This trend is tightly centered around the Star-Chef Emeril Lagasse. Restaurants such as Emeril's and NOLA are a good example of this trend. NOLA and Emeril's have on the menu traditional Créole items such as New Orleans Style Crab Cakes and Barbecued Shrimp, to Wood Fired Prince Edward Island Black Mussels (Lagasse is Canadian, and musself from l'Acadie make a nice touch), to Cajun dishes such as Cornmeal Crusted Catfish and Hickory-Roasted Duck, to the more off-the-wall dishes such as Andouille Crusted Drum, Bucatini Nero with shrimp and chanterelle mushrooms, housemade tasso, charred corn, ricotta salata and basil.

Mike's On The Avenue used to be a restaurant on St. Charles Avenue, that was very much part of this trend, fusing together Créole, Southwestern and Asian cuisines. It was started by chef and artist Mike Fennelly, who also worked as Executive Chef at Santa Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mike's On The Avenue had items on the menu that ranged from the traditional Créole or Cajun, such as seafood gumbo, and crispy fried oysters, to the more new-age, such as smoked redfish pate and smoked duck quesadillas, to the very exoteric such as dishes fusing Szechwan and Créole tastes. It received numerous accolades i ncluding Food and Wine Magazine's best chef as well one of Esquire magazine's top 100 restaurants in the United States.

So, at the beginning of the 21st century, some 500 years after European colonization of La Louisiane began, creating a melting pot of culinary traditions combining French, Spanish, Italian, African and Native trends, we now have:

  • Purely French restaurants serving Parisian cuisine, such as Cafe Degas
  • Créole restaurants such as Antoine's, Arnaud's, Broussard's, Commander's Palace, Galatoire's, Tujague's
  • Italian-Créole restaurants such as Pascal's Manale, Liuzza's, Mandina's, and if one is willing to take a ride outside of the city, then Mosca's and Sal and Judy's
  • Cajun restaurants such as Mike Anderson's and Mulate's
  • New Créole cuisine such as Emeril's and NOLA
  • New Italian-Créole such as Cafe Giovanni

This is quite different from, say, Paris, where one can find a plethora of wonderful restaurants serving beautiful Cuisine française, here and there a Ristorante Italiano, and a sprinkling of Greek, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, and here and there the obligatory "Mexican" restaurant. There is very little fusion cuisine found in Paris. In this sense, New Orleans represents a rather unique laboratory, in which cultures and cuisines have blended in a unique way, to create a way of cooking that is unparalleled anywhere in the world; a uniquely American New World experience!

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Santa Fe

Traditional New Mexican cuisine is part of the broader Southwestern cuisine, which itself is a descendant of Northern Mexican cuisine. The food culture of New Mexico is a fusion of Spanish and Mediterranean, Mexican, Pueblo Native American, and Cowboy Chuckwagon influences. As was explained before, New Mexican food is not the same as Mexican and Tex-Mex foods from Texas and Arizona. The distinct history of New Mexico, combined with the local terrain and climate, created the differences between the cuisine of New Mexico and somewhat similar styles in California, Arizona, and Texas. One of its defining characteristics is the dominance of the New Mexican chile peppers, which are either red or green, depending on their stage of ripeness when picked. Other distinctive elements include blue corn, the stacked enchilada, and sopapillas with honey. Tex-Mex additions such as sour cream (lack of refrigeration). and Cal-Mex additions such as guacamole (avocado does not grow in the desert climate of New Mexico) are also noticeably absent in traditional New Mexican cuisine.

The New Mexico chile, especially when harvested green, is perhaps the defining ingredient of New Mexican food compared to neighboring styles. In New Mexico, green chile is an intrinsic ingredient of a wide range of foods including enchiladas, burritos, cheeseburgers, french fries, bagels, and pizzas. Well... if they can have Haggis pizza in Scotland, why can't the good folks of New Mexico not have a green-chile pizza?

At present, there are restaurants serving traditional New Mexico food all over the state. But it is interesting to look at the evolution of modern New Mexican food.

Santa Fe Railroad map.
Santa Fe was envisioned as one of the important way points of the The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, usually abbreviated to "Santa Fe". Chartered in 1859, it was one of the large American railroad projects of the 19th and 20th century. It runs from Chicago through Kansas City, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, south of the Grand Canyon to Los Angeles. Despite the name, the main line never actually went through the city of Santa Fe, because the terrain proved too difficult, and the civil engineers decided to bypass the city and build the way station in Albuquerque instead. Santa fe was serviced by a branch line from Lamy. This hurt the Santa Fe economy and Albuquerque became the commercial capital of the state.

The Santa Railroad was big business. The flagship train was the Super Chief, which started scheduled service in May 1937. The Super Chief ran the 2,227-mile (3,584-km) distance from Chicago to Los Angeles in less than 40 hours. The lightweight version of the Super Chief did it in 36 hours and 49 minutes, averaging 60 mph (97 km/h) overall and reaching 100 mph (160 km/h). It may not seem like much in today's world, where the French TGV or the German ICE trains carry passengers at close to 200 mph (300 km/h), but the Super Chief traveled faster than Amtrak trains do today! In comparison, in the 21st century, Amtrak runs the same distance in over 43 hours, some 6 hours longer than the Super Chief did 60 years ago...

Super Chief express train in 1951.

Turquoise Room on the Super Chief in 1951.
The Super chief was the first diesel-powered, all-Pullman sleeping car train in the United States. The service was absolutely legendary, comparable in today's terms only to first-class service on the world's best airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines or Emirates. Adding to the Super Chief's mystique were its gourmet meals and Hollywood clientele. The train was an instant success among travelers who appreciated its modern, air conditioned cars, private bedrooms, high amenity levels, and smooth ride. The train was staffed with top-of-the-line crews ingrained with the best traditions of the railroad. The company went to great lengths to solicit business from Hollywood. A passenger agent was located in Hollywood specifically for the purpose of maintaining close contact with the movie studios. The train stopped at Pasadena to allow celebrities to board away from the "hustle and bustle" of Los Angeles' Union Passenger Terminal. When the Santa Fe was notified that a particular celebrity was going to be traveling on the Super Chief, a press release was issued to allow the media to interview and photograph the star. The passenger list resembled a "who's who" of Hollywood personalities: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, James Cagney, Judy Garland, and Bing Crosby. The train's appeal was not limited to Hollywood, as it also played host to Ronald Reagan, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, and their wives. The Super Chief quickly became "the" train to ride between Chicago and Los Angeles. The food on the Super Chief was as fabulous as its clientele. The Continental cuisine offered aboard beyond the American fare on other trains, and often rivaled that served in many five-star restaurants. The elaborate dinners included caviar and other delicacies, cold salads, grilled and sauteéd fish, sirloin steaks and filet mignon, lamb chops, etc. The decor, linens, and other dining car accoutrements were no less extravagant and reflected the Southwestern flair prevalent throughout the train. The Super Chief was featured in numerous movies and books. Unfortunately, since Amtrak took over the operation in 1971, the service deteriorated in a disgraceful manner. If Raymond Chandler wrote his 1952 novel "Playback" today, in order to maintain the same aura of exclusivity, he would have to have his client arrive in Los Angeles on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A-380, and certainly not on a Delta or United Airlines 737, simply because there is no such thing in terms of service quality as the Super Chief in the United States today.

Inn and Spa at Loretto, Santa Fe.
So, the Santa Fe railroad was a very big thing, but the main line did bypass the city of Santa Fe. Commerce in the city deteriorated, and an economic crisis set in. However, a different crowd consisting of artists and writers became attracted to the cultural richness of the area, the beauty of the landscapes and its dry climate. City government began promoting the Santa Fe as a tourist attraction. The city sponsored architectural restoration projects and erected new buildings according to traditional techniques and styles, thus creating the "Santa Fe style". This is in stark contrast to the 20th century management of New Orleans, where successive city governments have been implementing, or trying to implement, various disastrous plans to turn the old French and Spanish city into a steel-and-concrete metropolis. Some of these ill-conceived plans of the 1960s, such as a freeway through the French Quarter, have been put to rest but the current city administration still allows the tearing down of historic mansions on St. Charles Avenue to make room for condos and hotels.

Santa Fe in 1767.

Palace of the Governors
built in 1609–10.
The Spanish laid out the Santa Fe according to the “Laws of the Indies”, town planning rules and ordinances which had been established in 1573 by King Philip II. The fundamental principle was that the town be laid out around a central plaza. On its north side was the Palace of the Governors, while on the east was the church that later became the Cathedral

Cathedral of Saint Francis
of Assisi, Santa Fe.
Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. By an ordinance passed in 1957, new and rebuilt buildings, especially those in designated historic districts, must exhibit a Spanish Territorial or Pueblo style of architecture. They must look like adobe buildings of the Native pueblo culture, with flat roofs and other features suggestive of the area's traditional adobe construction. Consequently, in present-day Santa Fe, everything including Wal-Mart and gas stations has the "faux-dobe" look reflecting the historic style. It may look a bit silly at times, but at least the city administration is doing its best to preserve the historic look. That is in contrast to the generally misguided direction successive city administrations have been taking in New Orleans administrations since WWII, allowing for example the construction of an interstate highway through historic neighborhoods, or playing with the idea of building a freeway through the French Quarter, and destroying the French and Spanish colonial heritage. That heritage is as much a foundation of the New Orleans culture, as Spanish and Native heritage is to Santa Fe. One city administration gets it and the other one doesn't...

New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe.
Things started looking up for Santa Fe when the artsy crowd discovered it. Declining real estate values in the first half of the 20th century made the city affordable. The landscape was fantastic and the climate pleasant. Artists like Georgia O'Keefe, Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams lived and worked here. Soon, tourists have been coming to Santa Fe since

Santa Fe adobe style.
Georgia O'Keefe captured the mystical New Mexico skies in her paintings in the 1920's. But many of these tourists have decided they did not want to go back home. Affluent newcomers have been buying old adobe houses and building sprawling haciendas in the foothills of the mountains, causing the Hispanic culture they came to embrace to shrink in the face of

Contemporary New Mexico interior.
the soaring property values and taxes they brought with them. For the first time since the 1600's, people with Spanish surnames became a minority in the city in the 1990s. This is seen on the road as well as on the plate. In parallel with dusty pickups being mixed with Autobahn-tuned hardware from Stuttgart and Munich, Santa Fe food has developed in a similar manner. Fusion food, combining traditional New-Mex cuisine with European and Asian ingredients and cooking techniques, has established itself since the 1980s.

Grilled prawns with green chile
sauce at Santacafe.
Santacafe is an example of this new trend. It is a restaurant that applies that esoteric New-Age touch to the traditional cuisine of New Mexico. It offers a spectrum of dishes ranging from dishes that can still be considered traditional New Mexican, such as Roasted

Salmon with chile crust at
Anasazi Restaurant in Santa Fe.

Vegetarian tacos at Coyote Cafe
in Santa Fe.
Poblano Chile Relleno with Three-Mushroom Quinoa, Black Beans & Chipotle Cream, or Blue Corn Chicken Confit Enchiladas with Red and Green Chile, Asadero Cheese & Calabacitas;

Tapas at Galisteo Bistro in Santa Fe.
to esoteric such as Shiitake Mushroom and Cactus Spring Rolls with Southwestern Ponzu, Crispy Calamari with Four-Chile Lime Dipping Sauce, Shrimp Tempura with Chimayo Red Chile Sweet and Sour Sauce.

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San Antonio, Houston and Austin

Tex-Mex food was not spared the New-Age fusion transformation. Houston and Austin, however, seem to be taking a different tack from New Mexico in introducing new dishes to its cuisine. While Santa Fe restaurants build on traditional New Mexican cuisine and create new dishes by blending contemporary European and Asian ingredients and methods, restaurants in Houston lean toward introducing Southern Mexican and South American dishes, rather than innovating on Tex-Mex. It is not simple to explain why that is. It could be because typical Tex-Mex dishes like Nachos, Fajitas or Chili con carne do not offer much ground to innovate on. They are good pub grub in their own right, but simply do not lend themselves to contemporary style experimentation. Or, it could be because present-day Texas is a fairly conservative place and fold simply do not feel like adding a contemporary twist to cheese-smothered enchiladas. Only cities like Austin, Houston and to some extent Dallas that are an exception. Houston has a fairly cosmopolitan population thanks mainly to the international oil and gas industry that has made it one of its worldwide hubs (along with London, Singapore and Dubai). Having people who move around the world ensures that the restaurants will cater to innovative tastes. Austin is fairly liberal because of The University Of Texas, and in part also thanks to the IT industry that move there in the late 1980s. Consequently, oval racing on the Central Texas Speedway, truck and tractor pull contests (even rodeo and calf-roping), coexist in the same town with the FIA World Endurance Championship (the former American Le Mans Series) and with Formula 1, the pinnacle of auto racing pyramid, raced on the Circuit Of the Americas, a purpose-built roadcourse used for MotoGP, Formula 1, the Australian V8 Supercars series, FIA World Endurance Championship, the American Le Mans Series, and the Rolex Sports Car Series. Consequently, stock-car guys can walk the same ground with people like Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen; Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg.

Chuy's on Barton Springs Road
in Austin.

Enchiladas at Chuy's.
In Austin or Houston, when in need of good homestyle Tex-Mex comfort food, one heads to a place like Chuy's. Although it has grown into a chain, the original location on Barton Springs Road in Austin, where Chuy's started in 1982 is as authentic as ever. Chuy's serves great Tex-Mex grub in a casual atmosphere, but the food is traditional as hell. To find something new, there are restaurants such as The Américas, Pappasito's Cantina or Hugo's.

Huachinango a la Veracruzana

Ceviche at The Américas.
The Américas is a Houston restaurant on the corner of West Gray Street and South Shepherd Drive, founded in 1988 by Nicaraguan native Michael Cordúa. He is recognized as the pioneer of Latin cuisine in the United Sates. The restaurant describes itself as "a progressive Latin dining experience highlighting the gifts of the new world. What would history’s kitchens be without the tomato, the potato, vanilla, corn or avocado? Michael Cordua’s Américas uses contemporary cooking technique and discipline to pay homage to the mystery and treasures of the Americas. Take a trip with a Flight of Ceviches, Potato crusted calamari, Grilled Chicken Ahuacatl, or the signature Pargo Americas. With eye popping architecture, edgy and artisan mixed cocktails, and North and South American wines, Américas is a whole night of dynamic entertainment" (source: The Américas' website). On their menu offers that stir imagination, not to mention your taste buds: Achiote-seared Ahi Tuna served with yuca, sweet plantain, beluga lentils and jasmine rice; Arroz Mariscado consisting of tempura lobster tails, scallops, shrimp and calamari over saffron and chorizo rice; Carnitas Pibil consisting of achiote braised pork shoulder and grilled shrimp with lemon-guajillo sauce, black beans, queso fresco, orange and red onion salad; Ahi Tuna cevice with coconut, crispy onion, peanut, jalapeño, cilantro, etc.

Achiote seeds.
The Mexican and South American influence is clear, for example, from the use of the achiote seed. Achiote and annatto are used interchangeably and are the most common names for a product extracted from the seeds of the evergreen Bixa orellana shrub. The seeds are dried and used whole or ground as a spice. “It is called urucul by the Tupi-Guarani Natives of the Amazon region, achiote in the Aztec language in Mexico, annatto by the Caribs, achuete by Filipinos, and roucou in Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, and Guadalupe.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas at Hugo's.

Scallops On Sweet Cornbread at Hugo's.
Hugo's is a contemporary restaurant in the Montrose neighborhood in Houston. It was founded in 2002 by Hugo Ortega, a native of Mexico City. Hugo's brings in the exciting lavors of Mexico. Ortega says about his menu: "The food is full of light, fresh tastes; deep, complex flavors;

Cochinita Pibil at Hugo's.
and earthy notes, all combined to create a cuisine like no other". He was recently named "Chef of the Year” at the prestigious Houston Culinary Awards.

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Southern California

Shrimp tostada with avocado.

Chipotle fish taco.
"Fresh Mex" or "Baja-style" Mexican food is a recent development in California-Mexican cuisine. It places an emphasis on ligght and healthy fresh ingredients, local vegetables such as avocado, and sometimes seafood. It is inspired by Baja California fare and is highly popular. Shrimp .

Shrimp and Potato Tacos With Cilantro Crema.

Jicama Y Ensalada Anaranjada Picante
(Spicy Oranges and Jicama Salad).
These dishes, or these ingredients, would never be found in Tex-Mex, New Mexican or Arizona-Sonoran cuisine. They are so inventive and unique that they may not even be found elsewhere in the world, outside of southern California and the Baja California region.

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The Spread Of Tex-Mex Throughout the Rest Of the World

Tacos y tequila in Munich.

Cantina in Prague.
Why are there Tex-Mex restaurants seemingly in every city around the world, but no Créole ones? There are restaurants serving Mexican-style food in Europe, including London, Paris and Prague, in Asia, including Bangkok and even a place called Oskemen in Kazakhstan, previously known as Ust Kamenogorsk. The efforts at making the food actually Mexican are successful to varying degrees, but it is Mexican food nevertheless. For example, there used to ne a restaurant in London called "Santa Fe" that did a reasonably good job with New Mexican cuisine. Then there is "Tacos y Tequila" where the good hombres of Bavaria do a very good job with Tex-Mex. A very decent Tex-Mex restaurant called "Cantina" is in Prague, where they make margaritas and fajitas at least as good as in any restaurant in Austin or Houston. So, why is it that Tex-Mex, and sometimes even its lesser-know cousin New-Mex, is seemingly all over the world, but one cannot find Créole food? To our knowledge, the only restaurant outside of the United States (or perhaps even outside of Louisiana) is Bourbon Street, of all places in Bangkok!

The answer is simple: Western movies and the subsequent export of the American culture to the rest of the world. Those are the reasons that food associated with Billy the Cowboy spread worldwide, instead of László the Gulyás (herdsman) or José the Vaquero.

The focal-point of westerns is a cowboy or a gunfighter, a rugged individual who wanders from place to place on his horse, fighting a diverse variety of villains. The figure is basically the literary descendant of the medieval knight errant, the figure of medieval chivalric romance literature. And this is where the thinking of the 19th century, and the period of Romanticism, comes in. The 19th century was the time of the Industrial Revolution, a great transformation of the Western society, but it came at a price: pollution, urban sprawl, overcrowding. The cultural world reacted to it in the form of Romanticism, which manifested itself in the was an arts, literature as well as architecture. It was a reaction in part to the Industrial Revolution and in part to the norms and rationalizations of the Age of Enlightenment.

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Influence Of Romanticism: Idealizing the Past

Romanticism was an attempt to escape the confines of population growth, urban sprawl and industrialism. Romanticism embraced the exotic, the unfamiliar, and the distant, harnessing the power of the imagination to envision and to escape. It validated the intense of emotion and awe, especially that which is experienced in confronting the sublimity of untamed nature and its picturesque qualities. It reached beyond the rational Classicist models to create a revived interest in medievalism and elements of art perceived to be medieval, The movement was rooted in the German Sturm und Drang movement, which also prized intuition and emotion over the rationalism of the Enlightenment.

Hluboká Castle, rebuilt
in Tudor Gorthic style
in 1830-1871.

Neuschwanstein Castle, built
in 1869-1887.
As a result, there was a resurgence of fascination by everything from the past, especially from the Middle Ages. In Europe, people started to renovate and rebuild old medieval fortesses into inhabitable homes, build new castles, churches and even apartment buildings in Gothic style. Just like the Puritan Pilgrims of 1620 are being glorified and idealized today as symbols of American democracy, people in the 19th century generally romanticized the otherwise very inhospitable ways medieval people lived. Both are far from historical facts. Nevertheless, adventure stories of knights in shining armor, of travels and exploration of far-away lands, of sailing ships and pirates proliferated. The books by Alexandre Dumas about the Three Musketeers are a good example of this trend. The Old West was not spared this treatment.

A Moonlit Cove
by Sebastian Pether.

Illustration by
Jules Huyot, 1894.
It was during this period of time that the Apache and Comanche nations made their way deep into the popular culture, more than they could have ever imagined at that time. The novels written by Karl May, Jack London and Zane Grey in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are a good example of this influence. Karl May wrote numerous adventure books about the Wild West, starring a German-born pioneer and his Mescalero Apache blood-brother, delightful villains and beautiful countryside. Jack London wrote several famous novels set in the Yukon territory during the late 19th century gold rush (The White Fang, Call Of the Wild). Zane Grey wrote Riders of the Purple Sage, which became the basis for the Western genre in literature and the arts.

Karl May's main protagonists.

Riders Of the Purple Sage
by Zane Grey.
All of these had one in common: idealizing the American frontier. Never mind that May had never been to the Old West. What he lacked in actual experience, he made up for with immense imagination. To this day, kids in Germany and the Czech Republic read these books, and absolutely idiolize their heroes. This tradition is so strong that it has lasted well over 100 years!

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Karl May, Zane Grey and the Tramping Phenomenon

Karl May is known for adventure novels set in the Old West and for the two main characters of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. A highly imaginative and fanciful writer, May never visited the exotic places featured in his stories until late in life. For the novels set in America, May created the characters of Winnetou, the wise chief of the Apache Tribe, and Old Shatterhand, the author's alter ego and Winnetou's white blood brother. With few exceptions, May had not visited the places he described, but compensated successfully for his lack of direct experience through a combination of creativity, imagination, and documentary sources including maps, travel accounts and guidebooks, as well as anthropological and linguistic studies.

"Tramp" settlements along
the Vltava River,
Czech Republic.

Karl May Festival
At the beginning of the 20th century, the books by Karl May, Jack London and Zane Grey, coupled with the writings of Ernest Thompson Seton, the founder of the woodcraft movement, led to the development of a peculiar Central European phenomenon called "Tramping". This is a grass-roots movement, inspired by woodcraft, by the Boyscout movement and the American Old West, founded in the love of nature and the outdoors. Tramping is about hiking or trekking in the woods, and it is not just about playing Cowboys and Indians on weekends, mimiking the Old West.

"Yukon" Settlement,
Czech Republic.
It is about escaping the mundane, it is about adventure, singing around a camp fire, it is about founding freedom. So, for a hundred years, people have been building cabins in the woods, sometimes nested in small settlements, many with English names such as Utah, Red River, or Yukon. The settlements would have a "sheriff" and a flag, sometimes even an indian totem pole, or its own band. Music is very important to the "Tramping" movement, folk and country & western, as are camp fires, hats and cowboy boots. That this phenomenon is so wide-spread in Germany and the Czech Republic, is the direct result of Karl May's books.

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The Western Movie Phenomenon

The other phenomenon that sprung from the books by Karl May, Jack London and Zane Grey are Western movies. The traditional format the Western is a story that centers around a semi-nomadic wanderer, usually a cowboy or a gunfighter, a rugged individual who is basically the literary descendant of the knight errant, the figure of medieval chivalric romance literature. Like the cowboy or gunfighter of the Western, the knight errant of would wander from place to place on his horse, fighting a diverse variety of villains, bound to no fixed social structures but only to his own inner code of honor, still managing to rescue ladies in distress. A showdown at high noon featuring two or more gunfighters is a typical element of Westerns. The Western depicts a society organized around codes of honor and personal, direct justice, rather than one organized around relatively impersonal institutions. Westerns often stress the harshness of the wilderness by setting the action in an arid, desolate landscape. Specific settings include isolated forts, ranches, Native American village, or a small frontier town with its saloon, general store, livery stable and jailhouse.

John Wayne in
The Comancheros (1961).

Clint Eastwood in
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).
First Westerns typically took these elements and used them them to tell a simple tale. Later one, such as those of John Ford, Sergio Leone or Clint Eastwood are more morally ambiguous. Soon after the first Westerns were made in Hollywood in the first decade of the 20th century, the genre exploded globally. Soon after, Westerns were beign shot in Europe. Never mind that the portrayal of the Old West was generally miles far from the truth. Never mind that the main protagonists were animal herders and farm hands, or vigilantes, various outlaws and shady characters ...

Clint Eastwood in
Pale Rider (1985).
Never let the facts interfere with a good story! Never mind that Mexico abolished slavery much earlier than the United States did. Never mind that being a cowboy in actual life was often a very boring and lonely job, never as exciting books and movies portray it. Never mind that cowboys were basically poor farm workers, and that gunslingers were basically mercenaries or warlords. Never mind that, together, they are a relatively recent addition to the long history of the northern part of former New Spain, and that before the middle of the 19th century, this whole area was unmistakably Spanish and ruled from Mexico City. In the popular culture, a cowboy is generally a chivalrous but ruff guy with spurs ringing on his boots, walking into a saloon shooting a bad guy. This was not at all the typical life style of a cowboy in the West. The majority of cowboys never killed a man in their life. Most cowboys in the Old West lived very poor lifestyle full of hard and rigorous work. But - every culture needs legends and heroes, and the cowboy is the American legend. In America, the cowboy represents a symbol, a spirit of independence and self-reliance, who lives what he believes and does not worry about conforming to anyone's mold. At the same time, a cowboy is a man of substance, strength and courage.

But why was the cowboy picked as the modern-day equivalent of the medieval chivalrous knight, and not the South American gaucho and the Mexican vaquero, who are basically the same horse-riders and herdsmen. None of the others have generated a myth with the same calibre of international popularity comparable to the fortunes of the North American cowboy. The answer lies in the interplay between the tremendous economic and territorial expansion of the United States during the 19th century, following the acquisition of Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California from Spain, combined with the Industrial Revolution, and the parallel development in the arts in the form of Romanticism. Mexico, Brazil and Argentina had their cowboys, but they lacked the tremendous economic engine that would create the necessary critical mass to drive development and attract wealth, power and international attention. This naturally provided the necessary breeding ground for idealizing and idolizing the image of the cowboy. His literary roots lay in the rejuvenation of the medieval chivalrous knight, but socially, he represented the ideal of individual freedom over the society, and the Frontier represented the release, the social safety valve. The 19th century Westen hero was tied to the principle of the American Frontier. The hero was a refugee from civilisation, in part a social misfit seeking something that cannot be found in the traditional society.

With the momentum the United States generated during the Industrial revolution, the United States entered the 20th century, a century that would be defined by the United States as the undisputed world power. With the British Empire in gradual decline, France without its Caribbean and North American colonial empire, and Spain having lost all of its Latin American colonies to successor states, such as Mexico, the stage was set for the United States to take over as the world power. Attracting hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the country offered something, at that time, European countries did not: opportunity. The idea that, if one worked hard at his goal, the country basically made it possible to attain that goal, existed in the United States, but certainly not in the Austrian Empire, Germany or France at that time. Social restraints, cultural boundaries, bureaucracy - all those combined to hold the European countries back economically, whereas the relative lack of those in the United States created the stage for individual economic success.

The United States was idealized my many Europeans as the El Dorado of people's lives, and that was the reason why it attracted immigration like no other country in history. In parallel, there was the invention of the motion picture. The principle of moving photographs had its roots in the mid-19th century. By the end of the 1880s, the introduction of celluloid photographic film and the invention of motion picture cameras, allowed several minutes of action to be captured on a single compact reel of film. The earliest films were simply one static shot that showed an event or action with no editing or other cinematic techniques. Around the beginning of the 20th century, films started stringing several scenes together to tell a story. The scenes were later broken up into multiple shots photographed from different distances and angles. The first commercial motion picture exhibition was given in New York City in 1894, using Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope.

The Western movie genre developed to tell stories set primarily in the later half of the 19th century in the American Old West, hence the name. The term "Western" originated in 1912. However, the first movies with Western themes were shot already in the last decade of the 19th century. Annie Oakley, Bucking Broncho, Buffalo Bill, Buffalo Dance, Sioux Ghost Dance were made in 1894, with all of the actors being performers from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. The Great Train Robbery was made in 1903. Hollywood Westerns became enormously popular throughout the silent era of the motion picture. The Iron Horse (John Ford, 1924), Three Bad Men (John Ford, 1926), Tumbleweeds (1925), Wild Horse Mesa (1925), Riders Of the Purple Sage (1926), are some of the notable examples from this era. However, Westerns also started to spread, almost immediately, into parts Europe. They found immensely popular breeding ground in Germany and in the Czech Republic, in part due to the Tramping tradition, based on book by Karl May, Zane Grey, Jack London and others, and in part of the vivid memories left behind by the performances of the Buffalo Bill Wild West show. This was a circus-like attraction that had ben touring annually in the United States since 1883, and toured Europe in 1887, when they performed in Britain in a celebration of the Jubilee year of Queen Victoria, and in 1889-1890 when they performed France, Spain, Italy, Austria-Hungary and Germany. In Verona, the managed to perform in the ancient Roman amphitheater. The Wild West tour returned to Germany in 1891 and moved through Belgium and the Netherlands before returning to Britain to close the season. They performed again in the Austro-Hungarian empire and in Germany in 1906. Bill Cody was a master of showbusiness. Never mind that, in a competition with the Italian butteri, the Italian equivalent of the cowboy, the butteri proved better at calf-roping than Buffalo Bill's actors (because that is what they were by now - actors). His performances, whether realistic of the Old West or not, left a memory of the romance of the American Frontier, which in Central Europe lasts to this day. It also laid fertile ground for the reception of Western movies in this part of the world.

The first Czech Western (Sokové) was shot in 1911 and the first German Western (Lederstrumpf) in 1920.

Today, replica Western towns exist in the Czech Republic, in Boskovice and Novém Město na Moravě. They serve as a venue for various performances as well as virtual museums of the Old West.

There were other successor states in the Americas, such as Mexico, for instance, but they did not generate the same romanticized interest overseas as the United States did, and did not become the magnet for immigration the United States did. Why? After all, Mexico was a republic, just like the United States. Mexico had a plethora or natural resource, just like the United States. The existing population of Mexico was composed of a mix of European immigrants with some African and Native blood mixed in, much like the population of the United States (at least in the South and the Southwest). The answer to why the United States was successful and Mexico was not is simple: transparency and the separation of Church and State. The two aspects alone are what makes a country successful, and the lack of them does not. Mexican politics was based the old Spanish monarchy, on birthright rather than competitive achievement. 19th-century Mexican politics was not transparent, creating a breeding ground for corruption, and nothing will suffocate economic progress more reliably than corruption because it eliminates healthy competition. The other aspect is the separation of Church and State. This was probably the single most important items the founding fathers United States embedded into the laws of the new republic. Up until that time, for thousands of years, religion and politics had always been mixed together - in every country. Dating back to Ancient Rome, throughout the Middle Ages in Europe, through the colonial times in North America: religion, dividing the Western world into factions, had been at the center of every war and every power struggle that was fought. Until the Age Of the Enlightenment, religion was at the core of every European war ever fought. By defining a clear separation between religion and state politics, the United States was in a unique position

The principle of separation of Church and State has eventually seeped into European countries, including the existing ones such as France but also new sucessor states that were formed following World War I. Together, it is the principle of separation of religion and state politics, that distinguishes the Western world as a whole from the Middle East, for instance. While one believes that matters of faith are the personal choice of an individual, the other is firmly convince that the way to go it by imposing religious faith and dictating what to believe and how to believe. Separation of Church and State is the single most fundamental principle that separates us from things like the Taliban.

In the 21st century, the United States is not what it once was. As competition from Asia sets in, the economic perspective of Americans decline and the American Dream is dead. What has driven the United States to fortune and glory in the late 19th and throughout the 20th century, is not there anymore. For over 200 years Americans have traditionally believed that better days are just around the corner, and that inventiveness and hard work will get us there. No matter how desperate things seem today, I am getting a pay raise tomorrow! That spirit does not seem to be there anymore. With that, protectionism creeps in. Along with protectionism is a fallback on religion as the safe haven of last resort. While there is nothing wrong with that in principle, mixing it with politics is! The United States of today finds itself on the slippery slope toward mixing state politics with religion again, the very principle that was propelled it to fame and glory in the past!

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Portrayal of the Natives

Frank DeKoya in Arrowhead (1953).

Pierre Brice and Lex Barker
in Winnetou 3 (1965).
It is interesting to observe how the portrayal of the Natives has changed since the Western was born. In movies from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, they were always shown as crazed individuals who were always hell-bent on raping, pillaging, and killing the terrified settlers. Movies such as Stagecoach with John Wayne, Drums along the Mohawk with Henry Fonda have at their centers attacks or kidnappings by various blood thirsty Indian tribes. As time went on, movies like Sitting Bull (1954) and Little Big Man (1970) began to change that picture. Today,

Kevin Costner and Graham Greene
in Dances with Wolves (1990).
in the brave world of political correctness, a new stereotype of the Natives is being created: that of pastoral folks, gentle and kind, living generally happy lives in harmony with nature (i.e. Dances with Wolves (1990). In European Westerns, notably those with Lex Barker and Pierre Brice based on Karl May's novels, the portrayal of the Natives is eve more deliciously naive. When a violent conflict between between the bad guys (a greedy railroad company) and the good guys (a tribe of Mescalero Apaches), there are only two men, blood brothers in fact, who can prevent an all-out war: the chief's son Winnetou and a German engineer Old Shatterhand (Karl May's alter ego). The Apaches are always the good guys, and the Comanches are always with the bad guys. Never mind that the relatively lush landscape along the Zrmanja River in Croatia where the movies were filmed, looks nothing like the Llano Estacado in West Texas ...

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Icons of the American Old West spreading throughout the world

Cowboy hat.

Kevin Costner and Graham Greene
in Dances with Wolves (1990).
Over the past 100 years, Western movies have become of the icons that define, stereotypically perhaps, the United States around the world (along with hamburgers, big cars and the TV series Dallas). Boots, jeans and cowboy hats are forever associated with cowboys, good-over-evil, Texas and the Southwest. In the United States, the cowboy has a positive image, just like the medieval chivalrous knight in Europe did. However, the term "cowboy" can have a negative connotation elsewhere. In Britain, for instance, "the cowboy plumber" is an individual who appears out of nowhere to repair your leaky plumbing and, lacking skills, he wreaks more havoc than he repairs, and then disappears with your money, never to be seen again. It is interesting to note the positive image of the cowboy is shared by the same countries where the Buffalo Bill group performed the most over a century ago: Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Cowboy cooking chili.
There are parallels in the culinary world. Texas food, or Tex-Mex, has spread beyond the United States to Europe and Asia, because - in the subconscious of many people - burritos, enchiladas and chili con carne are forever symbols of the cowboy culture. Western movies and Tex-Mex going hand-in-hand around the world ... Never mind that Tex-Mex is an evolution of Northern Mexico cuisine, and has historically much more to do with Mexico and Spain than with the Anglo-Saxon culture.

Tacos y Tequila in Munich.
Tacos y Tequila is a very good Tex-Mex restaurant in the Schwabing neighborhood of Munich (near the BMW Museum). There, the good hombres of Bavaria serve up beef, pork, chicken and vegetarian fajitas (some good tacos, too!), with Mexican beer but also Löwenbräu lagers and Franziskaner Weissbier to go with it! At "Don Luca", near the English Garden, they take the creative license even further and offer turkey fajitas, as well as shrimp and salmon fajitas, with the best Bavarian Weissbieron tap - the Schneider Weisse!

Cantina in Prague.
A very decent Tex-Mex restaurant called "Cantina" is in Prague, where they make margaritas and fajitas at least as good as in any restaurant in Austin or Houston. The Cantina is another authentic Tex-Mex restaurant in Prague, with perhaps the best fajitas in town. Theirs are not made from the traditional skirt-steak. Like with many Tex-Mex restaurants in the States as well as in Europe, the chef tends to go for more tender sirloin. They offer beef, chicken, shrimp, pork, even a vegetarian fajita (eventhouig a "vegetarian fajita" is a contradiction in terms).

Jo's Bar & Garáž in Prague.
Jo's Bar & Garáž was the first American-style bar in Prague, opened in 1992 in a Baroque townhouse in the neighborhood of Malá Strana (Little Quarter). It was Canadian-owned, but nevertheless served excellent and authentic tasting Texas Chili Con Carne and Fajitas. Unfortunately, it was recently sold and the new owners made it into a steakhouse.

Buffalo Bill's in Prague.
Buffalo Bill's was another very authentic Tex-Mex restautant in Prague. It opened in 1993 as the first Tex-Mex restaurant. It had an extensive and fairly authentic tasting Tex-Mex menu, served in a pleasant atmosphere of an Old West saloon. It was decorated with portraits of Buffalo Bill Cody, photos of cowboys and indians, as well as Western movie props and country and western music.

This is why Tex-Mex food is far better known in Europe today than Créole food is. Tex-Mex spread around the world on the wings of Western movies and Western books, while there was no such vehicle to propel New Orleans Créole food. While many Europeans are aware, to varying degrees, that New Orleans is characterized by interesting cuisine, the city if far more known around the world for its jazz tradition than for specifics of its cuisine. Every European has heard of Louis Armstrong, but far fewer know what Crawfish Étouffée, Shrimp Créole or Eggs Hussarde is, and almost nobody recognizes the difference between Créole and Cajun cuisine (most Americans do not either, for that matter).

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What About Wurst?

French Sausages In Louisiana

Finally, as this whole series of essays is supposed to be about sausages, what about wurst? Louisiana has the boudin and the andouille sausages, and Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California have the chorizo. The origins are clearly in France and Spain, respectively. Back in the 18th century, the melting pot of the Americas transformed the original French boudin blanc pork wurst into a sausage that uses rice and sometimes is made not at all from pork but from meats never found in France, such as crawfish or alligator.

Cajun Boudin.
Cajun Boudin is derived of the French Boudin blanc. Boudin blanc is the staple boudin of of the Cajun Country. Its distinctive difference from the French original is the addition of rice. It is typically made of pork, but seafood boudin consisting of crab and shrimp. Alligator boudin is also made.

Cajun Country.
Cajun Country is the region of southwestern Louisiana that was settled by refugees from the French colony of l'Acadie in present-day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This happened in the second half of the 18th century following the Seven Year's War, which France lost, its colonial empire of New France folded and divided between Britain and Spain. The British were deporting French-speaking Acadians throughout the war, either to the British colonies along the East Coast or to Europe. After the war, most of these people migrated to the La Louisiane. The colony was no longer French when the Acadians arrived, but the settlers did not know that because the cession to Spain was kept secret for several years. The Acadians settled the area between the present-day cities of Lafayette, Lake Charles and Baton Rouge (the "Cajun Triangle"). Having been fishermen back in Acadia, they simply continued their trade in the Cajun Country. Over time, their name was Americanized from les Acadiens to Cajuns.

French Boudin blanc.
The French Boudin blanc is a white sausage made of pork without the blood. Pork liver and heart meat are typically included. In Cajun versions, the sausage is made from a pork rice dressing (much like dirty rice), which is stuffed into pork casings. Rice is always used in Cajun cuisine, whereas the French/Belgian version typically uses milk, and is therefore generally more delicate than the Cajun variety. In French/Belgian cuisine, the sausage is sauteed or grilled. The Louisiana version is normally simmered or braised, although coating with oil and slow grilling is becoming a popular option in Lafayette, New Orleans, Houston, Beaumont, and Baton Rouge. Boudin is fast approaching the status of the stars of Cajun cuisine (e.g., dirty rice, étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya) and has fanatical devotees who travel across Louisiana comparing the numerous homemade varieties.

Boudin Noir is made in several towns in the present-day state of Illinois, which, of course, back in the time of New France was Pays des Illinois and ruled by the French from Québec.

Cajun Andouille sausage.
Another French sausage that was adopted in Louisiana is the Andouille. It was brought in by the Cajun immigrants, who came after the Seven Years' War and settled in the coastal regions of Southwestern Louisiana. The French Andouille is a fairly crude-looking sausage made of tripe. The Cajun Andouille is much higher quality, as it has evolved to be more like ham, made mainly of pork butt and smoked. Cajun Andouille is a coarse-grained, smoked sausage made from chunks of pork, garlic, pepper, onions, wine, and seasonings. Prior to casing the Louisiana Andouille, the meat is heavily spiced with cayenne and black pepper. Once the casing is stuffed, the sausage is smoked again over pecan wood or sugar cane. It is also known as Tasso Ham and is a staple of both Cajun and Créole cooking.

Cajun andouille sausage is an essential ingredient of the Louisiana gumbo soup.

"Italian Sausage" at
Terranova's Supermarket in New Orleans.
(Source: Terranova's Facebook page).
"Italian Sausage" is another sausage that is widespread in Louisiana. It is a coarse-grained pork sausage seasoned with fennel and/or anise. The two most common varieties are hot and mild. The main difference between them is the addition of hot red pepper flakes in the spice mix.

Italian Sausage is a Rohwurst in that it has not been thermally treated in any way before insertion into casing and delivery. In terms of its manufacture (not taste), it is similar to the German bratwurst or Mexican chorizo.

This is a widespread wurst that is ubiquitous throughout the United States. However, one would not find "Italian Sausage" in a butcher shop in Italy or elsewhere in Europe. Asking for "Italian Sausage" would be like asking for "Swiss Cheese":
"Which kind would you like, monsieur? Would you fancy Emmentaler or Gruyère? Or, would you prefer Bergkäse, Appenzeller or Tilsiter?"
.... or any of the other 450 types of cheese that exist in Switzerland? Asking for "Italian Sausage" in in Europe would generate equally blank stares.

That is because what is understood in the United States as "Italian Sausage" is a regional variety most likely from Sicily, which was brought along with Italian immigrants. The main period of Italian immigration to the United States took place in the period of 1880-1914, following the Italian unification in 1861. Following a tumultuous history throughout the 19th century, which is far beyond the scope of this essay, Italy became a unified constitutional monarchy on 18 February 1861, with Victor Emmanuel II as the ruler based in Rome, the new capital, and a parliament based in Turin. On 17 March 1861, the parliament proclaimed Victor Emmanuel II the King of Italy, and on 27 March 1861 Rome was declared Capital of Italy.

From 1880 to 1920, an estimated 4 million Italians arrived in the United States, the majority from 1900 to 1914. Between 1876 and 1930, out of the 5 million Italians who came to the United States, 80% were from the South, from Calabria, Campania, Abruzzi, Molise, and Sicily. 2/3 of the immigrant population were farm laborers or laborers. About 50% of those who came between 1901 and 1920 repatriated back to Italy after they had earned money in the United States. Although they did not intend to stay in the United States permanently and did not integrate, in all the wave of Italian immigration lasting several decades has changed the face of the American society (as well as its cuisine).

What does this mean for "Italian Sausage"? Salsiccia (sausages) in Italy are very commonly seasoned with a combination of the following: pepper, chile, coriander, fennel, nutmeg, ven sugar (dextrose, sucrose). There are numerous recipes for sausage with fennels seeds (Salsiccia con semi di finocchio) in the regions of Calabria, Campania, Puglia (salsiccia con finocchietto selvatico, salsiccia piccante con finocchietto e peperoncino piccante, salsiccia dolce con finocchietto e peperoncino rosso di Senise in polvere, salsiccia piccante con finocchietto e peperoncino piccante). Some of these look remarkably similar to the "Italian Sausage" found in the United States. It is our theory that the American sausage is a direct descendant of one, or more, of these, brought to the United states in the last quarter of the 19th century, and integrated into the American cuisine.

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Spanish Sausages In Mexico, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California

Chorizo sausage in Spain is a fermented Rohwurst (cured, durable sausage), while the Mexican and Southwestern chorizo is a raw, uncooked Rohwurst, a chile- and garlic-flavored sausage, made of pork. Based on the uncooked Spanish chorizo fresco, the Mexican chorizo is mostly made from fatty pork. However, beef, venison, kosher, and even vegan versions are known. The meat is usually ground rather than chopped, and different seasonings are used. Most Mexican chorizo is a deep reddish color, and is largely available in two varieties, fresh and dried, though fresh is much more common. Quality chorizo is made from good cuts of pork stuffed in natural casings. Before consumption, the casing is usually cut open and the sausage is fried in a pan and mashed with a fork until it resembles finely minced ground beef. A common alternative recipe does not involve casings: ground pork and beef are cured overnight with a little vinegar and a lot of chili powder. The area around the city of Toluca specializes in "green" chorizo, which is made with tomatillo, cilantro, chile peppers, garlic or a combination of these. The green chorizo recipe is native to Toluca.

Enchilada with chorizo.
In Mexico and in the American Southwest, chorizo is used in:

  • Queso fundido (or choriqueso) - chorizo mixed with cheese
  • Burritos (i.e. Beef And Chorizo burrito)
  • Tacos
  • Enchiladas
  • Tortas with cooked chorizo
  • Pizza, with tomato sauce and a blend of grated Monterey Jack and Cheddar
  • Huevos con chorizo - a popular breakfast dish made by mixing fried chorizo with scrambled eggs, served on tortillas with cheese. Chorizo con huevos is often used in breakfast burritos, tacos and taquitos.
  • combination with pinto or black refried beans - a popular Mexican recipe done by simply frying the chorizo and then combining it with refried beans. This combination is often used in tortas as a spread, or as a side dish where plain refried beans would normally be served.
  • Chorizo con queso (or choriqueso) - small pieces of chorizo served in or on melted cheese, and eaten with small corn tortillas.
  • Chorizo con papas - breakfast tacos filled with eggs, and diced potatoes sautéed until soft with chorizo mixed in.
  • On tortilla chips topped with grated cheese for nachos
  • Poblano chorizo potato salad

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  • Arrival of the Carignan-Salières Regiment, Le Canada - A People's History, CBC TV Canada
  • The Chile Pepper Institute, New Mexico State University
  • - Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
  • Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower, The History Channel 2006
  • Exhibit "France, Nouvelle-France. Naissance d'un peuple français en Amérique", Montréal, 21 May - 21 October, 2008
  • The myth of the cowboy - Eric Hobsbawm, The Guardian - 20 March, 2013
  • How the Louisiana Purchase Changed the World - Joseph Harriss,, April 2003
  • Haitian influence on New Orleans culture -, January 21, 2010
  • History of Chili, International Chili Society
  • History of New Orleans, John Kendall, 1922
  • History of Nachos Revealed, Karen Haram, San Antonio Express-News.
  • Is the old destined to become the new, again? The push to raze the Claiborne overpass, Christopher Tidmore, The Louisiana Weekly, 2012
  • Louisiana: To Have and to Have not -
  • Las Chimichangas de Sonora - Jesús Alonso,
  • New Orleans bakeries on the rise - (Gambit online edition)
  • The fiery rivalry of Caribbean hot sauce -
  • Wikipedia


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Last updated: August 1, 2014.

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