When Louisiana became the 18th state of the Union in 1812, the territory was already seeped in the linguistic, historical, and cultural antecedents that had made New Orleans, its most important city at the time, one of the first multilingual, multiracial, and multiethnic cosmopolitan centers in the United States. The origins of Spanish-speaking Latino Louisiana can be traced to the arrival of Alonso Alvarez de Pineda (c. 1492-1520) in 1519. Alvarez de Pineda sailed from Cuba to explore the uncharted territories between the Florida peninsula -- modern-day Arkansas and Louisiana -- and the southern Gulf of Mexico region. The purpose of his trip was to find a route to the Pacific Ocean and, in this sense, the trip can be said to have initiated the importance of Louisiana, and of New Orleans in particular, to the development of one of the first major commercial zones in the Americas. Though the Spanish were the first Europeans to explore Louisiana, the area was largely under the political control of the French until 1762, when it was briefly ceded to Spain. France, however, regained control of the region in 1800, with the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, but less than 3 years later it sold the territory to the United States with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. By the time it was incorporated into the Union, Louisiana had thriving communities of Spanish speakers composed of migrants from Latin American, Spain, and the Canary Islands.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Latino America: A State-by State Encyclopedia by Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, Editor. Copyright © 2008 by Mark Overmyer-Velázquez. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA.

Please note that downloads of the article are for private/personal use only.