About the Exhibition / Sobre la exposición
New Orleans has long been identified—by locals, tourists, and historians alike—with its French heritage. A groundbreaking exhibition at The Historic New Orleans Collection restores balance to that assessment. During four decades under Spanish rule (1762–1803), the city experienced natural disaster, diplomatic tensions, and demographic transformation. Despite numerous challenges, Spanish New Orleans morphed from a poorly managed outpost on the edge of an empire to a highly urbanized colonial capital—one enriched by the racial and cultural diversity for which it is celebrated today.
Spanish governors like Antonio de Ulloa, Alejandro O’Reilly, Bernardo de Gálvez, and Esteban Miró implemented administrative reforms that established order and allowed for infrastructure building and economic growth. Under Spain, the city’s population ballooned. New arrivals from other parts of the Spanish world and Caribbean—as well as Canada, Ireland, and England—joined Indigenous residents, earlier French colonists, and enslaved and free people of African descent. This exhibition recounts the interconnected history of these groups, documenting their contributions to the establishment of Nueva Orleans as a diverse but decidedly Spanish city.
Spanish New Orleans and the Caribbean brings together 125 rarely seen items of exceptional quality from the holdings of The Historic New Orleans Collection and institutions across Spain and the United States.