The Complex History of Latin American Immigration to Northern Louisiana

In the early 19th century, when the United States annexed Florida, Louisiana, and the northern half of Mexico, more than 100,000 Spanish-speaking residents became citizens of the United States. This marked a significant shift in the demographics of the region, as people of African descent, free or not, faced severe social and legal restrictions in the British colonies. Race was as important as class in these colonies, and most passed formal black codes between the 1670s and 1750s. Slaves had almost no legal capacity, and freed slaves and free-born Africans had few civil rights.

People had to carry documents of freedom with them wherever they went, as proof of their situation, and those who didn't have them risked being enslaved again. Although many people left for Europe, the Caribbean or Latin America, others were attracted to Louisiana's booming economy. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the state was the richest in the Union and New Orleans was the third largest city. The defenders of slavery used the appalling social and living conditions of black men and women in Northern society as an argument against emancipation.

In 1813, Louisiana formed a militia unit called the Free Men of Color. It was the first military unit in U. S. history to have black officers.

It witnessed the formal abolition of slavery in most northern states, as well as the creation of the Northwest Territory, where slavery was prohibited from the beginning. The expanding economy of the American West, with jobs in agriculture and railroad construction, combined with revolutionary upheaval in Mexico, inspired the first major migration of Mexicans in the 20th century. The first free blacks in Louisiana were probably slaves who escaped and lived with American Indian tribes. Congress rewrote U.

immigration law in 1965, ending a system that had imposed drastic restrictions on people from Asia, Africa, and most of Europe, while placing fewer restrictions on people from the Americas. These interactive visualizations allow us to examine separately the migration volumes of people from each national heritage and the states in which they were established. We can also distinguish between people born in Latin American countries and those born in the United States. In 1940s, 1950s and 1960s there was a rapid growth of Latino Americans population.

At the nexus between slavery and freedom were free people of color - tens of thousands of people of African descent who overcame incredible hardships and lived free in slave societies of South, Caribbean and Latin America during 18th and early 19th centuries. The 1774 census of Opelousas district indicates that one man owned two slaves and fifty head of cattle - a remarkable fact at a time when only 22 percent of households had slaves. The conditions in which free people of color lived varied but were often deplorable - especially in northern cities where many could only afford accommodation in attics and basements. A riot in Cincinnati in 1829 caused more than 1,000 African-Americans to leave for Canada.

The history of Latin American immigration to Northern Louisiana is a complex one that has been shaped by various factors such as economic opportunities, legal restrictions on immigration from certain countries or regions, social conditions for African Americans both before and after emancipation, and more. This article has explored some key aspects that have helped shape our understanding today - from how US annexation changed demographics to how US immigration law impacted Latin American migration to Northern Louisiana.

Willem Vermeulen
Willem Vermeulen

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