Classes in Español is What’s New

A hundred years ago today, an eye-catching advertisement ran in the Times-Picayune announcing that the newspaper would offer a five-week Spanish class for only $5.

“Advertisement,” Times-Picayune, November 8, 1919, Access World News – Historical and Current.

New Orleans has a natural connection with Latin America that goes all the way back to the colonial times.New Orleans was a Spanish colony from 1763 to 1802. It became a province of Captaincy General of Cuba.  During this year, the city started to have a lot of commerce with Cuba. They exchanged products, people and even ideas. In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase happened, (United States took control of Louisiana) however, the trade with Cuba continued. 

This language could be seen as a rather random one, however, at the time there was a strong reason for why people were interested in learning it.In the 19th century New Orleans was the most important port of the Gulf. Due to its geographic position it was the perfect gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean. During 1822, more than half of the ships that sailed into the New Orleans port came from either Latin America of the Caribbean. During 1919 the commerce this city had with Latin America was one of its strengths. The ports were filled with goods from the Americas, such as coffee, sugar, pineapples, bananas, sisal and mahogany. The big fruit companies were the United Fruit Company and the Standard Fruit Company. 

Although all these products were imported to New Orleans, Bananas were one of the most successful and important ones. The banana wharves provided a lot of jobs while also becoming a tourist attraction.

Banana Wharf | Louisiana Digital Library,” accessed October 24, 2019,

New Orleans’s relationship with the South did not limit to commerce. There were a number of ships that you could take to Latin America. The newspaper from this same date shows possible trips that the Great White Fleet offered to Havana, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Jamaica. People would go to family trips and absorb the Latin culture. The Crescent City and Latin America share common cultural roots and traits, which incentives business opportunities between both. 

“Advertisement,” Times-Picayune, November 8, 1919, Access World News – Historical and Current.

Overall, at the time Spanish was a language that was increasing in popularity. People were interested in learning it because of the growing commerce with Latin America and the Caribbean. The people were interested in learning Spanish to engage with international business. It made trading and negotiations smoother. If someone wanted to get into the business it was essential for them to learn the language.


  1. Comboy, Bethany, “Trade relations between Southern U.S. cities and Latin America: A study of how the port cities New Orleans, Houston, and Miami fare against one another amid increasing competition for trade with Latin America” (2006). University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. 485.
  1. Eliana Guerreiro Bennett, “NEW ORLEANS PROMOTES TRADE WITH LATIN AMERICA,” Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA), August 26, 1990, Access World News – Historical and Current.
  1. “New Orleans Gateway to the Americas.” New Orleans: Gateway to the Americas, March 20, 2000.
  1. “Latino Culture in New Orleans.” New Orleans. Accessed October 24, 2019.
  1. Chaney, James. “A Glance at New Orleans’ Contemporary Hispanic and Latino Communities.” AAG Newsletter, October 2, 2017.
  1. “New Orleans: Gateway to the Americas–Bananas, ca. 1910,” accessed October 25, 2019,
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  1. Martinez, Carlos M. II, “The “Re-Latinization” of New Orleans in the Twentieth Century: Multiple Waves of Hispanic Migration” (2010). University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. 1175.
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12. “HawkinsRails – Standard Fruit & Steamship Company,” accessed November 6, 2019,

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