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King and Queen of Spain begin visit to the United States in New Orleans

King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain have begun their trip to the United States in New Orleans, Louisiana, where they arrived last evening at sunset at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Upon arrival, they were greeted by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell among other officials.

© Casa de SM el Rey

After greeting the King and Queen, the Governor tweeted, “@FirstLadyOfLA [First Lady of Louisiana] and I were honored to greet Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain as they arrive for New Orleans’ 300th anniversary.”

They are in New Orleans to celebrate the city’s tricentennial. Lousiana was a Spanish colony from 1763 to 1802. After celebrations in the Pelican State, they will head a little further west to San Antonio, Texas, to celebrate its 300th anniversary. Of course, Texas is another former colony of Spain from 1690–1821. Their trip later moves on to the US capital of Washington D.C. where they will visit the White House and meet with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump on 19 June.

About the visit, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser told the USA Today Network, “It’s a thrill to have the King and Queen of Spain visit New Orleans. Their presence also brings more international attention to the city that will give us a tourism boost.”

The King meeting with the Governor. © Casa de SM el Rey

Today, Their Majesties held a private meeting with Governor Edwards before Mayor Cantrell welcomed them at Gallier Hall around 11:30 CT. The hall was formerly City Hall on St. Charles Avenue and opened in 1853. It has been renovated for the tricentennial. During their time with Mayor Cantrell, the Mayor presented the King and Queen with the key to the city. Their Majesties also unveiled a commemorative plaque at Gallier Hall with the King also giving a speech before lunch for invited guests.

In English, King Felipe said, in part, “Examining this was highlights just how far back Spain’s mark on the United States reaches, and how deep its roots are, as reflected in the close bonds of friendship between our two nations. And it is our hope that, through this visit, these bonds will become even stronger. Because there are solid reasons for them to grow stronger.”

Their Majesties receiving the key to the city. © Casa de SM el Rey

His Majesty also recalled about New Orleans, “In 1803 New Orleans had already become definitively an integrating, mestizo, extremely original city, an international city in which experience and youth, business dynamism and cultural heritage have come together, which has just turned 300 and can celebrate them with pride.

Therefore, when the United States acquired the vast territory of Louisiana, the country not only doubled its size, it also inherited an efficient government; a diverse, multicultural population; and an economic system that was advanced for its time.”

This evening, King Felipe and Queen Letizia visited St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo and were given tours of both locations. Under Spanish rule, it was the government seat and where New Orleans’s government was centred until Gallier Hall opened. The Cabildo, which is adjacent to the cathedral, is now Louisiana State Museum Cabildo and currently has an exhibit on display “Recovered Memories: Spain, New Orleans, and the Support for the American Revolution.”

The King and Queen visiting the new exhibit on Spain and the US at the museum. © Casa de SM el Rey

Lt. Gov. Nungesser said about the exhibition, “It’s the first exhibit we’ve been able to have there in 30 years, so the timing is perfect.”

All events today were closed to the public. However, many gathered outside the cathedral and museum to get a glimpse of the Spanish King and Queen. Their Majesties took time to greet those who had waited for a chance to see them in person.

© Casa de SM el Rey

Many of the oldest buildings in the city are built in Spanish style as a result of the Great Fire of 1788 where an altar candle in the colony’s military treasurer’s home set the drapes alight. A fast-spreading fire, the inferno consumed much of the city (over three quarters).

Tomorrow, Their Majesties will hear a performance by Mardi Gras Indians and jazz clarinetist Dr Michael White and his band at the New Orleans Museum of Art. They will then depart for San Antonio to continue their journey.

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