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Les mémoires de l’entre-deux : constructions mémorielles dans un cadre transnational

Spanish Historiography and the Interregnum in Louisiana (1763-1803): a Case of (Voluntary) Amnesia?

L'historiographie espagnole face à l'Interrègne (1763-1800) en Louisiane : un cas d'amnésie volontaire?
La historiografía española y el Interregnum (1763-1800) en Luisiana : ¿un caso de amnesia (voluntaria)?
Soizic Croguennec

Résumés

Pendant presque un demi-siècle, depuis le traité de Paris (1763) jusqu'à l'achat de la Louisiane par Napoléon (1800), la Louisiane a été intégrée à l'empire colonial espagnol. Cependant, cette nouvelle et éphémère possession n'est jamais devenue un centre d'intérêt pour l'historiographie en langue espagnole. Les rares allusions à la période de l'Interrègne sont en effet associées aux termes et notions d'échec, de colonisation superficielle ou encore de « cadeau empoisonné »… De plus, les travaux consacrés à ce sujet sont bien rares et très peu sont rédigés en espagnol, à un tel point que l'on pourrait évoquer un cas d'amnésie volontaire à ce sujet. Dans le contexte louisianais, le seul fait d'utiliser le terme d' « Interrègne » pour qualifier la période révèle la perception d'une présence espagnole éphémère et transitoire. Plus généralement, une telle posture intellectuelle attise la curiosité car elle pousse à s'interroger sur le manque d'intérêt de la part des chercheurs pour les échecs – réels ou perçus – de leur propre histoire nationale.

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Texte intégral

1. Introduction

  • 1 Juan José Andreu Ocariz, Luisiana española, Zaragoza, Talleres Editoriales Librería General, 1975, (...)

Digo que no, que no y que no; mi primo está perdiendo demasiado; no quiero que tenga más pérdidas, además, por mi causa, y quiera el Cielo que pueda hacer más por él1.

  • 2 Such slogan expressed the local population’s frustration at the lack of governmental reaction after (...)
  • 3 José Balbuena Castellano, La odisea de los Canarios en Texas y Luisiana, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (...)

1This is how Charles III, King of Spain, supposedly reacted to the negotiations that preceded the signing of the Treaty of Paris at the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763. As a consequence, a mischievous mind could argue that Spanish disinterest in Louisiana and its history under Spanish rule, between 1763 and 1800, was set in stone from the very start. At the other end of the line, short attempts at conversation are often received today with some rather astonished reactions such as « I didn’t even know that Louisiana was Spanish at one time. » Indeed, in collective memories, Louisiana is a former French colony – a memory cultivated by the very people of New Orleans when some pleaded President Chirac to « buy them back » after the tragic events of hurricane Katrina and lack of responsiveness from the federal government2. In Spain, only the discovery of the Isleños’ fate during the hurricane reminded people that, indeed, Louisiana had been part of the Spanish Empire at one point3.

  • 4 Cécile Vidal, « Private and State Violence Against African Slaves in Lower Louisiana During the Fre (...)

2Such a lack of interest can be explained by the ephemeral Spanish rule, less than half a century, by the fact that Louisiana was given back to France before Napoleon sold it to the United States, reinforcing the image of a transitional time. Indeed, this period is called the Interregnum, quite a revealing word since it suggests the a posteriori notion of a transitory time. In other words, Spanish Louisiana is barely a transition between the major periods of the region’s history, the French colonization and the integration to the United States. If one focuses on the official chronology and diplomatic history, Louisiana was only Spanish from 1763 to 1800. De facto, Spanish rule only began around 1765 and lasted until 1803, when the French sold Louisiana to the United States: this is the perspective Cécile Vidal adopted in her work about Louisiana4.

  • 5 Paul Hoffman, Luisiana, Madrid, Editorial MAPFRE, 1992, p. 313.
  • 6 Pierre Nora (dir.), Les lieux de mémoire, Paris, Gallimard, 3 tomes, 1984-1992; Yosef Hayim Yerusha (...)

3From this perspective, it is not very surprising to notice that Spanish scholars often choose the longer periodization over the shorter ones. However, in spite of this tendency of adopting what we could qualify as the most flattering chronology, Spanish Louisiana encountered little more than passing interest over the years. One cannot blame the lack of documentation since the Archivo de Indias in Seville contains numerous and very diverse files in sections like Papeles de Cuba or Santo Domingo. Paul Hoffman wrote in the 1990’s that the quality and quantity of documentation on Spanish Louisiana was such that one could only expect a surge of interest for a pioneer topic5. The following decades invalidated rather than confirmed his prediction. The purpose of this article is to propose some reflections about this phenomenon of scholarly amnesia, partly due to the ephemeral character of the Interregnum. Beyond the particular case of Spanish Louisiana, the goal of this essay is to underline the dynamics between memory, amnesia and the writing of history. In other words, this is as much an essay about historiography as an attempt to follow the fertile path of memorial studies6.

2. Spanish Louisiana: The History of an Ephemeral Possession

4Indeed, one of the possible explanations for the lack of interest in Spanish Louisiana resides in the ephemeral aspect of Spanish rule, less than forty years, concluded by the loss of the territory following the defeat against Napoleon in Europe. In other words, the period is perceived as a failure – Spain, for many reasons, failed to keep and defend this particular colony. As a consequence, it seems important to present not only the formidable chess game that changed the face of North America in the course of the 18th century but also the attitude of the Spanish administration towards this territory.

2a. The Treaty of Paris and the Reconfiguration of the Caribbean Coast

  • 7 Gilles Havard, Cécile Vidal, Histoire de l’Amérique française, Paris, Flammarion, 2008, Collection (...)
  • 8 Alfredo Jiménez, El Gran Norte de México. Una frontera imperial en la Nueva España (1540-1820), Mad (...)

5France and its King Louis XV lost the Seven Years’ War against Great Britain and Prussia, and the consequences were dire on the colonial front as 1763 marked the end of the French presence in North America7. Neither for the first nor for the last time, distant events in Europe decided of the fate of large territories in the colonies. Great Britain obtained Canada while Spain received the vast territories of Louisiana. Such an agreement allowed France to get its possessions in the Caribbean back while Spain’s loss of Florida was supposed to be compensated for by this new addition to the Empire. In fact, Louisiana’s fate was decided to accommodate France and Spain’s desire to reaffirm their presence in the Caribbean, in Saint Domingue and Cuba8.

  • 9 Gilles Havard, Cécile Vidal, op. cit., p. 693-696.
  • 10 Paul Hoffman, op. cit., p. 126-128.

6On the one hand, even if the French colonies on the continent were sparsely populated – the true heart of the French Empire resided in the Caribbean, not in North America – this geopolitical reconfiguration decided in the confines of European palaces hit the local inhabitants harshly. The people of Louisiana had to accept the King of Spain’s authority and adapt to a new economic, fiscal, and administrative configuration. On the other hand, Spain seemed quite embarrassed by this newest addition and did not hasten to take control of this territory, since the first governor, Antonio de Ulloa, was sent only in 1765 and reached New Orleans in 1766, three years after the Treaty of Paris. The process did not go smoothly and the French population rebelled against this new authority and against the changes forced upon them, most notably the Spanish commercial monopoly that broke all previous ties and networks to the French ports and, more generally, the French economy9. The rebellion that broke out in 1768 was violent and revealed the great fragility of the incipient Spanish rule – as well as the governor’s awkwardness. The new governor Alejandro O’Reilly settled the matter a year later, in 1768, and laid the foundations of a government based on cooperation with the local French elites and a number of concessions10. From then on, the Spanish administration’s goal was to consolidate their hold on Louisiana because of its strategic importance in the Caribbean system, in order to protect Northern New Spain from the English colonies. Such an objective explains the lack of a strong effort to populate the area, to successfully turn it into a proper Spanish colony.

2b. Spanish Louisiana, a « Poisoned Gift »?

  • 11 Juan José Andreu Ocariz, op. cit., p. 28. « aunque conocía perfectamente que no hacíamos sino adqui (...)
  • 12 Paul Hoffman, op. cit., p. 124-126.

7Indeed, Jerónimo Grimaldi, the ambassador of Spain during the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Paris synthesized perfectly the Spanish frame of mind at the time. He accepted the conditions in the name of his ruler « even if he knew perfectly that [they] only acquired a yearly burden of 300 000 piastres, in return for the negative and distant advantage of possessing a territory so that another does not possess it11. » Refusing this « gift » would have meant that the British colonies and New Spain would share a common border, which was perfectly unacceptable. Grimaldi’s cold assessment reflects another harsh reality, that of a territory that would cost more than it would provide Spain, apart from the insurance that the English would not settle there. Indeed, a quick survey of the documentation in the Archivo de Indias in Seville reveals a colony which depended heavily on outside merchandises – subsidio from New Spain, meat, flour from Cuba, etc.12.

  • 13 Alfredo Jiménez, op. cit., p. 444.

8In fact, the idea of a « poisoned gift », an expression used by Alfredo Jiménez in 2006 to describe the addition of Louisiana to the Spanish Empire13, was already heavily present in the actors’ minds. In such a context, Spanish scholars’ lack of interest for this place and time is not that surprising: it is quite difficult to get interested in a topic in which the actors of the time were not that involved, especially when the experience was cut short less than half a century later. Memory and forgetfulness are intimately linked, as Philippe Joutard underlines it:

  • 14 Philippe Joutard, « Mémoire collective » in Christian Delacroix, Patrick Garcia, François Dosse, Ni (...)

La mémoire collective est terriblement sélective, concentrée sur quelques faits. L’oubli est de deux ordres : l’oubli des faits estimés insignifiants et l’oubli comme occultation volontaire, le passé dont on ne veut pas se souvenir, car il brouille l’image que l’on se fait de soi-même14.

9In other words, Spain lost Louisiana less than half a century after obtaining it, and failed to properly colonize and hold the territory, which goes against the image of a victorious Spanish colonial empire. From this perspective, collective memory and scholars rather focused on the imperial success in New Spain and Peru. What is the point of studying a failure that revealed how much the 18th century Spanish empire was a shadow of its 16th century self?

2c. From Spanish Colony to American Territory

  • 15 Gilles Havard, Cécile Vidal, op. cit., p. 706.

10Once again, the evolution of war in Europe decided of the fate of American territories. Allied to France until the Revolution broke out in 1789 through the Family Pact, Spain followed other European monarchies in their war against the new and ambitious Republic. Spain lost the war, and negotiated peace with Bonaparte, accepting to retrocede Louisiana, on the condition that France would retain it, so that Louisiana kept its role of protection from the US appetites that replaced British ambitions in North America15.

11At some point, Bonaparte dreamed of rebuilding the French Empire in North America, but it remained an ephemeral ambition as the situation in Europe monopolized his thoughts and resources and made him accept the deal proposed by the United States:

  • 16 Jean-Marc Olivier, « Bernadotte, Bonaparte et la Louisiane » in Christophe Belaubre, Jordana Dym, J (...)

Napoléon hoped to gain fifty million francs-or from [the deal], finally he got eighty million from which twenty were deducted as a compensation for the seized ships. This surprising transaction, closed on May 3rd of 1803, occurred in a context of rising tensions with England who opened hostilities again on May 10th16.

  • 17 Gilles Havard, Cécile Vidal, op. cit., p. 701-717.

12Like the Spanish between 1763 and 1765, the French did not hasten in taking control of the colony, letting the old administration rule in their stead. From a memorial point of view, the image of France selling Louisiana to the US is the strongest, creating some kind of continuity in collective memories. Louisiana was French at one point and the French sold it. In reality, the Purchase of Louisiana was the occasion of a game of musical chairs within a few weeks in 1803. First the Spanish administration restituted Louisiana formally to French officials, who, a few weeks later, gave it to the US government17. In the end, what the Spanish government wanted to avoid at all cost happened: New Spain shared a common border with the former British colonies.

3. Scholars and Spanish Louisiana

13Ephemeral experience, only designed to protect what mattered truly to the crown, that is to say New Spain and its silver mines, Spanish Louisiana did not leave a deep mark in Spanish collective memories, and remained largely ignored. It is time now to analyze more precisely the historiographical manifestations of this weak interest in Spain and try to interpret this phenomenon through the lens of collective memory and history.

3a. A Weak Interest

  • 18 Cécile Vidal, « Introduction » in Louisiana: Crossroads of the Atlantic World, Philadelphia, Univer (...)
  • 19 Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the (...)
  • 20 Daniel Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi V (...)
  • 21 Jennifer M. Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Unive (...)
  • 22 Paul Hoffman, op. cit., p. 313.
  • 23 Gilbert C. Din, The Canary Islanders of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, Louisiana state university press, 1 (...)
  • 24 Kimberly S. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places. Free Black Society in Colonial New Orleans, 1769 (...)

14Indeed, the interest for Spanish Louisiana has been quite reduced for the most part of the 20th century. As we saw before, French scholars – represented by Cécile Vidal – focused on French Louisiana, tending to reduce the Interregnum to its shortest expression, from 1769 to roughly 1800. Such a choice reveals a posture that insists rightfully on the gap between the political chronology and the social realities in Louisiana. More generally, interest for Spanish Louisiana came from US academia, as scholars began to examine colonial history from a multicultural perspective18. In this process, the role of Gwendolyn Midlo Hall in studying the Afro-Creole culture is essential19. The choice of a large chronology enabled the historian to show how the different periods of Louisiana history contributed to shape a peculiar society and more especially the aforementioned Afro-Creole culture. Such approach based upon a broad chronology characterizes other works like Daniel Usner’s about the contact between settlers and Indians in the Lower Mississippi20 or Jennifer Spears about daily life in colonial New Orleans21. On the other hand, we have Gilbert Din who has elected to focus on Spanish Louisiana since he graduated from the University of Madrid22. Since then, he has been the main contributor to the history of this particular time and area through many publications23 along with authors like Kimberly Hanger24.

15Meanwhile, Spanish scholars largely ignored the topic, which is very interesting when one wants to analyze the memorial process behind the writing of History. A quick survey of the statistics below shows that the main Spanish libraries on Colonial Hispanic America (Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales in Madrid and Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos in Seville) only possess 53 books on the topic of Spanish Louisiana. None are written in French, 38 in Spanish, 15 in English. Among them, 11 books are publications of sources as we can see in the following document.

Fig. 1: The presence of Spanish Louisiana in Spanish academic libraries.

Fig. 1: The presence of Spanish Louisiana in Spanish academic libraries.

© S. Croguennec, 2014

Fig. 2: The presence of Spanish Louisiana in Spanish academic libraries.

Fig. 2: The presence of Spanish Louisiana in Spanish academic libraries.

© S. Croguennec, 2014

16The lack of material is explained by Paul Hoffman who underlines in the 1990’s that most of the bibliography about Spanish Louisiana in Spain is constituted of isolated papers. He adds that,

  • 25 Paul Hoffman, op. cit., p. 313. « como consequencia de ello y, a pesar de la existencia de historia (...)

as a consequence of this and despite the existence of general histories like this one, there is still a lack of a historical study which would be able to make a synthesis of this multitude of fragmented studies about the history of this colony […]25.

3b. An attempt at periodization

17A more chronological analysis of the data gathered in the Spanish academic libraries allows a more detailed perception of the evolution of the historiography during the 20th century as we can see in the following graph.

Fig. 3 : Evolution of production on Spanish Louisiana

Fig. 3 : Evolution of production on Spanish Louisiana

© S. Croguennec, 2014

18Among the 50 books listed in the previous part, we can notice two periods of interest: in the 1940’s, at the beginning of the Franquist period in Spain, then in the 1990’s. Now, if one adds a distinction between publications in Spanish and in English, it seems that these surges of interest are mainly alimented by studies in Spanish language. It is most remarkable for the first surge in the 1940’s, slightly less clear for the 1990’s.

Fig. 4: Compared evolution of Spanish and English historiography about Spanish Louisiana

Fig. 4: Compared evolution of Spanish and English historiography about Spanish Louisiana

© S. Croguennec, 2014

19If one focuses on the compared global production in Spanish and English, it seems that the topic of the Interregnum has been dominated by Spanish historiography ever since the middle of the 20th century. From that perspective, it can be argued that the period between 1950 and 2000 represents some sort of golden age for this particular period. In comparison, English historiography looks much less dynamic if one excepts the surge in the 1990’s. Such difference first can be explained by the statistical bias inherent to the fact that the sample studied here comes from the academic libraries in Spain, in Madrid and Seville. As a consequence, it is a distinct possibility that Spanish historiography might be over-represented in such a configuration. More importantly, many of these publications are publications of primary sources, mainly sources present in the Archivo de Indias in Seville. If we take this phenomenon into account, we see that history of Spanish Louisiana has been as much the product of American scholars’ efforts as that of Spanish scholars’. In the light of the comparison presented in the following graphs, one can even suggest that Spanish scholars’ essentially focused on the publication of documents, much more so than on the study of Spanish Louisiana. In other words, they gathered and transcribed an impressive amount of documentation, the potential of which had not really been exploited so far.

Fig. 5: Compared evolution of Spanish and English historiography about Spanish Louisiana (distinction studies/archives)

Fig. 5: Compared evolution of Spanish and English historiography about Spanish Louisiana (distinction studies/archives)

© S. Croguennec, 2014

Fig. 6: Compared evolution of Spanish and English historiography about Spanish Louisiana (distinction studies/archives)

Fig. 6: Compared evolution of Spanish and English historiography about Spanish Louisiana (distinction studies/archives)

© S. Croguennec, 2014

  • 26 Juan José Andreu Ocariz, op. cit., 1975.
  • 27 Juan José Andreu Ocariz, op. cit., 1975, p. 6.

20As a whole, in spite of first impressions, it appears that Spanish scholars did not really explore the topic of the Interregnum. Back in 1975, Juan José Andreu Ocariz, the author of the short study Luisiana española26, regretted such a lack of interest, blaming the American historiography for the perpetuation of some kind of « Black Legend » about the presence of Spain in America, hoping that his Spanish colleagues would react and reestablish the truth through studies that could be considered as more neutral27. This wish is very ironic in retrospect given that the main specialist of the topic is the American historian Gilbert Din. Furthermore, such an attitude reveals a very self-centered vision of history and colonial history that leads us to think more about the ties that bind collective memory, identity processes, and the writing of history. In fact, when expressing such a wish, Andreu Ocariz is a perfect example of a phenomenon described by Sanjay Subrahmanyam in his inaugural speech at the Collège de France in 2014:

  • 28 Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Aux origines de l’histoire globale, Collection « Leçons inaugurales du Collège (...)

Dans ce genre [l’histoire comme récit égoïste], l’Histoire est le jumeau siamois de la mémoire, soigneusement gardée comme le trésor d’un serpent ; l’Histoire est aussi appelée constamment à jouer avec, parfois contre elle. Le résultat est une histoire souvent écrite dans un style solennel, moralisateur et par conséquent assez peu ironique, qui se donne pour tâche de « former de bons citoyens », ou des patriotes fidèles28.

21This notion of a very tight association between history, memory, and identity provides us with a most interesting lead to qualify and understand the nature of the Spanish interest, or lack thereof, in the Interregnum period.

4. Qualifying Spanish Interest

22In fact, from a Spanish point of view, interest for Louisiana between 1763-1800 was mustered in two very definite intellectual contexts. As a consequence, one can argue it depends heavily on the construction of national or regional collective memory, the history of Spanish Louisiana being used in a larger construction of the national mythology.

  • 29 Philippe Joutard, « Mémoire collective », art. cit., p. 784. « transforme le passé en fonction du p (...)

23Indeed, the first surge of interest can be associated to the Franquist years, a time when the nostalgia for the Spanish greatness of the Modern Era was strong, illustrating Philippe Joutard’s evocation of a memory that « transforms the past according to the present and has a tendency to glorify [said past]29 ». The introduction of Andreu Ocariz’ book is quite revealing of that frame of mind:

  • 30 Juan José Andreu Ocariz, op. cit., p. 5.

Dos siglos antes, audaces exploradores españoles habían recorrido parte de estos inmensos territorios, sin que la nación de cuyo seno habían surgido sacase ningún provecho material de sus esfuerzos y sacrificios, que quedaron relegados a las páginas gloriosas de las Crónicas que narraban las increíbles hazañas de aquellas generaciones españolas que supieron conquistar en medio siglo un continente, pues quienes desde la metrópoli dirigían la política americana cometieron el error geopolítico de no ocupar, siquiera someramente, las costas septentrionales del Golfo de México, acción que hubiese proporcionado a España el control del mismo, y solo cuando Francia se aprovechó de este error en perjuicio de los intereses españoles, iniciaron una tardía política de contención, que ya no pudo impedir la colonización por franceses del bajo valle del Mississipi30.

  • 31 José Montero de Pedro, Marqués de Casa Mena, Españoles en Nueva Orleans y Luisiana, Madrid, Cultura (...)
  • 32 José Miguel Morales Folguera, Arquitectura y urbanismo hispanoamericano en Luisiana y Florida occid (...)

24In these few lines, we are very far from the notion of a « poisoned gift » described by Alfredo Jiménez. On the contrary, the author insists on the idea of a wasted opportunity. The conquistadors’ heroic exploits are sung and opposed to the administration’s lack of vision and ambition. In the author’s mind, the addition of Louisiana to the Empire should have been the occasion of coming back to the Golden Age of conquest and adventure. In a nutshell, Spanish Louisiana was deemed worthy of study because it corresponded to the time of the greatest expansion of the Spanish Empire in America, a very flattering memory, especially during the Franquist period or the years following the death of Franco. Indeed, even if Andreu Ocariz’ works were published after the end of the Franquist regime and the return to democracy in Spain, it can be argued that his research is the product of the previous decade and was heavily influenced by the intellectual context. In the same spirit, another general study was published in 1979, Españoles en Nueva Orleans y Luisiana. The author was the Consul of Spain in New Orleans and wanted to produce a « historical, objective and serious31 » study of Spanish Louisiana, reproducing Andreu Ocariz’ very defensive stance on the topic. In fact, his approach is much more memorial than historical because his purpose is to identify and list all the traces left behind by the Spanish presence, the toponymy, the influential actors, the architecture, in order to prove the importance of the Interregnum in the area. There is no amnesia here, but much more a phenomenon of hypermnesia. The author is so focused on the necessity of defending traces of memories that he forgets to put the Spanish presence into perspective. We observe a very similar posture in José Miguel Morales Folguera’s work about Hispanic architecture in Louisiana and Florida during the 18th century32. This latest work is a very detailed study of the Spanish heritage in the Southern architecture. However, the tone of the introduction is very reminiscent of Andreu Ocariz’ and express an almost vindictive desire to reclaim Louisiana and Florida on a cultural level. As they do so, the authors exemplify an approach that Sanjay Subrahmanyam warns against in his inaugural speech:

  • 33 Sanjay Subrahmanyam, op. cit., p. 24.

Si l’historien qui poursuit ce chemin ne se met pas suffisamment en garde, il peut vite se transformer en porte-parole strident d’un groupe ou d’une position idéologique, autrement dit d’une identité. On confond volontiers dans ce cadre des concepts en réalité assez distincts comme « histoire » et « patrimoine33 ».

  • 34 Antonio Acosta Rodríguez also co-wrote with Juan Marchena a study about the influence of Spain in t (...)
  • 35 Antonio Acosta Rodríguez, La población de Luisiana española (1763-1803), Madrid, Ministerio de Asun (...)
  • 36 José Balbuena Castellano, op. cit., 2007.
  • 37 Pablo Tornero Tinajero, Emigración canaria a América: la expedición cívico-militar a Luisiana de 17 (...)

25As a whole, this impression is reinforced by the fact that the main studies of the Interregnum published in Spanish over the years received a strong impulse from the institutions. Pedro de José Montero, author of Españoles en Nueva Orleans y Luisiana, pertained to the Foreign Office services as a consul. In that sense, his book can be perceived as much as a historical effort as an attempt at an official reinvention of memory, in a clearly contributionist way. In some way, it is an effort to remind the United States of the importance of the Spanish legacy, to reactivate and reestablish a long-forgotten memory properly. At the same time, it can be argued that Españoles en Nueva Orleans y Luisiana is mainly adressed to a Spanish public, to remind them of the golden age of the colonial empire and the accomplishments of this period, the traces left by the Spanish in the most powerful country of the 20th century. In the same spirit, Antonio Acosta Rodríguez’ La población de Luisiana española (1763-1803), a strong and thorough demographical study, was published by the Spanish Foreign Office34. Such involvement can be interpreted as the sign that the Interregnum was not really considered like part of Spanish history but more like a domain pertaining to the world of international diplomacy. Indeed, Spanish Louisiana was – and still is – ignored, literally absent from history programs at school. In this context of education and collective memory, specialists of Hispanic America tend to focus on the territories that gave birth to Latin America, and it is not really surprising to notice that an author like Acosta Rodríguez comes from the ranks of American civilization rather than the more classical academic cursus in modern and colonial history35. This problematic link between the history of the Interregnum in Louisiana and collective memory is very strong in a particular current that could be designed as a Canarian historiography which focused on the destiny of the Isleños. The Isleños are the descendants of the settlers that crossed the ocean to assist in the colonization effort started by Bernardo Gálvez in Louisiana36. Fleeing from misery in their homeland, these families were given small lots of land and money in order to settle around the Mississippi Delta37. Once more, the scholarly interest is part of a memorial process, a regionalist one, as revealed in the prologue of José Balbuena Castellano’s book published in the wake of Katrina:

  • 38 José Balbuena Castellano, op. cit., p. 12. It is striking to note that the author of the book is a (...)

Todo este esfuerzo y sacrificio para permanecer unidos a través de una ilusión, mantener vivo el origen canario de los primitivos colonos, se tambalea por el desastre natural del huracán Katrina, que no solo les ha causado enormes destrozos materiales y humanos, sino que le han roto esa unidad familiar, sus costumbres con fuerte matiz canario (la lengua, poesía y folklore) que existían entre los Isleños. […] y corresponde al Gobierno de Canarias y Cabildos Insulares el dotarles de material didáctico, libros de nuestra historia, costumbres y gastronomía, piezas de artesanía, etc., y se programen una serie de actuaciones de acuerdo con los que todavía permanecen en los que queda de la Parroquia de Saint Bernard, para evitar que desaparezcan su personalidad « isleña38 ».

  • 39 Philippe Joutard, art. cit., p. 786.

26In this prologue, it is more the idea of a « duty of memory » that is evoked than the necessity of understanding a particular historical period and its mechanisms. Actually, it looks like we are facing the case of what Philippe Joutard calls « memorial pedagogy39 ». Furthermore, the memorial process and rediscovery of the Isleña culture, far from being the product of a long tradition, appears to be the consequence of the deep crisis that followed the wake of Katrina in 2005. From this point of view, the involvement of the Cabildo of Gran Canaria in the publication of the various historical studies about the Canarians in Louisiana seems to indicate the strength and dynamism of this memorial and identity process. In this last case, the history of Spanish Louisiana is not instrumentalized anymore in a process of international affirmation through the reactivation of memory, but serves as the background for a regionalist affirmation, similar to what can be observed in Catalonia or Basque Country. In that sense, the involvement of the regional institutions cannot be a surprise. The contributionist undercurrent is noticeable as well at different levels. On the one hand, the importance of the contribution of the Isleña culture to Louisiana identity is insisted upon, while, on the other hand, the sacrifice of the Canarian people who participated to the last effort of colonization by the Crown in America before the wars of Independence is presented in the most epic way. Those settlers did not come from the Iberian Peninsula but from the Canaries archipelago and brought their own culture to America, adding their own stone to both American and Spanish history. In a context of always growing regionalism in Spain, this insistence on a very particular memory and history is very revealing of today’s stakes in the Spanish identity construction.

5. Conclusion: Historians and the Making of History. The Weight of Collective Memory

  • 40 Philippe Joutard, art. cit., p. 786. « d’ailleurs, sans toujours en avoir conscience, les historien (...)
  • 41 Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, op. cit.; Kimberly Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places: Free Black Society (...)
  • 42 Philippe Joutard, art. cit., p. 790.

27As a conclusion, there are a few points that should be stressed. First, the Spanish scholars’ lack of interest for the Interregnum can be safely linked to the lack of memory from this period in the collective memorial construction. In other words, because of the failure associated to the Spanish presence in Louisiana and to the ephemeral administration, Louisiana is not really associated with the roman national40, with the Spanish national mythology. On the contrary, American scholars’ interest can be interpreted as the desire to insist on the originality of Louisiana history and culture within the United States41. Finally, we can underline how interesting this case of historiographical amnesia is to better understand the process at work behind the writing of History, and more especially the weight of collective memories in this process. As Philippe Joutard wrote, « without always being aware of that fact, historians, when they choose a topic or another, are influenced by ambient memory, if not by their own memories42 ». This could be the main lesson of this essay: through the case of the Interregnum, one can fully appreciate the considerable weight of collective memory and identity process in the writing of History, the importance of the selection at work between insistence on a glorious, validating past and the erasure of a less memorable past.

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Notes

1 Juan José Andreu Ocariz, Luisiana española, Zaragoza, Talleres Editoriales Librería General, 1975, p. 27.

2 Such slogan expressed the local population’s frustration at the lack of governmental reaction after the hurricane. Many signs of this particular protest could be seen during the 2006 Fat Tuesday parade.

3 José Balbuena Castellano, La odisea de los Canarios en Texas y Luisiana, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Anroart Ediciones, 2007, p. 12.

4 Cécile Vidal, « Private and State Violence Against African Slaves in Lower Louisiana During the French Period, 1699-1769 », in Thomas J. Humphrey, John Smolenski (éds.), New World Orders: Violence, Sanction, and Authority in the Colonial Americas, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005, p. 92-110, 306-310; Cécile Vidal, Emily Clark, « Famille et esclavage à la Nouvelle-Orléans sous le Régime français (1699-1769) », Annales de Démographie historique, vol. 122, n° 2, 2011, p. 99-126.

5 Paul Hoffman, Luisiana, Madrid, Editorial MAPFRE, 1992, p. 313.

6 Pierre Nora (dir.), Les lieux de mémoire, Paris, Gallimard, 3 tomes, 1984-1992; Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Nicole Loraux, Hans Mommsen, Jean-Claude Milner et al., Usages de l’oubli, Paris, Seuil, 1988; Maurice Halbwachs, Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire, Paris, Albin Michel, 1994. / La mémoire collective, Paris, Albin Michel, 1997; Philippe Joutard, Histoire et mémoires, conflits et alliance, Paris, La Découverte, 2013.

7 Gilles Havard, Cécile Vidal, Histoire de l’Amérique française, Paris, Flammarion, 2008, Collection Champs Histoire, p. 663-669.

8 Alfredo Jiménez, El Gran Norte de México. Una frontera imperial en la Nueva España (1540-1820), Madrid, Editorial Tébar, p. 137.

9 Gilles Havard, Cécile Vidal, op. cit., p. 693-696.

10 Paul Hoffman, op. cit., p. 126-128.

11 Juan José Andreu Ocariz, op. cit., p. 28. « aunque conocía perfectamente que no hacíamos sino adquirir una carga anual de 300 000 piastras, a cambio de la utilidad negativa y lejana de poseer un país para que otro no lo poseyese, »

12 Paul Hoffman, op. cit., p. 124-126.

13 Alfredo Jiménez, op. cit., p. 444.

14 Philippe Joutard, « Mémoire collective » in Christian Delacroix, Patrick Garcia, François Dosse, Nicolas Offenstadt, Historiographies. Concepts et débats. Tome 2, Paris, Gallimard, 2010, p. 783.

15 Gilles Havard, Cécile Vidal, op. cit., p. 706.

16 Jean-Marc Olivier, « Bernadotte, Bonaparte et la Louisiane » in Christophe Belaubre, Jordana Dym, John Savage (éds.), Napoléon et les Amériques, Toulouse, PUM, Collection Méridiennes, p. 146. « Napoléon espère en tirer cinquante millions de francs or, finalement, il en obtient quatre-vingts millions sur lesquels vingt sont retenus pour indemnisation des navires saisis. Cette vente surprenante, conclue le 3 mai 1803, intervient dans un contexte de montée des tensions avec l’Angleterre qui reprend les hostilités le 10 mai. »

17 Gilles Havard, Cécile Vidal, op. cit., p. 701-717.

18 Cécile Vidal, « Introduction » in Louisiana: Crossroads of the Atlantic World, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014, p. 5.

19 Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1992.

20 Daniel Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley Before 1783, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

21 Jennifer M. Spear, Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

22 Paul Hoffman, op. cit., p. 313.

23 Gilbert C. Din, The Canary Islanders of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, Louisiana state university press, 1988; The Louisiana purchase bicentennial series in Louisiana history. Vol. II, The Spanish Presence in Louisiana: 1763-1803, Lafayette, Center for Louisiana studies, University of southwestern Louisiana, 1996; Spaniards, Planters, and Slaves: The Spanish Regulation of Slavery in Louisiana 1763-1803, Texas A&M University Press, 1999; Gilbert C. Din, John E. Harkins, The New Orleans Cabildo: Colonial Louisana’s First City Government, 1769-1803, Baton Rouge, London, Louisiana State University Press, 1996.

24 Kimberly S. Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places. Free Black Society in Colonial New Orleans, 1769-1803, Durham and London, Duke University Press, 1997.

25 Paul Hoffman, op. cit., p. 313. « como consequencia de ello y, a pesar de la existencia de historias generales tal como ésta, todavía falta una historia que sea capaz de resumir esta multitud de estudios de fragmentos de la historia de la colonia. »

26 Juan José Andreu Ocariz, op. cit., 1975.

27 Juan José Andreu Ocariz, op. cit., 1975, p. 6.

28 Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Aux origines de l’histoire globale, Collection « Leçons inaugurales du Collège de France », n° 240, Paris, Collège de France/Fayard, 2014, p. 23-24.

29 Philippe Joutard, « Mémoire collective », art. cit., p. 784. « transforme le passé en fonction du présent et tend, parfois, à le magnifier.»

30 Juan José Andreu Ocariz, op. cit., p. 5.

31 José Montero de Pedro, Marqués de Casa Mena, Españoles en Nueva Orleans y Luisiana, Madrid, Cultura Hispánica Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana, 1979.

32 José Miguel Morales Folguera, Arquitectura y urbanismo hispanoamericano en Luisiana y Florida occidental, Málaga, Secretariado de publicaciones de la Universidad de Málaga, 1987.

33 Sanjay Subrahmanyam, op. cit., p. 24.

34 Antonio Acosta Rodríguez also co-wrote with Juan Marchena a study about the influence of Spain in the Caribbean region and the key importance of Louisiana and Spain in such a system. See Antonio Acosta Rodríguez and Juan Marchena (ed.), La influencia de España en el Caribe, la Florida y la Luisiana, 1500-1800, Madrid, Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana, 1983. Once more, it is interesting to notice that the book was published by an institute of international cooperation.

35 Antonio Acosta Rodríguez, La población de Luisiana española (1763-1803), Madrid, Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores. Dirección Gral. de Relaciones Culturales, 1979.

36 José Balbuena Castellano, op. cit., 2007.

37 Pablo Tornero Tinajero, Emigración canaria a América: la expedición cívico-militar a Luisiana de 1777 a 1779, Gran Canaria, Cabildo Insular, 1976, p. 345-354, Separata del libro I Coloquio de Hª Canario-Americana; Miguel Molina Martínez, La participación canaria en la formación y reclutamiento del Batallón de Luisiana, Gran Canaria, Ediciones del Excmo Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria, 1982; José Balbuena Castellano, op. cit., 2007.

38 José Balbuena Castellano, op. cit., p. 12. It is striking to note that the author of the book is a journalist and not an historian, and that the prologue was written by Antonio Cruz Caballero, a lawyer and the head of the Patronato de Turismo de Gran Canaria.

39 Philippe Joutard, art. cit., p. 786.

40 Philippe Joutard, art. cit., p. 786. « d’ailleurs, sans toujours en avoir conscience, les historiens, en choisissant tel ou tel sujet, sont influencés par la mémoire ambiante, sinon par leur propre mémoire »

41 Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, op. cit.; Kimberly Hanger, Bounded Lives, Bounded Places: Free Black Society in Colonial New Orleans 1769-1803, Durham, Duke University Press, 1997; Emily Clark, Masterless Mistresses. The New Orleans Ursulines and the Development of a New World Society, 1727-1834, Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

42 Philippe Joutard, art. cit., p. 790.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: The presence of Spanish Louisiana in Spanish academic libraries.
Crédits © S. Croguennec, 2014
URL http://framespa.revues.org/docannexe/image/4227/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 17k
Titre Fig. 2: The presence of Spanish Louisiana in Spanish academic libraries.
Crédits © S. Croguennec, 2014
URL http://framespa.revues.org/docannexe/image/4227/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 15k
Titre Fig. 3 : Evolution of production on Spanish Louisiana
Crédits © S. Croguennec, 2014
URL http://framespa.revues.org/docannexe/image/4227/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 19k
Titre Fig. 4: Compared evolution of Spanish and English historiography about Spanish Louisiana
Crédits © S. Croguennec, 2014
URL http://framespa.revues.org/docannexe/image/4227/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 22k
Titre Fig. 5: Compared evolution of Spanish and English historiography about Spanish Louisiana (distinction studies/archives)
Crédits © S. Croguennec, 2014
URL http://framespa.revues.org/docannexe/image/4227/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 23k
Titre Fig. 6: Compared evolution of Spanish and English historiography about Spanish Louisiana (distinction studies/archives)
Crédits © S. Croguennec, 2014
URL http://framespa.revues.org/docannexe/image/4227/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 23k
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Référence électronique

Soizic Croguennec, « Spanish Historiography and the Interregnum in Louisiana (1763-1803): a Case of (Voluntary) Amnesia? », Les Cahiers de Framespa [En ligne], 24 | 2017, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2017, consulté le 17 octobre 2017. URL : http://framespa.revues.org/4227 ; DOI : 10.4000/framespa.4227

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Auteur

Soizic Croguennec

Soizic Croguennec est docteure en histoire, post-doctorante EHEHI - Casa de Velázquez (2016-2017), membre du laboratoire FRAMESPA (UMR 5136), Université de Toulouse-Jean Jaurès. Sa thèse porte sur les Sociétés minières dans le Centre-Nord de la Nouvelle-Espagne au xviiie siècle (2011, publiée en 2015). Recherches actuelles : « À la croisée des empires : bouleversements géopolitiques et construction d’une société composite en Louisiane espagnole (1763-1803) ».
croguennec.soizic@yahoo.fr

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