Arthur Carpenter, in his 1987 doctoral dissertation at Tulane University, described the Crescent City's claim to this title with these words:
. . . hemispheric trade was one of New Orleans's strengths, a point from which to build. As a commercial city, it rested comfortably and profitably within a hemispheric economy in which North America refined or consumed Latin American commodities and in which Latin America absorbed North American manufacturing goods and investments. It lay close by the sea lanes connecting the Americas, serving as a center for U.S. trade with Latin America, especially for trade with the Caribbean Basin. Indeed, enclaves nestled along the Caribbean--Yucatan, Nicaragua's east coast, Honduras's north coast--functioned more as economic satellites of the Crescent City than as regions of their respective nations. Latin American commodities--bananas, coffee, sugar, sisal, mahogany--crowded the port's docks. This flourishing exchange encouraged local capital to process Latin American raw materials and foodstuffs in New Orleans.During the second half of the last century, however, a number of factors brought about the city's relative decline in importance as a stepping off point for trade, tourism and cultural exchange with Latin America. Today, the city of Miami lays claim to being the "gateway to the Americas," but New Orleans is fighting back to reestablish its previous position. The Inter-American Development Bank's annual meeting in the Crescent City this month should provide a major boost in that direction. Mayor Marc H. Morial has expressed his belief that, "our position as the Gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean allows our region to take advantage of tremendous development opportunities in Latin America through IDB. This conference is also a chance to showcase some of the Crescent City's best practices. We've formed a world-wide interest in police reform and infrastructure advancements through transportation, air, cargo and historic redevelopment."
This exhibition explores New Orleans' past as the preeminent center for U.S. contact with its neighbors to the south. It uses both original materials along with large format reproductions of original and published materials to illustrate aspects of the city's long running relationship with South America, Central America and the island nations of the Caribbean. Archivists Wayne Everard and Irene Wainwright mounted the exhibit. Jackson Hill provided photographic services and Ridgway's Inc. provided reprographic and lamination services.
This online version will be available indefinitely.