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Blake Pontchartrain: Don Bernardo de Galvez

A statue honors the Spanish governor who served from 1777-1785

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Hey Blake,

On a patch of lawn between the old World Trade Center and the ferry terminal on Canal Street is a statue of a man on a horse. I don't recognize who it is or why he's at that location. Can you help?

Dear reader,

  The statue depicts Don Bernardo de Galvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana from 1777 to 1785.

  Born in Spain in 1746, Galvez was a military leader there who was sent to the vast Louisiana territory in 1777 to serve as its governor. His tenure coincided with the American Revolutionary War (1775 to 1783). Spain's alliance with France against the British and in support of the American colonists partly helped motivate Galvez's actions during the war. He led Spanish military expeditions that captured British posts at Bayou Manchac, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Mississippi, Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida. Those efforts gave the Spanish control of all of the territory known as West Florida and ended any possibility of a British offensive up the Mississippi River.

  During his time as governor, Galvez also was known for set- tling many immigrants from the Canary Islands in Louisiana. When those immigrants, known as the Islenos, arrived here, they were sent to four new settlements, including Galveztown, which was named for Galvez and located near Bayou Manchac — and most memorably in what we know today as St. Bernard Parish.

  As for the 15-foot bronze equestrian statue of Galvez that sits between the World Trade Center and the Canal Street ferry landing, it is the work of Spanish sculptor Juan de Avalos. It was a gift from the government of Spain to the U.S. and was dedicated on May 7, 1977 — 200 years after Galvez's tenure as governor began. Contemporaneous press accounts say the ceremony was attended by Spain's ambassador to the United States, Lt. Gov. Jimmy Fitzmorris and Mayor Moon Landrieu. In 2012, a historical society called the Granaderos y Damas de Galvez (the Grenadiers and Ladies of Galvez) dedicated a new historical marker near the statue honoring Galvez as a "hero of the American Revolution."

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