Para artículo en español clic aquí: ¡Esto es Bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S
By Axel Lola Rosa
I have the privilege of being a first-generation Latino in New Orleans. I get the best of every type of bean here. On Mondays, we have our traditional red beans and rice; on any other day, we have arroz y frijoles (Honduran rice and beans cooked by my mom). Since 2012, I’ve worked with tourists in the French Quarter and surrounding areas and even lived out of state. I proudly say I was born at Charity and raised in Metairie to Honduran Immigrants. I emphasize the Honduran part to make it known that a solid Honduran presence in New Orleans dates back to the early 1900’s.
Growing up here, I noticed at a young age that the media talked about Honduras or its surrounding countries only if there was a Hurricane or something very wrong; go figure. I also noticed that Miami was “referred to” as Cuban, Texas as Mexican, and New York as Puerto Rican because of each city’s history with those countries. So why hasn’t anyone discussed the connection between New Orleans and Honduras?
When you hear the words Banana Republic, you think of the multi-million dollar clothing brand owned by Gap, Inc., Right? But did you know that the Banana Republic is a real thing? Like about, you guessed it, BANANAS, B-A-N... How did it begin the history and relationship between the cities of New Orleans and Honduras? To be clear, I’m only discussing the “Banana” part and not the “Republic” part.
Since New Orleans has a well-established port, it all began with popular produce brands that we’ve most likely all had in our kitchen: Chiquita, formerly known as the United Fruit Company, and the Standard Food Company, were based in New Orleans. For decades, New Orleans has imported and distributed Cavendish Bananas from Central America to all over the U.S. In the early 20th Century, these two companies created close ties, specifically with Honduras. Eventually, these companies bought land for plantations. They hired Hondurans as dockyard workers who decided to stay in New Orleans, making our city an entry point for Hondurans migrating to the U.S. Aside from the employment opportunities, many chose to settle in this region due to the heavy influence of Catholic culture. Some sent their children to Catholic Schools in New Orleans, and many stayed upon completing their studies. Besides Honduras itself, by 1962, New Orleans had the world’s largest population of Hondurans.
Over time, the population expanded further out of the city and into surrounding areas such as Kenner and the Westbank. According to NOLA.com, in 2010, Jefferson Parish had the fourth-largest Honduran population by county in the United States. In 2021, The Data Center analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau data from the American Community Survey 2021 reported that 36% of the Hispanic Origin in Jefferson Parish identified as Honduran, 21% in Orleans, and 32% in the Metro Area within an estimated 1.1 million Hispanics of Honduran origin living in the United States. Overall, according to brcitykey.com, Hispanics make up 7% of the population in Louisiana. Most recently, Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng mentioned in an interview that about 63,000 Hispanics make up 18% of the people in Jefferson Parish.
Today, we see the influence of Honduras everywhere in our local community. We see cars with Honduras stickers or flags and find imported Honduran products. We see Honduran-owned and branded businesses. We enjoy frequent events featuring native Honduran bands like La Banda Blanca or Los Rolands. Even events honoring the Virgin of Suyapa, the Patron Saint of Honduras, occur at Divine Mercy Church in Kenner. These influences have maintained Honduran traditions that have helped shape not only the Latino Community in this city but also New Orleans itself.