Greek Immigrants in New Orleans
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The United States of America is known for being a place where people can find a new life. This is the main reason why Greeks as early as the 1700’s decided to settle here in the United States. There are many things that could cause someone to leave their homeland, such as political instability, occupation, war, and economic hardship. For Greeks, things were no different.
First Greeks in the United States
As Greeks came to the United States, they settled in different areas. The first colony of Greeks came about in the 1760’s in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. After that, the next major wave of Greeks settled nearly one hundred years after that in New Orleans in the 1850’s. This is the first major Greek community that developed in the United States.
However, Greek immigrants did set foot in New Orleans prior to the mid 1800’s. Michael Dracos, a wealthy merchant from Athens, actually arrived in the area in the mid 1700’s. He married a local woman of Acadian and Native American descent. Their daughter married a native Greek in 1799, which made them the first married couple of Greek origin in the United States.
Reason for Migrating to the United States
So, why did these Greeks migrate to the United States in the first place during this time? Most of the immigrants that came to New Orleans were primarily from Asia Minor and the Aegean islands.
Though some of Greece managed to break free from Ottoman Empire, these areas of Greece were still under Turkish control. Those who could find a way to leave very likely wanted to get away from the Ottoman Empire and start a new life.
First Eastern Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere
When the Greek people started settling in the United States in larger numbers, they brought aspects of their culture with them. For most, being able to practice their religion was paramount. Not only did it give the people a place to practice their religion, but it also helped them establish their community.
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans was the first Eastern Orthodox Church that was built in the Western Hemisphere, which was founded in 1864. Though the original building was knocked down so that the larger cathedral could be built, this church is still a traditional fixture in today’s Greek community in Louisiana.
New Orleans Greek Town
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral became the center of what is known as “Greek Town” in New Orleans. Most Greek families lived close to the church. In fact, even though there were Greeks living in that area before the church was constructed, as new waves of Greek immigrants arrived in the city, they tended to settle near the church.
New Orleans is the first city in the United States to have had a considerable Greek community develop. Though other cities, such as Boston and New York, also had a Greek section, New Orleans boasts a series of firsts, such as the first Greek Orthodox Church and the site of the first Greek Orthodox wedding. The Greek community there is still strong today.
Categorized in: Modern Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston