NEW ORLEANS — The king and queen of Spain have arrived in New Orleans as part of the city's tricentennial celebration.
King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia flew in Thursday evening to Louisiana, which was a Spanish colony from 1763 to 1802. They arrived at New Orleans' airport at sunset and were greeted by several officials including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
After a private meeting with Edwards, Cantrell will welcome them Friday at Gallier Hall , a former City Hall opened in 1853 and renovated for the city's 300th anniversary.
Friday evening, the king and queen will visit St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo , built as the government seat under Spanish rule and the center of New Orleans government until Gallier Hall opened.
Both buildings were erected after the Great Fire of 1788. An altar candle in the home of the colony's military treasurer set fire to the altar's lace draperies. The flames spread quickly, destroying more than three-quarters of the city. Because of that fire, much of the city's oldest architecture is in the Spanish style.
The Cabildo is now a museum. Its current exhibits include "Recovered Memories: Spain, New Orleans, and the Support for the American Revolution." It includes naval models, important works from noted Spanish painters, and period clothing including an ensemble worn by 18th century Spanish diplomat Diego de Gardoqui.
Saturday, Mardi Gras Indians and jazz clarinetist Dr. Michael White and his band will perform for the royal couple at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Mardi Gras Indians are groups of African-Americans who create elaborate feathered and beaded costumes in which they strut and dance through the streets on Mardi Gras.
Felipe and Letizia leave Saturday for San Antonio, Texas — another former Spanish colony celebrating its tricentennial.
They'll stay there until Monday, when they head to Washington. The last thing on their U.S. schedule is a White House visit Tuesday with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump.