Two hundred years ago, Mexico won its independence from Spain and not long afterward, French immigrants started arriving. Whole villages of them swapped cold, damp winters and lovely if rank cheeses and butter for hot, damp summers and vine-ripened chilies.
While there were individuals who went before, most went in groups during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the beginning, they went primarily to four locations: Jicaltepec, San Rafael, Coatzocoalcos and Minatitlan, in groups organized by companies created for the purpose. The first hundred sailed on the Amérique in 1829, arriving the following year at Coatzocoalcos. More arrived. Dozens died in ghastly and primitive conditions, for the companies that sent them made little or no preparations for their arrival. Still, they continued to arrive, especially after the Franco-Prussian War.
There were Basques, Burgundians, Franc-Comtois, Savoyards and almost the entire village of Barcelonnette, the last group having been given the rather perky nickname of their village name "les Barcelonnettes". Most stayed, but many, especially of the earliest groups, decided to move on and the next port of choice was often New Orleans. (For those of you researching French ancestors who arrived in New Orleans from Mexico, take note.) Much has been written, in French and Spanish, about these immigrants. Some of the best works are:
- Emigration française au Mexique by Jean-Christophe Demard. - Contains complete passenger lists. Hard to find.
- Aventure extraordinaire d'un village franc-comtois au Mexique, also by Demard -- A complete study of those who went from the village of Champlitte to Mexico. Many biographies of settlers and interviews with their descendants.
- Peregrination des Barcelonnettes au Mexique by Patricia Gouy
- a series of four articles by Magdalena Le Prévost in Le Petit Journal
There are some fascinating stories here.
©2012 Anne Morddel
* Monsieur S. sent these informative links: