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Louisiana borders its neighbors—Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and Texas to the west—natural and artificial borders. The Gulf of Mexico lies to the south.
The total area of Louisiana includes approximately 4,600 square miles (12,000 square kilometers) of inland water. The capital is Baton Rouge. Louisiana joined the Union as the 18th state in 1812 and governs a once strategic area where the waters of the Mississippi-Missouri River system drain the North American interior and join the warm, crooked crescent north of the Gulf Shaped Mexican.
It is not surprising that seven flags have flown over its territories since 1682, when the explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur (Lord) de La Salle, planted a wooden cross in the ground and claimed the territory on behalf of the Frenchman Louis XIV. The resulting varieties of cultural heritage permeate the numerous facets of the social, political and artistic life of the state with luminous threads.
Parts of Louisiana are further south than any part of the continental U.S. thanks in large part to his Complicated character with his geographic location. The state’s subtropical climate provides magnificent, treacherous scenery along the coast, whose lush, moist vegetation hides oil and natural gas riches.
The fertile soil that covered much of the land made Louisiana a fertile agricultural region in the 1860s, with sugar cane and cotton plantations flourishing. There was a lumber boom in the early 20th century, and Louisiana experienced rapid industrialization after World War II. Mining production is high, and the state is a national leader in oil and gas production. But progress has not been without a tragic and turbulent side: bitter territorial disputes and bitter internal political power struggles hampered the country’s social and economic development and paralyzed many political institutions. The wealth of the plantation was accumulated through the extensive use of slaves, whose descendants accounted for nearly one-third of Louisiana’s population, and whose cultures contributed greatly to the state’s social fabric.
Racial conflict marked the development of the country from the American Civil War (1861-1865) and Reconstruction (1865-1877) to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. However, the guarantee of suffrage (under the Voting Rights Act ) and the increasing political participation of African Americans helped move the state toward a more racially equal society. Since the 1960s, the state’s economy, closely tied to the volatile oil industry, has experienced slower economic growth and less diversification than many other southern states. A recent surge in public policy corruption and crime in the New Orleans area has cast a shadow over the city’s colorful image. While many still value the state’s rich cultural heritage, tourism has plummeted since Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana, in August 2005, businesses and residents suffered heavy losses.