Our only expectations coming to Louisiana were really around the food and history, hopefully catch a parade and good live music and may be hear some of the French dialect. We did all the above and also got a taste at a very unique city.
Really Brief History
The city was established in 1723 by the French and sold to the United States in 1803 by Napoleon. Thereafter, the city grew rapidly with influxes of Americans, French, Creoles, and Africans. Today the population split is 60% African American, 30% white.
New Orleans was the largest hub for immigrants after NYC, boosted by the economic impact of sugar, cotton and slave labor.
NOLA today was definitely a change from the very multi cultural NYC we know. It is colorful and lively, but in another way and neighborhoods are tinted by the colors of their communities
We stayed in the Ninth Ward and walked around Treme and Mid City which are majoritarily black while white folks were more seen in Central City / Garden District Area. The French Quarter is the touristy area and a bit of a (trashy) Disneyland IMO. Marigny is still cosmopolitan; singles and artist-friendly neighborhood, it’s where you will find the locals and the live music. Bywater has a lot of character and charm; The neighborhood is full of bright, colorful houses and greenery. It’s a mix of long-time locals and recent transplants and it is clearly getting gentrified with some of the city’s trendiest restaurants, bars and new apartment complexes.
Different immigrants, different traditions
New Orleans’ colonial history of French and Spanish settlement has resulted in a strong Catholic tradition with the addition, in late 19th and early 20th, of European immigrants.
The Cajuns were originally Acadian settlers, French farmers sent by France to populate the new colonies in Nova Scotia, Canada. With little help from the Kingdom, they thrived in that new land, originally called Arcadia after the Greek term for “idyllic place”. That land would be claimed several times by the British with little consequences for the Acadiens until the Great Expulsion (1760), when Britain exiled the entire population to the other colonies of the new world. Roughly 8000 ppl where deported because they refused to become protestants.
Most Acadiens settled in Louisiana were they where welcomed as the state needed more workforce to drain and cultivate the land. They assimilated Creole and Native American influences into their Acadian traditions and built their own dialect, Cajun French, along with a vibrant culture including folkways, music, and cuisine.
Although the word Creole can have slightly different meanings, in New Orleans it stands for:
- People born in the new world
- French speaking
Creoles worked in agriculture, running plantations of cotton or sugar, sometimes freemen but often as slaved. They defended a very unique culture, looking up to the French Empire ways of life while embracing their own multicultural heritage. Family and business were one, religion was a big pilar of that society but today Creole is best known for it’s unique style of cooking started from early 1700s, inspired by French and Spanish culinary tradition re-imagined with new local produces.
Voodoo is a New Orleans’s thing. The religion grew in the city from the traditions of the African diaspora and Catholic influences. It is a cultural form of the Afro-American religions developed by enslaved West Africans and the French, Spanish, and Creole populations.
The Voodoo believe in the existence of one supreme God, abstract, omnipotent yet unknowable force. Spirits (or Loa) rule over the day-to-day’s affairs in matter of family, love, happiness, justice, health, wealth, work, harvest.. etc. They manifest through elements of nature such as the wind and rain, lightning and thunder, the river, the ocean, the sky, the sun, certain animals.. People make offerings to the appropriate Loa to ensure success in those areas.
The use of rituals, potions, symbols and artifacts attracts a lot of curious.
Although popular culture and Hollywood associated it with devil worship and magical workings, Voodoo’s main purpose remains to heal: to heal the individual in relationships within himself, with others and with God. It advocates a better understanding the natural processes of life and one’s own spiritual natures.
Today only a small number of people are serious adherents to the religion.
What’s the most inspiring to me in NOLA are the many styles of housing existing in the city and how different they are from anywhere else.
Right away, your eyes are drawn by the colorful but popular shotgun houses. We spent a week in one, it’s a narrow rectangular residence, usually no more than 12 feet (3.5 m) wide, with 2 rooms arranged one behind the other and doors at each end of the house. The overhang is usually supported by decorative wooden brackets and contains cast iron ventilators.
Creole townhouses, notable for their large courtyards and intricate iron balconies, line the streets of the French Quarter.
Throughout the city, there are many other historic housing styles: Creole cottages, American townhouses, double-gallery houses, Raised Center-Hall Cottages, large Antebellum homes on St. Charles Avenue. Antebellum architecture (meaning “prewar”) is characteristic of the 19th-century Southern United States, especially the Deep South.