New Orleans is a very cosmopolitan and multiethnic city. French is still spoken in Southern Louisiana by two very different groups, the French Creole and the Cajuns. Despite what many people believe, the Creole were actually the original French-speaking group in Louisiana settling the port of New Orleans in 1718. French remained the dominant language in New Orleans for more than a century, well into the 1850’s. Even after the second half of the 19th century when the Spanish controlled Louisiana French remained the dominant language in the area.
The Cajuns, meanwhile, immigrated to Southern Louisiana in the 1760s as refugees from Eastern Quebec. Descended from the Acadians, the Cajuns now number over 1 million people in Southern Louisiana! If you happen to speak French, listen closely to Cajun speakers and you are sure to recognize many words. But Cajun French has evolved away from the French spoken in Europe and Canada since the Acadians made their great Southern trek more than 200 years ago, and the language has become something unique–just like our city!
Although the city of New Orleans was built by Spanish and French colonials, after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, much of the city was refurbished in the modern Victorian style. As a result, relatively few buildings survive from the original Spanish architects. However, this influence can still be seen throughout the city, including this building in the 800 block of Ursulines in the French Quarter. The most noticeable structures that remain from this style are the Cabildo and the Presbytère, both beautiful examples of a mixture of colonial Spanish and neo-classical architecture that was popular in New Orleans’ original incarnation.
The Marigny district, or Faubourg Marigny, is the second oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. Bordering the French Quarter on the East, the Marigny district was named after Bernard de Marigny, a very wealthy French Creole aristocrat who amassed a huge fortune from his sugarcane plantations–and then gambled the entire thing away. Marigny is credited for having invented the dice game of craps, from the French crapaud, meaning toad. The Faubourg part of the neighborhood’s name tells you just how long it has been around and is a leftover from the French-speaking days of the city when all the oldest neighborhoods of the city were called Faubourgs. Today you will find a mish-mash of the old and new in this historic district, including many fine bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and renovations to maintain the beauty and the character of this part of our city’s history.
Food in New Orleans is nothing to joke about. Not only are we serious about food, but we have some serious food! By far one of the most beloved New Orleans dishes is the po’ boy, from the unassuming roast beef to the fried oyster, shrimp, and catfish varieites. The origin story of the po’ boy is a bit murky, although there are three versions that are the most popular tales surrounding the first po’ boy. The first of these, the Lunch and Beer story, states that the sandwich was derived from a bar that used to offer a free sandwich to patrons buying a 5 cent beer which became known as the Poor Boy Lunch and later became so popular the name was simply shortened to the Po’ Boy. The second story is the Pourboire or Pour Boire which tells the tale of the sandwhich as the peace offering brought home after late nights out with the boys. Although a cute story, the linguistics don’t really hold up under further scrutiny, but the Pourboire version is still cited by many in the city. The third and perhaps most popular story is that of the Martin Brothers, Clovis and Bennie, who were former streetcar compay employees that later opened a cafe. During a strike in the early twentieth century the Martin brothers took pity on those poor boys and started offering striking Union workers free Po’ Boys at the end of their shifts until the strike concluded. Whatever the true story, pretty much everyone in the city agrees that the po’ boy is one of the tastiest New Orleans staples around! If you want the authentic local experience be sure to head over to Parkway Bakery or Liuzza’s to get your taste of the New Orleans sandwich.
At 9:15 a.m. on August 29, 2005, a 14 year old girl named Angela Caballeros wrote a message and put it in a bottle. The message captured her feelings waking up and looking out at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, trapped in a roofless house on a flooded street in Uptown New Orleans. She dropped the bottle off the porch of her house, into the rising flood waters, and watched it drift away wondering if anyone would ever find it. A few short weeks later, on September 15, a parks service employee named Rob Turan found it while acting as a deputized US Marshall helping to restore order to the city in the aftermath of the hurricane. Turan became obsessed with finding out what happened to the Caballeros family, but it wasn't until almost eight years later, on August 14 of this year, that Turan and the now 22 year old Caballeros finally met in person. Our local paper, the Times-Picayune, wrote a wonderful piece detailing the intersection of Turan's and Caballeros' lives which can be read here, a beautiful and fitting tale on the anniversary of the storm that forever changed New Orleans.
The historic Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans, a favorite for both visitors and locals, was originally countryside full of large sugar plantations lined up along the Mississippi River. Sugar plantations needed to have easy access to the market in order to ship out barrels of molasses and get goods to come in–although most were growing whatever goods they needed and were largely self-sufficient. Subsequently, they always preferred to be located along with the river, which was the main thoroughfare for transportation in the area. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the farm land of the Colonial-era plantations began to be developed further. Several sections of the neighborhood were originally developed as separate towns, including Lafayette, Jefferson City, Greenville, and Carrollton. Today the names of these towns represent smaller neighborhoods within the Uptown district, as they were all annexed by the city of New Orleans during the late 1800s. When the last two towns of Lafayette and Carrollton were annexed in 1874 the entire area was given a new name it still carries today, Uptown New Orleans. Uptown quickly became a popular place to settle, first by people from other parts of the United States and then by immigrants, mostly those of Italian, Irish, and German descent. Today, the neighborhood continues to be eclectic and full of a variety of people, with many excellent local restaurants and beautiful historic homes.