The Birth and Evolution of New Orleans
From the window of the very haunted restaurant of Muriels at Jackson Square you could slip back in time and watch the history of New Orleans unfold. This territory claimed by La Salle for France in 1698 birthed the city known as La Nouvelle Orleans officially in 1718. Bienvelle founded this settlement with high hopes but it was Scottishman John Law who swindled settlers from all around to colonize and come to stay. The colony suffered many a blow and lay abandoned to her fate. New Orleans seemed nothing more than a weak military outpost at best, hopes and fears remained. True, it was a natural port with serpentine crescent shape, but Plague and flood and pestilence were ever knocking at our door. New Orleans was just a giant swamp and still is at heart.
They say it was the French that founded us, though the Native Americans had been here for thousands of years before ! It was the Spanairds who invested enough yo turn us into a viable city. It was the Africans who made it all work and sing ; Sugar Cane that sweetened the pot to make us rich and the Mississippi herself who embraces us allowing us to seduce a nation with our charms. A United States City is now where we stand tall since 1803 -unique and proud still - as the Post Katrina locals now say, "proud to swim home!" But all the deeds of past and those yet to come are ever present here, imbedded and imprinted into our Mississippi Mud —a haunting truth, ever repeating itself in ghostly replay in modern day. Les Bon temps roulee!!
Why does New Orleans have a haunted history?
New Orleans had the highest mortality rate in North America for nearly 2 centuries. Plagues Of Yellow fever and Cholera claimed tens of thousands of lives very quickly leaving their shadows reaching out. This is imprinted here; the dead are not dead; energy never dies it just transfers. There are many geophysical factors that may contribute to our haunted phenomenon as well. Plus spirits love to party and what better place than here!!!!
Do people still speak French there?
No, and we don’t have a southern drawl either! The old Patois- our Creole French and its endearing melody have left us with a few phrases we use as new Orleans lingo but the mainstream old French died out early 20th century- did you know the Americans made it illegal to speak here! It became regarded as the old ways even in the time I was growing up. Some spoke it in the closet, some learned proper French in school but it is not used in daily conversation. We have our Le Bon temps roulee—let the good times roll, or our laignappe-a little something extra-and a few other patois today but we speak American!
Now The Cajuns have their own French dialect, some speak in the swamps but it too is dwindling away.
Creole-Cajun-what’s the difference?
A simple answer from the inside or the way I grew up would be city/country, respectively.
The Cajuns or Acadians who came from various part of France, especially the Brittany area and such-moved to Canada, left there and eventually made their way to New France to settle in the swamps as trappers and furriers, fishermen and such.
Creole—technically “native born” is the definition. In this area it tends to refer to those born here in the new world Louisiana- prior to the Americanization of 1803—you could be Creole French, Creole Spanish, Creole German Creole African, Creole Italian to name a few- OR any mixture there of. Also add born here, spoke French, was Catholic etc… a Creole person, a Creole custom, a Creole food etc. an adjective if you will.
What do Catholics have to do with New Orleans?
Everything! We were 100% Catholic colony-by order of the king and order of the Pope. Under the French and Spanish we had what many say was a liberal Latin Catholic attitude-it was defiantly unique! It was not officially mixed until after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and many came to call and complain and change- -but we held our own. No we defiantly have more Baptists technically per cap but still Catholic empowered. New Orleans is the only part of the country that has parishes instead of counties, to cite one example.
If you were 100% Catholic how could you have been so associated with Voodoo?
Wherever the slave trade existed in Catholic areas it seems the religions merged—Voodoo seems to be syncretism, or many say. The French and Spanish Catholics did not truly look at Voodoo as a religious threat and the Africans saw the power of the God of Catholicism and the Saints ever present in the so-called “masters” religion much the same as their God and Loa. Also importantly the Catholics were not against dancing or music-an integral part to the Voodoo World. Multi-cultural customs were somewhat accepted in the Creole Catholic mind, definitely depended on for survival and perhaps a bit less hypocritical than present day religious views from the Vatican on Voodoo. No matter what the verdict is from the Vatican on the subject is today, it cannot erase the earlier New Orleans Voodoo/Catholic connection (or in other areas), Voodoo still respectsand embraces Catholicism today.
Why is New Orleans the home of Jazz and blues?
The sounds of the seething swamps called to the pounding beat of the Rivers’ thunder. Chorus called back with a gators snap and the eagle wailed in response. And a new music was born—spellbinding in form. Music has been called the universal language, uniting friend and foe! Where else on earth has that shown as true as here—in this melting pot of the world, New Orleans? We indeed are Gumbo Town—always—“sumpun’ stirrin’ the pot!” The old ones, the natives here played their sacred drum, playing with the wind from flute and skins. The new ones added to the brew- -playing mainland Europe’s finest sounds. Then of course the march, the brass societies paraded through, banding up and blending in their favorite beat. The Africans came to add their shouts, stomps, drums and banjo too-spiced it up all hot—sprinkling an unforgettable call and response, kind of floating atop. The blues was born without solid form—a kind of soulful moan in music rattlin from deep within dem bones—blues begat a new note all its own and then along came jazz movin on in and out—screaming and dancing us through the streets, the brothels, through the heartland and all the joints loosened up and down the river true. Music history here does not stop—oh no—it can not - it travels far and and it travels wide—but sure was true born here and imbedded in the soul of that crescent curve—a mouth so sweet it slides you on down --all the way home, snaking its way back here in modern day where spirit still respects that mambo beat. Some things change—that’s the way it always seems to be but even the new sounds heard the Root, an integral part of this gris-gris. Our hometown hero, ambassador true, Mr. Louis Armstrong knew this too, way back when he said: “there would’t’ t be any rock and roll if it weren't’t for me!”—That’s oh so true and is just a part of our magical musical history roux!
Bloody Mary ©2003