Cajun Country & New Orleans

Southern Louisiana is distinctive from the rest of the South because of its Cajun culture which consists of Roman Catholicism; French-speakers and French-language words and place names; Cajun foods, music, and dancing; southern agriculture; and New Orleans. Take an optional trip through Cajun country.

New Orleans:
Themes and Districts

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On a much smaller-scale New Orleans, like Las Vegas, is known by tourists as a party town. Particularly unique to this city is Mardi Gras and jazz. Optional: how is Mardi Gras celebrated outside of New Orleans?

New Orleans reflects both authenticity and the placelessness of sinning, reflected in the various districts of the city. In the French Quarter, New Orleans has a unique flavor found in no other place in the United States, including Disneyland! 140-acre Jazz Land Theme park in New Orleans (May 2000)  provides  rides, entertainment, and a celebration of  the unique culture of Louisiana. Jazzland is 20 minutes from downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter.

French Quarter
Most of the French Quarter (map) is residential with single and double shotgun houses. In addition, luxury hotels, antique shops, T-shirt shops, restaurants, and lots of different street artists are also found here. Restaurants, small and large, inexpensive and expensive, serve great French and other European influenced-food in the French Quarter. Ever since it was built in 1721, Jackson Square, a former military parade site, has served as the center of the city. It is surrounded by many historic buildings, including the St. Louis Cathedral, which dates from 1789, and is considered the oldest active cathedral in the United States. Jackson Square provides easy access to the Mississippi River and is home to many street performers, vendors and artists. At night, strip jointsand live music clubs come alive on Bourbon Street. Bars such as Pat O'Brien's and the Cat's Meow are popular with all-night revelers. New Orleansis one of only two cities in the country that does not have a closing law for bars. Read about the brothels of New Orleans. Royal Street is famous for its many art and antique shops. Examine the land uses in the French Quarter.

Cemeteries
Because it is below sea level, New Orleans is dotted with above-ground burial tombs dating back to the 1700s. Visit one of these historic cemeteries:
1) Lafayette Cemetery in the 1400 block of Washington Avenue (Garden District)
2) St. Louis Cemetery on Basin Street (near the Quarter)
3) Odd Fellow's Rest at Canal Street and City Park Avenue (Mid-City)

Since local law allows corpses to be removed from the burial tombs after one year and one day (plenty of time for bodies to decompose in the 300-degree heat inside the tombs), bones are often shoved aside after this period to make room for a new body. Because of crime, it is best to tour the cemeteries in groups and during the day. Optional: Read an article about the big business of stealing cemetery items from the historic cemeteries in New Orleans.

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
When ex-slaves from Haiti came to New Orleans they brought with them voodoo and a distinctive house type called "shotgun houses." The voodoo museum is dedicated to Marie Laveau, the New Orleans voodoo queen who gained influence through the use of her spiritual powers -- and through her gossipy connections as a hairdresser for the wealthy. In the gift shop you can purchase love potions, voodoo dolls, and money powder, as well as incense to protect you from envy. The museum offers several tours from 24 Dumaine St., French Quarter, (504) 523-7685.

Garden District
In the 19th century "Americans" settled in large numbers in New Orleans, changing its character from Spanish and French to a typical U.S. city. While a new CBD was being built next to the French Quarter, the wealthy built their mansions along the avenues in the Garden District.
The post World War II suburbs of New Orleans are also distinctive. The swampy soil requires that poles be pounded into the ground to support a concrete slab on which a house is built. In the past, flooding was rather common, so houses have stairs that lead to the upper stories that are above the flood level. Four-sided brick walls are common and houses have no basements. In the Midwest, almost all houses have basements and since the 1970s, brick is frequently only used on the front side of houses -- to save money on labor and materials. neworleanshouse1.jpg (28360 bytes)

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African-Americans
African-Americans have a long history in New Orleans. As a southern city, slaves lived with their slave owners in the city, usually in separate slave quarters beside or in back of the big house. Many of these slave residences are still standing in the French Quarter and in the Garden District. Free blacks were also a distinctive part of New Orleans. Indeed, only Charleston, SC, Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD rivaled New Orleans in the diversity, wealth, and cosmopolitan character of the black population after the Civil War. For instance, while New Orleans blacks had a per capita wealth of $40 in 1880, blacks in Savannah, Georgia, possessed only $7.31 per capita. Furthermore, in New Orleans whites and blacks had more sexual encounters and mixed-race marriages and off springs than any other southern city because only a decade after the Civil War, Louisiana was one of the few southern states that permitted interracial marriages and outlawed segregation in schools and places of public accommodations. [Source: John Blassingame, Black New Orleans, 1860-1880. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.] Where do blacks live in New Orleans today?

Because of the many interesting places, New Orleans has become a major convention site.

 

Created by Ingolf Vogeler on 1 June 1996; last updated on 15 March 2011.