I’ve only had the privilege of being in New Orleans for a little more than a few days so I deplore you to take my observations with a substantial grain of salt. These are my reactions on the impact the city left me while I was there.
I’m going to compare New Orleans to Boston, only because that’s the best way I can articulate how I feel about it. Boston is a historical town. There is a tale of struggle and victory you can feel in the city. We wanted freedom and independence, and we got it. Now there is that feeling of joy and celebration because of that victory. The struggle for independence is over. New Orleans also breaths its struggles. While the French and Spanish street names cement the Creole past, the most significant contribution to the image and soul of the city came from the people of color who struggled for generations there.
While at Louis Armstrong park I met a man with a tambourine selling drinks to tourists, eager to tell people about the history of the place. He told me how ever since Spanish rule, slaves were free on Sundays, and would often come there to celebrate with others. He told me how the Native Americans, African slaves and Haitians would often intermingle and teach one another many useful skills and traditions. What amazed me about all this was how these people of color were able to find joy and celebrate with one another despite the unspeakable amount of hardship they lived through daily. And that is was stuck with me. Despite. That feeling of ‘despite’ was what hung around in New Orleans more than it did Boston. That despite of everything, there were people who were able to create cultural shockwaves throughout the entire nation, and make New Orleans more of a cultural landmark than it ever could have without them. It was also clear that the struggle never ended. Progress was slow and painful, but despite of it they achieved incredible things.
That’s one of the things I love about the city, you can’t ignore the darker side of the history, it is there and it is clear. The joy and the pain exist hand in hand, but still clear it can only go up, and the struggle will continue to bring the city and its people towards a better future. In that way New Orleans is real and authentic, in a way a lot of places aren’t.
Maybe that’s why they call it The Big Easy, not because people are just more relaxed, but because if you don’t take it easy, you can’t enjoy those few moments where you can find relief despite of everything else that may cause you harm.