For many people, spring break is an opportunity to get away from school and family and get some sun. Like others I need to get away but I set out on a 16 hour car ride with my family to the beautiful city of New Orleans. Only a few years ago, this city experienced one of the greatest natural disasters to hit North America in the 21st century, Hurricane Katrina. As we entered the city off of Interstate 10, you could feel the life the city itself breathed. Many people view New Orleans as a “Recovering City” or a “Party Spot” and while it may be both of those things it is so much more.
Unloading our car at our hotel in the French Quarter, you could hear the city being brought to life with live Jazz music a few streets over. There was a walking parade full of people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a few days early and there were people everywhere enjoying each other’s company. On St. Patrick’s Day we attended a parade where two-story floats threw beads, cabbage, carrots and other vegetables, and celebrated the heritage of some of the French Quarters founding members. The French Quarter itself was settled in its early days by people of many nationalities and the Irish were no exception.
On our Swamp Tour, our tour guide explained to us that he had encountered people of every nationality in his hometown and had never seen problems with race. Everyone celebrates everyone’s heritage, everyone appreciates each other’s culture, and everyone gets along for the most part. They bond over the music, the food, and the art. New Orleans has, even more surprisingly, almost always been this way. In New Orleans, slaves could always work for their freedom. You could find free black slaves in New Orleans who owned property prior to the Civil War. These slaves learned to play the classical European music and mixed it with the songs of their ancestors in order to create the genre we know today as Jazz. Most importantly, New Orleans citizens remember their history and celebrate it whenever they can. The original city, which is the French Quarter, still has three of their original building standing even when the city burned twice in three years. The city pulled together through fires, hurricanes, and war. During these times, it didn’t matter who you were or what you did for a living, they would band together to survive and save their city.
I think we could learn something from this beautiful city. Sometimes, I think we lose our way and begin to hate people who are different for whatever reason it is today. New Orleans is a place where it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you are because they will accept you into their little melting pot. In fact, they will do you one better and probably celebrate your heritage right alongside you. So I would encourage everyone to go to New Orleans at least once in your life. It’s not just a party spot or a recovering city, it’s a character with a life of its own and it is one experience I will never forget.
Oh and while you’re at it, do yourself a favor stop at Café du Monde get yourself a cup of the world’s first coffee and a beignet and then go across the street to get a muffaletta at Central Grocery. You won’t regret it.