New Orleans 2

When I visited the city, I could see the French influence. It was everywhere. That and the carabean one also. The small sidewalks, the bright colors, the organization of the town.

Yes, I saw the influence of my country (I am French). I recognized it in its ugly side also. French people must have been the European country who treated their slaves the worst.

Right outside the French Quarter, the one I described in the previous post, there is heaven. Or the real estate idea of it. Houses as big as airports one after the other, all in a row. The kind that fits 8 bedrooms, a basketball court, a bowling alley and a swimming pool under the same roof. Some of them have Greek columns, some have lush gardens, some have enormous front decks. You get the jist of it.

For everyone that goes to New Orleans, it’s a great neighborhood to visit. The display of wealth is almost obscene.

These were houses owned mainly by plantation owners who didn’t want to be in the dangerous red district (the French Quarter), but didn’t want to be living with their slaves either. So they built something that would keep them close to the action (the port). And they had a little contest going: who would get the biggest house, the biggest number of horses on their carriage, the most beautiful columns on the front, that kind of things. Remember at the same time they were building those houses, in France, I’m talking 17th, 18th century, they were building the gorgeous but very expensive Loire Castles. No expenses spared.

So, why do I call it the “ugly side” of it?

Because someone had to pay for those beautiful mansions. Namely, the black people. Those fortunes were made upon their backs, their pain, their sweat.

But, to add insult to injuries, the French were very, very bad with their slaves. Awful, really.

Slaves were forbidden to play any kind of music on the whole state of Louisiana. Yes, you heard me right. Please, look it up. Blacks were beaten and shackled, they were treated less than dirt, but they were also deprived of one of the most essential component of what makes us human: music.

In Louisiana, there was only one day and one place where slaves could play music: Sunday was the day and “Le vieux carré” “The old square”, was the place.

What a price to pay to be Black at the time! What an extraordinary toll imposed by French people just because someone had a darker pigmentation at birth.

And that brings me to music, the beautiful, deep, diverse, accessible, fun music of New Orleans. I’ll develop that in another blog.