Somos NOLA

Acción de gracias

Acción de gracias

Acción: Hecho, acto u operación que implica actividad.

En los Estados Unidos existe el día de “Thanksgiving” que ha sido traducido, en su mayoría, a Día de Acción de Gracias. Con los agites del mundo moderno y la facilidad con la que obtenemos nuestras necesidades básicas, tomamos todo por hecho, deseamos más, estamos inconformes, y la mayoría del tiempo nos enfocamos en lo que nos hace falta.

El Día de Acción de Gracias es de gran relevancia en la cultura estadounidense, y nos sirve como una pausa para Compartir en familia y recordar todas las razones que tenemos para agradecer.

Obed es un niño de 12 años que a pesar de sus dificultades siempre se muestra agradecido. Obed, quien está bajo el cuidado de su madre, ha pasado por más de diez cirugías en el cerebro por hidrocefalia, ha pasado por una cirugía de corazón, y ahora batalla con un tumor en su pierna que será operado con urgencia.

Angélica Rivera de Colmex Construction recibió una llamada acerca de la situación de Obed y la necesidad de una rampa de acceso para su residencia. La historia de Obed la conmovió profundamente, pero fue cuando Rivera conoció en persona a Obed que su corazón le exigió acción. “Lo que más me llamó la atención de Obed cuando lo conocí fue su actitud positiva frente a la vida. A pesar de todos sus problemas y las cosas difíciles por las que ha pasado, es un niño que irradia alegría”.

Rivera y su familia inmediatamente se pusieron manos a la obra. Home Depot se sumó a los esfuerzos luego de escuchar brevemente la razón del proyecto, y donó cerca de $2,000 en materiales. El sábado pasado fue el día de la obra. “Para mi fue una sorpresa muy especial ver que todos los integrantes del equipo llegaron el sábado a ayudar”. Rivera había hecho un llamado para quienes quisieran donar su tiempo para esta causa y sin cuestionarlo, 14 integrantes de Colmex Construction, incluyendo personal de oficina, llegaron al sitio para donar su trabajo en su día libre y construir la rampa para Obed.

Acción: Una llamada, una respuesta, una visita, un compromiso, una donación, una construcción en equipo. La suma de estas acciones consiguió algo tan simple como una rampa. Para Obed, esa rampa facilita movilidad en la silla de ruedas. Para

Obed, también es de gran impacto en su vida, sentir el cariño y el apoyo de una comunidad que no lo abandona.

Obed quien se prepara para la cirugía del tumor en su pierna pronto, en este día de acción de gracias tiene un pequeño motivo más para seguir siendo esa persona positiva, que aprecia la vida y se muestra siempre agradecido.

Recordemos ser más como Obed y tener en cuenta los miles de motivos para agradecer hoy y cada día. ¿Por qué agradeces en este día?




By the NOLA READY Team

Click aqui para español- > NOLA READY

Each year in New Orleans, hurricane season lasts from June to November.

Tropical weather begins with a low-pressure area of circling winds over water. A system can develop into a tropical depression, tropical storm, or a hurricane. Dangers include high winds, heavy rain, tornadoes, flooding, and power outages, which means you should insure your property for both wind and flood damage. You’re probably no stranger to these storms. Still, it’s important to make a plan with your family in case a storm comes our way. This guide offers the basics. There are extra things to consider during an emergency for seniors, young children, people with medical needs, and pet owners. Call 311 to sign up for the special needs registry if you are elderly or have medical or mobility needs. Find more information on ready.nola.gov.


Make a “home kit”

Clean & secure your property

  • Remove debris from gutters • Clear debris from catch basins • Prune trees & shrubs • Bring outdoor furniture & decorations inside • Secure or bring garbage bins inside • Prepare for power & water outages • Fill bathtub with water to clean & flush toilets • Turn fridge to its lowest temperature. • Charge electronic devices. • Preserve cell phone battery life.
  • If you need power for medical equipment, call 311 to register your special needs.

Stay safe & informed

  • Bring pets inside. • Lock doors & windows • Close curtains & blinds. • Stay inside until officials say it’s safe. • Call 911 in an emergency. Call 311 for information. • Storms can be scary for kids. Talk about what’s happening & entertain with games & toys.


Make a “go bag”

Plan your route

Know where, how & with whom you’re going. • Leave with a full tank of gas & plan that it could take four times longer than usual.

Use City-assisted evacuation if you can’t evacuate on your own

  • During a mandatory evacuation, go to an evacuspot. Five of them have extra help for seniors.
  • If you can’t get to an evacuspot because of medical needs, you might be eligible to be picked up from your home. Call 311. • Buses will take you to a shelter outside the area & will bring you back when it’s safe. • Bring only 1 carry-on sized bag per person. • Pets should have an ID collar, leash, medications & a carrier.

Clean & secure your property

  • Remove debris from gutters & downspouts. • Clear debris from catch basins. • Prune trees & shrubs. • Bring outdoor furniture, decorations and garbage bins inside.

Mardi Gras Love

Mardi Gras Love

By Christopher Ard

Click aqui para español- >Amor de Mardi Gras

Most people come to New Orleans to “see the Mardi Gras” and anticipate an overabundance of drinks, color, flesh, music, and food. However, for those of us who are from here, we know it’s more than that. Family, for example, is a large part of carnival. If anything, spending time with family and friends is what we’ve been doing all winter throughout the Christmas holidays…so we’re just extending the holidays by a few weeks. Carnival also marks the beginning of spring—more daylight, warmer weather—and love.

Here in the United States, we are lucky enough to celebrate carnival AND Valentine’s Day—that day set aside for love, lovers, liking, lust, longing, and several other words beginning with the letter ‘L’. So, with carnival and Valentine’s Day happening at the same time, there must be a carnival love story—and there is! Keep in mind that I’m writing this the Tuesday before Valentine’s Day, so love is on my mind.

In 1871, the Russian Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Romanov was on a tour of North America. At some point in his travels he met an actress named Lydia Thompson while she was in a play singing a funny song called “If Ever I Cease to Love.” Rumor has it that Alexei fell in love with Lydia. One of his last stops on his tour was New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Miraculously, Lydia showed up in town as well. There was a new daytime Mardi Gras krewe called “Rex” that year. The city was excited to know that the Grand Duke was in town and everyone had heard the rumors of their love affair. So, throughout the parade, every band would play the song “If Ever I Cease to Love,” to put a smile on the Duke’s face.

If ever I cease to love, If ever I cease to love, May the moon be turned to green cream cheese, If ever I cease to love.

Of course, Alexei was 21 years old, so the love affair didn’t last too long. Both he and Lydia went their separate ways, but the song remained. It became the official song of Mardi Gras and has been played during every carnival season since 1872, much to the confusion of most tourists today.

In my opinion, this story captures the essence of carnival in New Orleans—excess. Carnival is great already, but now I introduced some extra information, like a Russian Duke and an actress. It’s details that aren’t really needed to have a great carnival, but it just makes it that much MORE impressive.

And that’s carnival. There’s too much drinking, too much food, too many parades, too much music, too much dancing…all in celebration of life and love. I hope you all have a great carnival season and indulge in too much of everything because, if you’re anything like me, it’ll make for an extremely relaxing and peaceful Lent.

Happy Carnival!

Are You From Here?

Are You From Here?

By Christopher Ard

Click aqui para español- >¿Eres de Aquí?

When I purchased my home in New Orleans’ 8th Ward a few years ago, my neighbors came out to meet me. They were kind and very welcoming, and eager to find out the answer to their question, “Where you from, baby?”

Now, understand that I’m a born and raised New Orleanian, so, I knew exactly what they meant. However, I also have some very distinct Native American characteristics, so I understand the confusion I cause when my response is, "I’m from here." Inevitably, hearing this response leads to “Yeah, but where you really from?”, which then leads to my answer, "The Lower 9th Ward. Tupelo Street." This answer generally satisfies most New Orleanians.

You see, the from here question isn’t really about my appearance; it’s about whether I’m a New Orleanian—a REAL New Orleanian. But what is a real New Orleanian? And if you weren’t born here, can you ever become a REAL New Orleanian?

In this article, I’ll attempt to give instructions on how to become a REAL New Orleanian. This first thing to understand: NO ONE IS REALLY FROM HERE.

We are a port city, no different than New York, London, San Francisco, or Singapore. We are constantly evolving, changing, expanding and shrinking. Without the influx of new people and ideas, we would not have jazz, shotgun houses, Spanish architecture, jambalaya, or even individuals like me who embody the variety of ethnicities that have created this city.

With that said, here is my version of what you need to do to become a New Orleanian.

You must experience a life-altering event with your community.

Hurricane Katrina dispersed most New Orleanians to every state in the nation. Nearly half a million people were scattered about the country, without a home, away from family, not knowing if everyone got out...for months. Those of us who experienced this have been linked together for the rest of our lives, much like military veterans who develop camaraderie while fighting in a war zone, or like passengers who survive a plane crash. Let me be clear, I hope you never have to experience strife while living here--a flood, a hurricane, or even a shooting--but when you do, if you do, you automatically become a New Orleanian.

Forgive us our sins.

Please ignore the current New Orleanians’ sense of ownership over our town and culture. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was the largest city in the country with the largest native-born population. After the hurricane, we became extremely protective of what’s left of our city. We turned our attention to symbols that weren’t too popular like the fleur-de-lis, searching for a sense of belonging or a connection to what we lost. If you want to become a REAL New Orleanian, start by accepting current New Orleanians for who they are--attitudes, cultures, beliefs, accents...all of it.

Don’t try to change us; just add to it.

Understandably, racism, sexism, poverty, the failing school system are all things that needed to change. Everything else can always be improved upon. I grew up in the Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard. My Christmas’ dinner featured gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp stew, AND Mexican tamales. You see, we didn’t choose one or the other. We had both. Don’t move here and start a Philly cheesesteak restaurant. Mix it up! Try something new. Make us the envy of the country, not a mirror image of Brooklyn or another city.

Love us, but don’t use us.

We get it. The rest of the country is just Cleveland. The United States of Generica can be boring, repeated, capitalist, copied, and the rules are out of hand. So, you found refuge here, below sea level, with the rest of us. Real New Orleans will take you in. It’ll love every inch of you, imperfections and all. It’ll sacrifice its drainage system to your refuse, its neutral grounds to your SUVs, its balcony polls to your bike chains, all with the intent of you loving her back.

Part of that love is honoring her traditions. There’s a reason for Carnival, for Mardi Gras, and for St. Joseph’s Day. And no, it’s not so you can put more glitter on and get drunk. I’m not asking you to become Catholic, but I am asking you to temper your needs to contribute to the tourism machine. You don’t need to party every day. When you do, you neglect New Orleans. You contribute to the exploitation of her culture and the demise of everything we hold dear.

If you want New Orleans to survive, you must do the work. If you want to live somewhere simply to drink and be selfish, go someplace terrible like Las Vegas. You won’t harm a thing there. So, those are my basic instructions for becoming a REAL New Orleanian.

You see, it’s not up to me, or any other person born in New Orleans to decide whether you are FROM here. I believe some people are already born with New Orleans in them. If you’re lucky, you’ll live here at some point and let your New Orleans show.

First, we are a city of historical conformity, of tradition, of family, and of love, all of which takes work. Second, we know how to take a break every now and again, don a mask and some color, and give thanks that we live here. But this is all the opinion of a guy who was born in Metairie—take it or leave it.

Do Whatcha Wanna-- on Frenchmen Street!

Do whatcha wanna-- on Frenchmen Street!

By Christopher Ard

Click aqui para español- >¡Haz lo que te parezca En la calle Frenchmen!

It’s January in New Orleans and that means it’s time to hit the streets! Odds are, you’re going to find yourself dancing down Frenchmen Street at some point this carnival season—celebrating life. Yes, there are few streets in post-Katrina New Orleans that conjure up images of fun, laughter, jazz, and an all-around good time like Frenchmen Street. However, things at the edge of the French Quarter weren’t always so jovial.

In 1763, the countries of Europe signed the Treaty of Paris, thus ending the 7 Years War (also known as the French and Indian War). Just a year earlier, France and Spain met secretly and signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau which gave Louisiana and New Orleans to Spain. Of course, there were no cell phones or Internet back then, so news of the secret treaty finally spread in 1764.

-Overnight the French and German settlers of New Orleans became Spaniards-

Overnight the French and German settlers of Louisiana and New Orleans became Spaniards, and as such, it was expected that they now drink Catalonian wine from Spain, rather than Bordeaux wine from France. Well, this news was shocking to most residents of New Orleans, as you can imagine.

A few years passed, and Spain finally sent a new Spanish governor to Louisiana. Don Antonio de Ulloa showed up with his wife and was immediately met with resistance by the French population who did not want to be Spanish or drink Spanish wine. Ulloa wanted to stop some of the nefarious happenings in New Orleans. There was rampant smuggling happening up and down the river, so the new Spanish governor decided to shut down all of the entrances to the river except for one. The local shipping industry wouldn’t tolerate it. In 1768, 600 residents helped run Ulloa out of town in what is now called the Louisiana Rebellion of 1768—the first rebellion of European-Americans against European powers.

When news of the rebellion reached Spain, the King was furious. About a year later, Spain sent Don Alejandro O’Reilly (an Irishman) to re-establish Spanish rule. Upon his arrival, O’Reilly threw a dinner party and invited those who organized the rebellion. He promised no one would be punished. However, at the dinner party, he had them arrested. Five of the conspirators were sentenced to death by firing squad on October 26, 1769, another five were imprisoned in Cuba for two years, and another was sent to prison in France. Among those killed were Nicholas Chauvin de Lafreniere (same as in the park in Metairie).

Over the next few months, “Bloody” O’Reilly (as he was then known as) established Spanish rule in Louisiana. French flags were lowered, and Spanish flags were raised, street names were translated or changed, the currency changed to the peso—but the local population never forgot the Frenchmen whom were killed or imprisoned during the revolt.

36 years later, Bernard Marigny sold his land downriver from the French Quarter and subdivided the land. As he named the new streets for things he loved, like Craps, Love, and Good Children, there was one street he saved in honor of those men who died fighting for their freedom. Rumor has it that the execution of the Frenchmen happened nearby where Frenchmen Street meets Esplanade Avenue today.

So, this carnival, as you dance down Frenchmen Street, pour some out for those Frenchmen who stood up against government rules and regulations. Listen to some jazz—that musical art form from New Orleans that breaks all the rules. Do watcha wanna!!!—it’s tradition.

Reveillon: Just like Nochebuena, but here in New Orleans

Reveillon: Just like Nochebuena, but here in New Orleans

By Christopher Ard

Click aqui para español- >Réveillon: La Nochebuena de Nueva Orleans

Pork tamales. If there’s one flavor that reminds me of Christmas, it’s that of pork tamales. Well, to be honest, gumbo is also one. There’s nothing like a hot bowl of gumbo on a cold, wet night to get me into the holiday mood.

I didn’t know it when I was younger, but my cultural background was a blessing. On the Mexican side of the family, our table was full of tamales, tortillas, beans, rice, and turkey. On the Louisiana side of the family, it was shrimp creole, oyster dressing, gumbo, and a variety of other dishes my cajun grandfather would whip up from his garden.

Yes, I was blessed with the best meals at Christmas, but little did I know, although the food was different, the tradition was the same. Long before the United States’ Christmas culture of trees, gifts, and consumerism arrived in New Orleans, French families carried on the old tradition of a Reveillon--a big dinner on Christmas Eve filled with family and friends. Sure, Christmas Day is great, but Christmas Eve is the real party!

If you’re fortunate enough to know someone with a Louisiana background, you may have been invited to one of these large meals. According to Wikipedia, within the United States, it’s something unique to New Orleans--or is it?

Just as French-American gather for Christmas Eve and stuff themselves with traditional meals, Latino families follow a similar tradition. Nochebuena is what many Spanish-speaking people call Christmas Eve.

From Spain to Colombia to Mexico, families gather together on Nochebuena to eat, attend midnight Mass, dance, and exchange gifts. While the two names for this celebration are different, the purpose is the same--to bring families together for the holiest night of the Catholic calendar.

Of course, Latinos are a diverse people. Many of us are far from home and won’t get to see our families this year and not every Latino practices Catholicism. No matter, if you find yourself in New Orleans this holiday season, you too can partake in this French, or Spanish, tradition.

Since the 1990’s, the New Orleans tourism engine has encouraged restaurants to offer Reveillon menus in order to attract tourists during the typically slow holiday period--and it’s not just on Christmas Eve.

Keep your eyes out this holiday season for Reveillon menus and specials. While you may not be able to get home this year, you can do your part to continue the tradition of gathering at Nochebuena right here in New Orleans--at least with friends over an incredible meal.

Illustrator Daniel Garcia

Get movin’!

Get movin’!

Click aqui para español- >¡Muévete!

Mobility has always been a problem for humans. Our earliest ancestors used to carry things back and forth with nothing but their body strength. Eventually, someone invented the wheel. The wheel transformed humanity. No longer did people have to carry everything. Now, they could roll things where they needed them to be. Fast-forwarded a few hundred years and man began to power their machines with steam, coal, and wood. Bicycles were invented so people could pedal themselves across town. Then Henry Ford invented the assembly line and started producing automobiles that nearly anyone could afford.

Of course, man wasn’t only tied to the ground. Humans took flight over the last several hundred years through advances in physics and engineering. We were now able to get to most places on the planet, compared to our ancestors who could only dream of transporting water from the river to their villages in jars balanced on their heads.

All these advancements influenced how and where we settled. Most major cities are near a river or an ocean—the world’s original highways. Later, as we changed transportation styles, we were able to settle places like Las Vegas and Denver—far from sources of water. The look and feel of our cities are tied to transportation and density. If your city developed in the 1900’s, chances are, there are large highways for the movement of cars. It’s likely difficult to get around without a car. The population is likely to be more obese because people walk less. If your city was settled before the invention of the automobile, like New Orleans and most cities in Latin America, you’ll notice narrow streets, smaller homes, and distinct neighborhoods because people were used to living within a more confined area.

As I write this article, I am on my way to Florence, Italy, and Berlin, Germany—two older and dense cities. I personally like visiting these places because they allow me to walk easily everywhere. I don’t have to rent a car, and I can walk around and see everything the city has to offer.

Luckily for me, I live in New Orleans, which gives me the same advantages in my everyday life. We live in a small, big city—all the amenities of a large city, but in a compact area. When the weather is nice, I can walk to work, or to the French Quarter, or just to get a cup of coffee. Besides destressing, the exercise is good for my heart, and helps me maintain my weight—although I probably could lose a little more.

For those of us who have been here since before 2005, our methods of urban transportation have changed drastically. Most of us remember when the only option was the bus or your personal vehicle. The streetcars were an Uptown thing and not close to our homes. Today, the City of New Orleans has over 100 miles of bike lanes and counting. Recent safety measures that have been implemented are making walking and biking in New Orleans safer for everyone. It’s true that some people are complaining about this new addition to the driving experience in New Orleans, but like every other city—we change.

Take some time to learn about the new transportation methods available to us in New Orleans and you’ll see just how similar we are to Latin American and European cities. Rent a Blue Bike and visit the new Moon Walk along the river. Catch the streetcar from the cemeteries to downtown. Ride through Mid-City on a dedicated pedestrian path called the Lafitte Greenway. Autumn is here. Get outside and enjoy your pedestrian-friendlier city!




We are all Americans, Right?

We are all Americans, Right?

By Christopher Ard

Click aqui para español->Todos somos Americanos…¿no?

Happy Columbus Day! or maybe it’s better to say Feliz Día de la Raza! Either way, let’s celebrate America! Land that I love. Land of the free. Home of the brave. There’s just one problem--what is America?

Most of you reading this are likely of Latin American descent. So, does that make you American? When the United States government asks for nationality, do you say American? There are many Americas, from the north to the south. There’s Spanish America and Portuguese America, and even a little French America, which together make up Latin America. But there’s also Central America, but then there’s the United States which claims the overall title of American. So then, what does America mean?

For a few years, Columbus and other European experts thought they had sailed around the world and arrived in Asia. Until that time, spices and other goods were transported across Asia and Europe. So, when Columbus landed he saw the native people and their brown skin and thought, “Oh, these are Indians.” That’s the reason why many people today still call native people Indians. It was a big mistake, based on racism and a lack of a knowledge about this new land.

Through his knowledge of the stars, descriptions of Asia, and his own mapping skills, Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer figured out that this new world was much larger than everyone suspected back in Europe and was, in fact, an entirely different continent--or two! Amerigo had figured out that what he and Columbus were exploring were North and South America, two entirely different continents. As a reward for his discovery, map makers started labeling the new world as America--the female version of Americus, Latin for his name.

Fast-forward a few years and Europeans began pouring into the new world, some with slaves. Some of these people spoke French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English. The largest divisions were between Brazil--where the Portuguese landed--and the rest of South America where the Spanish had a majority control.

The next division was basically right here in New Orleans, where Spanish, French, and English were spoken depending upon which part of town you were in. If you left the city to the East, you’d find the United States citizens who spoke English. Leaving the city to the West, you came across Spanish territory where they spoke Spanish. (Ever heard of the Zwolle Tamale festival in western Louisiana?) Before the Louisiana Purchase, you could say anything West and South of the Mississippi River was Latin America. Today that line is now the United States-Mexican border. But if we’re being honest, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Nevada could all be considered part of Latin America because of cultural similarities.

Finally, there’s the most confusing part of this story--where is Central America? Central America is not a continent. It is, in fact, geologically part of the North American continent. But that’s not enough to stop everyone from making up their own definitions for Central America. The United Nations refers to Central America as all countries from Mexico to Panama. The British include parts of Mexico to Panama. The Portuguese include all the Caribbean Islands as Central America. And finally, if you say Middle America, then you’re referring to all lands from Mexico to Colombia and Venezuela. To make everything more complicated, in many countries of Latin America only 5 continents are taught in schools, with America being one, though divided in 3 regions. This contradicts the teachings from other places that divide the land into 2 continents: North America and South America.

You see, America is a label applied by the Europeans to the new world--this giant land mass between Europe and Asia. They never intended for the term American to only be used by the people of the United States, and honestly, I don’t think the United States means any disrespect. Simply put, if they stop using American, is there another word in the English language to describe citizens of the United States? Maybe it’s time we invent one.

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month

By Christopher Ard

Click aqui para español->Mes de la Herencia Hispana

Every year, from September 15 to October 15, the United States observes National Hispanic Heritage month. During this time, the nation celebrates the significant contributions made by Hispanics to the cultural fabric of the United States. But there’s a problem…or two... What the hell does Hispanic mean?

In our nation’s need to categorize everything, the United States had a problem when it came to people from the southwest and Latin America. Originally, the terms Spanish-Americans, Spanish-speaking Americans, and (my favorite) Spanish-surnamed Americans were used to describe this group of people. However, the leaders of our country quickly realized that not every Latino could speak Spanish, not all Latinos have Spanish last names, and many Latin Americans are actually native American with no Spanish ancestry.

So, the term Hispanic was invented to group all of us who dance, eat beans, live south of Texas and Florida, are likely Catholic, and usually a shade or two browner than most people. It derived from the term Hispania which is the old Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula which has something to do with rabbits--but that’s not what this article is about.

Since 1988, after Ronald Reagan signed the National Hispanic Heritage Month into law, there has been much controversy about the name. Probably the biggest problem with the name is that it leaves out Brazilians. That’s right--National Hispanic Heritage month leaves out the most populous country in Latin America; although if you ask a Brazilian-American, they absolutely identify with other Latinos.

While the name of the month-long celebration may be a bit out-of-date, the timing of the holiday couldn’t be more appropriate. The independence days of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica are all on September 15th. Mexico’s independence is on the 16th, while Chile celebrates on the 18th.

Of course, like it or not, the United States celebrates Christopher Columbus’ conquest of the Americas on October 12--although many of us may know it as Dia de la Raza, or Day of the Race which is a great way to end this article.

Most Latinos outside of the United States don’t refer to themselves as Latinos. They are more likely to identify with their country of origin, or even their region of the country. Terms like Latino, Hispanic, Spanish-speakers, etc., were used to identify something or some people who were new to the current culture. At times, this was done to marginalize minorities because the dominant culture felt threatened. But, they were also used to unite a group of people who share a very similar culture. Some of us dance salsa, some bachata, others champeta colombiana.

Some of us speak Castellano, Quichua, Portuguese, and/or English. Many of us are Catholic, but not all of us go to church. This National Hispanic Heritage Month take a moment to learn about the other countries of Latin America--including Brazil; after all, we’re all related... at least according to the United States government.


By Christopher Ard

Click aqui para español->Huracán

It’s August in New Orleans and that means two things--heat and hurricanes. August and September are considered the height of hurricane season in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast and Caribbean.

Each year, we nervously watch the daily weather updates hoping that nothing is coming our way. The thought of a major hurricane destroying our homes, our communities, and life as we know it, strikes fear in most New Orleanians who have been through a hurricane. However, the Native Americans offer a unique perspective. The English word hurricane comes from the Native Americans of the Caribbean.

The Taíno of Puerto Rico had a word to describe these large spiraling storms that would come about during the summer. When the Spanish arrived, they borrowed the word and spelled it Huracán. The word Huracán was also shared with other native peoples within the hurricane belt of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

While the spellings and stories about these storms differ across cultures, there is one central theme that is often overlooked. Like many early cultures, the native people of the Caribbean understood that life was not always happy and not always sad. There was an equilibrium that occurred in nature. You can think of this as day and night, male and female, hot and cold, etc. The native peoples understood that nothing was permanent: Along with life comes death, but after death, life comes again.

This theme of an infinite spiral of chaos and life can be seen in the Taíno version of the hurricane. The symbol they used depicts the face of Guabancex, or “the one who destroys everything” with two long and curly arms spiraling out of her face. We use a version of this symbol today to depict hurricanes on our modern weather maps.

 The Mayan story of the god Huracán survived the European conquest better than most of the other cultures. According to the Mayans, Huracán was one of the creation gods, who could create great destruction or build new worlds. It was Huracán that destroyed the earlier versions of the earth with fire and then a great flood. Each time he destroyed the earth, Huracán gathered up materials and started new. He commanded the land rise out of the sea and then he created humans from a dough made of corn.

While we, today, associate hurricanes as powerful wind and rain storms, the Maya understood these storms a bit more in depth. The Yucatan Peninsula is a large flat area of land that is situated at one end of the Caribbean--directly in the path of the most powerful hurricanes and the center of the Mayan universe. The Maya knew that a hurricane wasn’t just the single storm alone.

As these storms blew through the region, they would knock down enormous swaths of forest. After the rainy season, the fallen trees would dry out. One bolt of lightning could then ignite the trees and huge fires would then sweep across the Yucatan. The now deforested land would then be susceptible to flooding. Of course, there was also the large storm surges--large waves that would wash far up onto the land, changing the coast line. For this reason, to the Maya, Huracán was more than the initial wind and rain. Huracán encompassed all the power of these great storms--including their aftermath and the renewal of the land.

The word hurricane comes from the Americas--from the native peoples of Latin America--and they never intended for it to be a scary word. Our ancestors acknowledged all aspects of the hurricane--the destruction and the renewal; and that’s how we should see them, along with other disasters in our lives.

 There will always be hurricanes, and floods, and fires, but with these disasters come opportunities to grow stronger and better. It may not be the easiest thing to do, but the next time you’re faced with a disaster take a step back and look at the entire picture. Life is an infinite spiral of ups and downs, of tears and laughs, of births and deaths. A hurricane is just nature giving us a chance to renew.

“La ciudad de New Orleans se parece a Barranquilla”

“La ciudad de New Orleans se parece a Barranquilla”

By Christopher Ard

Click aqui para español-> “La ciudad de New Orleans se parece a Barranquilla”

If you've lived in New Orleans over the last 40 years, you'll recall that North Rampart Street and Basin Street were not exactly the most popular destinations in town; it wasn't always like that. Many of us know that on the corner of North Rampart and Saint Peter Street there is a small park known as Congo Square.

In the early days of our city, slaves were allowed to congregate across Rampart Street from the French Quarter. It was here that United States’ first original music,jazz, was created. Just down the street from this location, at the corner of Canal Street and Basin Street, there is a statue of Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia.

In 1957, the Bolivarian Society of Louisiana gifted the City of New Orleans this statue in recognition of the city’s strong economic and cultural ties to what was once known as Gran Colombia. Today, the connection to that region now goes a little deeper. At the corner of North Rampart and St Peter, on Friday and Saturday nights, Octavio Ycaza and his brother can be found cooking in the front room of the Black Penny bar. His pop-up restaurant, Miti Miti, has become quite the sensation on a rapidly changing Rampart Street.

Unlike the typical large, heavy meals offered in most New Orleans restaurants, Miti Miti’s menu features what Octavio refers to as Ecuadorian Street-food or beach-food. Patrons can choose from menu items such as llapingachos, various empanadas, a delicious ceviche, or sango de camaron, just to name a few. With a new menu every week, Miti Miti is bringing to New Orleans food not typically found in our city, and on top of that,he stays open late night

Recently, I caught up with Octavio while he was cooking on a Friday night. He recalls and recounts, “I remember passing by the Simon Bolivar statue and thinking 'why Is that here?' I remembered Simon Bolivar from the money back in Ecuador, so it was just strange that this man from the money of my youth had a statue here in New Orleans. It made me love the city so much more.” But it's not just Miti Miti’s food, or the statue of a Latin American leader that connects us to the Gran Colombia region-it's also our street culture.

In 2016, I joined hundreds of New Orleanians as we took to the streets to celebrate the life of Prince, who had just passed away. It was a joyous celebration, as we all 2nd-lined through the streets of the city. About halfway through the procession, I realized I was marching next to Carlos Vives, who happened to be in town for Jazz Fest.

He had the biggest smile on his face as he looked at all the people dancing in the street. It reminded me of a song from one of his albums which is a great last sentence for this article: "La ciudad de Nueva Orleans se parece a Barranquilla!"


300 Years of New Orleans

300 Years of New Orleans

by Christopher Ard

Click aqui para español->300 años de Nueva Orleans

This year, the City of New Orleans is celebrating its 300th Anniversary.  In 1718, the French arrived to establish a city at the mouth of the greatest river in North America—the Mississippi River.  For nearly 44 years, they planned and settled New Orleans until 1762 when the French ceded Louisiana and the Isle of Orleans (the land between Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River, Lake Borgne, and LaPlace) to Spain. 

For the next 40 years, the City of New Orleans grew.  It was during this time that the original cathedral burned down along with most of the French Quarter.  Luckily, the Spanish rebuilt it along with most of the Vieux Carré that we know today, including the Cabildo, Madam John’s Legacy, Lafayette Square, and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.  So, although we call it the “French” Quarter, the architecture is mostly Spanish.  Louisiana and New Orleans were given back to the French in 1802, and finally sold via the Louisiana Purchase to the United States in 1803.

…and that’s just the first 100 years.

To most United States residents, New Orleans continues to be the most interesting city in the country. 

Tour guides explain that the constant changes between France, Spain, and the United States, created this unique culture of strange words, foods, music, and soul.  The New Orleans tricentennial website says, “[as] one of the world’s most unique and diverse cities, New Orleans will celebrate with our citizens and open our doors to the world to share our rich history and culture.”

Let me summarize this for everyone—we’re celebrating 300 years of Latino culture in New Orleans.

The story of New Orleans may be unique to Anglo-Saxon America, but for the rest of our side of the planet, the city’s story mimics those of Havana, Barranquilla, Cali, Santo Domingo, Guatemala, Managua, Veracruz, and many others.  New Orleans is the northern most Caribbean city in the United States.  Our history is part of the Caribbean’s history, from hurricanes to humidity, from carnival to Catholicism, and from sugar to slavery.  This celebration is a celebration of who we are as Latinos.

This brings me to the point of this article—what is a New Orleans Latino?  Many of us can trace our roots back much further than 300 years.  We come from the Taíno, the Maya, the Inca, and the Wayuu.  Many of us are part slave and part slave-owner.  We speak Spanish AND English, or French, or Creole.  Most of us eat tamales, albeit sometimes in a banana leaf, or sometimes in a corn husk.  Our history tells a story of how far we, as a city and a people, have come; however, it does not dictate what we may become tomorrow.  As Latinos, we live in a world that is neither here nor there when it comes to international borders.  We cross all sorts of boundaries—boundaries established by Anglo-Saxon America.  And that’s what the 300th birthday of New Orleans is all about—it’s about being different, about standing out.

This year, as you participate in the many events celebrating 300 years of New Orleans, remember that the events of 1718 did more than create a city at the mouth of the Mississippi River.  They added to a story already being told—the Latino Story.  The story of La Raza.

  • Published in Somos NOLA
  • Written by
  • Last modified on Thursday, 25 April 2019 13:09

Brown Like Me

Brown Like Me

By Christopher Ard

Click para español - Marrón, como yo.

If you spoke with me on the phone, you’d have no idea I was half-Mexican. However, because of genetic luck, many people who see me on the street greet me with “What’s up, mi amigo!” I like to tell people I got the brown gene in my family. You can see it in my eyes, my hair, and my skin tone-- but mostly in the summer. 

There was another famous New Orleans resident whose brown gene made him famous. Benito Juárez was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1806. Having Zapotec heritage, he became a hero of Mexico for separating the church and state, and for his native American heritage. In the mid-1850’s, Benito was exiled for his liberal views and like most other liberals lost in the world, ended up in New Orleans--twice. 

The story has it that Benito lived in New Orleans for about three years. Although he was a lawyer in Mexico, Benito’s life was anything but luxurious here in New Orleans. At one point he rolled cigars on St. Peter Street in the Quarter. 

He lived a life of poverty in New Orleans until he returned to Mexico to kick out the foreign rulers and transform his country into a modern nation. Many believe that it was his time here in New Orleans that influenced his thoughts on inequality and race. 

53 years ago, from April 22nd to the 29th, New Orleans celebrated “Mexico Week” as the city prepared to dedicate a statue of Benito Juárez on Basin Street. The city welcomed a delegation of 100 representatives from Mexico to help throw the party. To thank New Orleans for the hospitality shown to their hero, Mexico commissioned an artist to create an enormous statue of Juárez which today still stands on Basin and St. Louis Streets-- known as the Garden of the Americas. 

During the dedication of the statue, former Mexican Ambassador to the United States, Hugo B. Margain, said this, “Juárez is here, not as a mere gift from one nation to another, but as a reminder to young and old, that the humblest of origins is no impediment to greatness; that poverty of worldly goods can be overcome by spiritual wealth.” 

That brings me back to the beginning of this story-- My brown gene. I have my mother to thank for my indigenous looks. She was the first of her family born in New Orleans--Charity Hospital to be exact. 

My grandfather named her Tomasa, after his own mother who was back in Nuevo León, Mexico, not knowing the impact her name and skin tone would have on a little girl in a seemingly Mexican- less New Orleans. 

My own name is English because my father wouldn’t allow a Mexican name on his children. It was the 1970s after all. 

Last month, for Semana Santa, I took my mother on her first trip to Mexico City and Guanajuato, Mexico. I couldn’t wait to see how she would handle walking around in a land where her face and name aren’t foreign. In Mexico, there is a word which means “disasterous, worst- ever, unimaginable, or chaotic”. The word is “desmadre” --which literally means without mother. My mom taught me to ignore the name calling and to be proud of being Mexican while at the same time identifying with what I was experiencing. 

One of the stops on our trip was to a statue in Guanajuato dedicated to another Mexican hero-El Pípila. And just to tie this story together, New Orleans? statue of Benito Juárez and Guanajuato’s statue of El Pípila were both created by the same artist--Juan Fernando Olaguibel. 

So, the next time you’re driving down Basin Street, look up at the statue of Benito Juárez—Native American President of Mexico--and remember that he was just a poor “brown kid” from a small town in Mexico--but that didn’t stop him from getting a statue on Basin Street, and from liberating a nation.

Featured Articles


  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

New Orleans Premier Bilingual Magazine