“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!"