I created this blog as a way to carry out my grandmother’s memory—a woman with a 200+ year legacy in South-East Louisiana and a woman of Creole descent. I hadn’t intended to ever project my opinion into this blog, but a writer so venomous and so needlessly mean-spirited has written a piece on the state of New Orleans that I felt compelled to join in the chorus of protest. I won’t say how cheap and easy and un-intellectual it is to write horrible things about a people when they are down. I’m also not going to touch Mr. Richman’s hateful treatment of the city of New Orleans in his article, other folks have done a remarkable job of smacking his ass back.
Oddly enough, Alan Richman over at GQ seems to have the impression that Creole folks are imaginary and:
Supposedly, Creoles can be found in and around New Orleans. I have never met one and suspect they are a faerie folk, like leprechauns, rather than an indigenous race. The myth is that once, long ago, Creoles existed. Certainly there was a Creole cuisine, a fancified amalgamation of French (mainly), Spanish (just a little), Italian (even less), and African-Caribbean (unavoidable). The African-Caribbean influence was the kind of fortuitous culinary accident that occurs when the swells eating the food don’t come from the same background as the workers cooking the food.
Creole (capitalCthankyouverymuch) is not a race, but the word “amalgam” is pretty accurate. As quoted from Wikipedia:
Some writers from other parts of the United States have mistakenly assumed the term Creole to refer only to people of mixed racial descent, but this is not the traditional Louisiana usage.
Mr. Richman states that:
It was never the best idea, building a subterranean city on a defenseless coastline. Residents could have responded to that miscalculation in any number of conscientious ways, but they chose endless revelry. New Orleans fell in love with itself and acted accordingly, becoming a festival of narcissism, indolence, and corruption. Tragedy could not have come to a place more incapable of dealing with it.
No one who is from New Orleans is blind to its huge and massive failings—the nepotism, the corruption, the scandals—wait I WAS talking about New Orleans, right? The previous statement would only come from a fool who doesn’t get it. And you don’t get it Mr. Richman. I’m sorry that you had to grow up in boring-vanilla-Applebee’s-no flavor-gotnosoul land, but don’t point you finger at us saying WE’RE the narcissists. Pardon the hell out of us if we’re gregarious and lively. Pardon us if we welcome all new cultures to our neck of the woods as if they were the best thing since Leidenheimer’s french bread—just ask the Vietnamese. There’s a town just down the highway known as Baton Rouge for folks like you, sir. Besides, people live in New Orleans because they live there. How obtuse does one have to be to not get that?
Part of my family came from the Canary Islands and settled in Plaquemines Parish in the late 1700’s and settled at Pointe-a-la-Hache. The Surnames on that side are Melerine, Belmonte, Rodriguez, Molero, Ragas, Masson, LaBouisse, Chartier, Delery and LaFrance. Part of my family settled in the German Coast and they are also considered Creoles (or Cajun depending upon who you ask). The Surnames are Scheib, Doescher and Balck (it’s really spelled that way). None of these may be important people, they may not have been powerful people, but what they did do was bring whatever culture they learned and “mixed it up.” New Orleans is nothing if not varied and diverse. I’m proud of my multi-cultural background—damn proud! I grew up hearing that I was Creole, my entire family called each other Creole and the way they cooked was Creole. To them, it is a way of designating themselves as apart from or removed from the mainstream Anglo culture of the United States, much the same way Latino families do. The Louisiana Creole culture is a unique, vast, diverse collection of several cultures from across the globe all meeting at one region over a long period of time—like a slow cooked, and very flavorful, stew.
Granted Mr. Richman never met me or my large family, but if he were to do so, he’d meet Creoles who’d give him a few bon mots. Pardon my French.