Why We are Thinking of Louisiana
Spring is officially around the corner, and the idea of warmer weather and open roads has us thinking about Betsy Ross, our Mission Map and all the places we can’t wait to explore in this great, big ‘ole continental United States.
One place we have thought about quite a bit lately is Louisiana. Maybe it’s all of the fantastic pictures that just poured in from Mardi Gras, but we’ve got the Pelican State on our mind.
Way back in 1803, the Louisiana Purchase added about 828,000 square miles of land to the United States. That’s way more land than just modern day Louisiana. In fact, it’s enough land that it eventually became 15 different US states.
Originally colonized by the French and admitted to the union in 1812, the first European explorers in Louisiana were from Spain. Indigenous tribes in Louisiana include the Chitimacha, the Coushatta, the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe.
Today, it’s a fascinating mix of cultures and histories, and one of our country’s treasures. From creole to cajun and from Jazzfest to Mardi Gras, Louisiana packs a ton of culture in this southern seaside state.
Louisiana is also one of the 50 states we still need for our Mission Map to complete selling something from every state on our site. We know a place as rich in creativity as Louisiana has some fantastic and inspiring Made in America products.
Do you have any favorites? You can always tell us on our Facebook page. Maybe we can check them out in person on our reconnaissance mission. We love tips!
Music, Mardi Gras and Magic
Home to the first opera house in North America, music has been at the heart of New Orleans from the beginning. Built on a sharp bend on the Mississippi River, New Orleans was more open than many other parts of America. The Crescent City became home to the largest population of African Americans not in slavery, and blues, country, minstrel songs, spirituals, ragtime, and european musical traditions all blended together in the public halls, bars, and streets of the city.
French … Spanish … African … European … Creole … all mixed in Louisiana.
Among other gifts Louisiana has given us, the rich intersection of cultures and styles created the birthplace of jazz. Bandleader Charles “Buddy” Bolden is often credited with being the first jazz musician, but Louisiana boasts dozens of other stars too.
On the other side of the more polished jazz and big band sound was country, zydeco, cajun fiddle, and accordian. From jazz to zydeco to rock ‘n roll, lots of distinctly American sounds came out of the Louisiana swamps. Joe “King” Oliver, Kid Ory, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Doug & Rusty Kershaw, and so many more are all Louisianians.
The Wildest Party in America
Started in medieval times, and celebrated widely in Europe and South America, carnival and Mardi Gras followed French settlers across the Atlantic to Louisiana. It’s just as popular as ever today, with an estimated 1.5 million people celebrating in New Orleans in 2017.
Mardi Gras may be known as one of the most decadent parties in the country, but it’s actually a Christian holiday made official by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. It was first celebrated in America on March 3, 1699 by French explorers Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville. Technically beginning on Feast of the Epiphany – January 6th- Carnival is a time for feasts, drinks, parades and fun leading right up to lent. By then, you might be ready to let go of your vices for awhile.
But be careful. If you don’t pace yourself you might not even make it through the celebration to get to Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday. And there really is no shortage of color and culture to soak in no matter how long you go.
There’s even a bit of magic thrown into the town and local area as well. Voodoo arrived through the same ports as trade ships, and the became infused with Catholicism. Famous voodoo practitioners like Marie Catherine Laveau sold amulets, or “gris-gris” charms, that you’ll still find in shops there today.
Tastes to Try in a Full Sensory City
Seeing as a big part of carnival involves feasting, it’s not surprising that Louisiana has some delectable culinary specialties.
From spicy, hearty stews like gumbo and jambalaya to sweets like beignets and the classic holiday King Cake, a food tour of Louisiana sounds like a must-do.
One of the things that seems to set a region apart in our country is what a place calls their sandwich, and in Louisiana it’s a Po’ Boy. Light bread stuffed with fresh local eats like fried oysters, shrimp or sausage can be found across the state. Another staple you’ll likely see is Boudin, a favorite sausage like casing of pork, rice and spices. And for the more adventurous eaters, you can always try a bowl of turtle soup.
We Love to Live Vicariously
We really can’t wait till we have Betsy Ross up running. How fun to be mobile and report back on discoveries of the best Made in America products out there.
But we’re just as happy to live vicariously, too! So in the meantime, please keep your eyes peeled for us. Don’t you think it is so much fun to discover the ingenuity and creativity of the American spirit all across the country? In the meantime, there’s no harm in just soaking in all the different culture and customs that made up the rich weave of our country. We can’t wait till we have something from Louisiana to add to our rich tapestry at 50ROOTS.