PDF All on a Mardi Gras Day: Episodes in the History of New Orleans Carnival

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A combination of higher rents, housing shortage, and the evaporation of the tourism industry made it impossible for many musicians and krewe members to return Sparks. In January, only a minority had come back to the affected areas to clean up, rebuild, and join in the annual tradition. Even though new members were brought in to fill in for members dispersed by Katrina, and Zulu dancers travelled from South Africa for the first time to lend their support to the krewe Alexander , there were less hands to work on the parades.

Consequently, from 33 in , , and , the number of parading krewes went to 27 krewes in , with an average of Mardi Gras usually draws an estimated 1 million tourists on a 2-week period. In , that number fell to , Barry. The Jazz Fest that followed two months later drew , people, down from , in Deloughery.


These figures naturally translated into a fall in revenue Williams; Weiss. Attendance over the. Each ribbon represented a Zulu brother who had perished either as a direct result of havoc unleashed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina or from other causes during the six months that elapsed between the storm and Mardi Gras. While blue tarp roofs and FEMA trailers were very popular costumes among paraders, people were also dressed as levees, immobilized buses, X-codes symbols used by search-and-rescue teams to mark searched property in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans , Home Depot workers, maggots and maggot-infested refrigerators.

To honor the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the all-female Krewe of Muses founded in , closed their parade with an empty float evoking the riderless horse that follows the caisson carrying the casket in a funeral procession. The performative nature of NOLA culture allowed Mardi Gras to document the devastation and to keep the casualties of Katrina alive in an immediate and visceral fashion. By the 19 th century, the city began to cultivate that image outside Louisiana to encourage tourism.

Katrina demonstrated the danger of such a strategy, especially at a time when religious conservatism and political conservatism were so strong nationally. Dennis Hastert, the Republican Speaker of the House, even questioned the wisdom of strengthening the levee system of a city that lies 10 feet below sea level Babington. Divisions among New Orleanians over the way reconstruction should happen, in particular, needed to be silenced.

According to Lawrence J.

All on a Mardi Gras Day: Episodes in the History of New Orleans Carnival

Vale and Thomas J. This definition is of particular interest to us in that it identifies resilience as one among many interpretive frameworks employed to do the work of urban reconstruction in the name of dominating social, political, and economic systems. It also emphasizes the need for people to accept and shape the plans and actions of their political leaders if that process of reconstruction is to happen. Rose offered the stories of New Orleanians actively engaged in being New Orleanian to show his audience the essential strength of their fellow citizens:.

In a strange way, life just goes on for the remaining. This reality was on display in another unlikely place, the reopening of a strip club on Bourbon Street. The call to social action, the participation in tourism and pilgrimage, was portrayed as a patriotic deed. Here lay the essential ambiguity of this resilience narrative: it issued a call for help amidst an affirmation of life. By memorializing Katrina instead of ignoring it, officials and columnists all argued, Mardi Gras would help mend the gap between struggling displaced citizens and the celebrating citizens already returned.

A Gambit Weekly editorial suggested:. There will be Mardi Gras Indians struggling to maintain their culture. There will be rerouted parades, smaller krewes, curious visitors, hopeful investors, homeless parade-goers, evicted hotel dwellers, returning citizens, activist groups, awestruck relief workers and contractors, film crews of all stripes, moist-eyed historians, fundraising efforts… the list goes on and on.

Surely, we can all move past the obvious and tell the fascinating stories that will come from the most anticipated Carnival season in recent memory Gambit Weekly c. As such, it was celebrated as a spiritual, sacred event, filled with meaning derived from the last six months. It was meant as an antidote to negative media coverage in national venues, a resistant voice to the silence of a nation that seemed to have resigned itself to what was happening in one of its greatest cities.

But in fact, satire never threatened the resilience narrative in the sense that Mardi Gras parades never became a forum for assigning blame in a rational, verifiable manner. Saying that levee inspectors had failed, that Brown and FEMA had failed too, that politicians were corrupt, and that bureaucrats were lazy did not prevent Louisianians from continuing to tolerate widespread corruption and inefficiency after Katrina Kushner.

It actually favored a peculiar brand of fatalism; problems were to be endured, not solved. This could actually be said of Mardi Gras in general.

From this perspective, playful transgression becomes a publicly enacted dream of escape from social problems and contributes, even momentarily, to the subversion of the dominant orders. The fact is that Mardi Gras has often allowed disenfranchised groups to resist subordination. The Mardi Gras Indians emerged in the early 19 th century as a way to resist racial objectification Kinser. They drew parallels between the experiences of African-Americans and American Indians.

One may also think of the open parading of prostitutes, homosexuals, and drag queens lampooning the sexual order imposed by the city elite Vaz. They have accepted death as a part of life by embracing fatalism. What is remarkable about Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the extent to which the entire city has institutionalized this defiant laughter, so that every class, race, and condition shares it.

Carnival is not just about having fun. It is about reminding people that good times are a precious part of life, not to be traded for a fleeting illusion of power or significance. In Mardi Gras became a legal holiday in Louisiana, and it continued to expand. Prohibition also dampened festivities, but after its repeal, celebrations were back in full swing. As a part of his general campaign against New Orleans, Huey Long launched a major cleanup campaign that put the city back in the national headlines.

In , Zulu became the first krewe to choose a celebrity as its king, native musician Louis Armstrong. Much of the media coverage focused on the rowdier aspects of the festival and helped fuel such behavior. In fact, the question in never really was whether to hold Mardi Gras.

The decision was not in the hands of the city government, newspaper editors, or the business community.

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Certainly the city could have withheld the permits necessary to hold a parade. The last time the city of New Orleans officially cancelled Carnival because of a police strike , no parades rolled and most tourists stayed home, but the people of NOLA still took to the streets in masks and costumes. Ever since the 19 th century, it has stood apart from the rest of the U. The problem with applying that concept to New Orleans is that the city never had a clear shape to begin with.

It is, essentially, a volatile city. Broadcast on HBO from to Abrahams, Roger D. Szwed, and Robert Farris Thompson. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, Agier, Michel.

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Anthropologie du carnaval. Alexander, Mary.

Babington, Charles. Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, Barber, Kristen. Barry, Dan. Bates, Karen Grisby. Becker, Cynthia. Burdeau, Cain. Burton, Richard D. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, Campanella, Richard.

All on a Mardi Gras Day

A Historical Geography of New Orleans. Lafayette: University of Louisiana, Campanella, Thomas J. Cohen, Abner. Berkeley: University of California Press, Cohn, Edward Paul. DaMatta, Roberto. Deloughery, Kathleen. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, Dufour, Charles L. Eagleton, Terry. Walter Benjamin, or Towards a Revolutionary Criticism.

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