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  • Writer's pictureseimaistato

To the rhythm of jazz

Updated: Feb 7

New Orleans, Louisiana - September 2023

Louisiana is a very unique state. Its DNA is a mix related to the history of the American East Coast, with settlers (in this case French) settling its lands in the 1700s and Africans being transported into slavery to work on plantations throughout the 1800s.

By the time I arrived in New Orleans, the capital, I was en route from California and had already had my fill of nature among the various national parks. Skyrocketing humidity, a somewhat hipster Airbnb in the back of a kitschy house with colorful pearl necklaces on the wooden fence. Walking through the streets of the old town is surreal: it feels like being in the alleys of Paris, with the balconies of the wrought-iron houses, and at the same time it feels like being in the Caribbean, with the boiling sun, humid heat, and colorful houses.

In the evening between Canal street, Bourbon street and Frenchmen street the atmosphere is frivolous, there are many people in the streets and music for the clubs. It is said that jazz was born here: live music always in the background, dancing, drinking, eating the traditional Creole food, which is something delicious. One night I found myself in the middle of Bourbon street, where a guy was performing Bob Marley covers on the back of a pickup truck, and around him was a sea of people singing and letting loose as it started to drizzle. I felt connected to a sea of strangers in the way only music can. Phenomenal.

That day I had booked an Uber to visit a historic colonial house that used to be a sugarcane plantation: Laura's Plantation. It was an hour out of town, in a rural and somewhat disappointing area. I participated in a guided tour that traced the history of the family, the family tree, the relationships, the conflicts, the abuses, the civil war, the inability to redeem themselves and win their freedom as human beings, the denials, the economic aspect but also the psychological impact of owning people. When I think about it even now, I get chills. At the end of the visit, I stood in their quarters (i.e., a room of a few square meters where many people lived) and saw the list of slaves and the economic value assigned to each one, as if it were a catalog of sneakers. The basic principle for the masters was to maintain the status quo, which meant depriving these people of education, dignity, morals and respect, treating them like beasts and using force to maintain order.

As I exited the plantation, I felt the need to look up at the blue sky and take a deep breath. The silence was deafening, a few cicadas here and there - yet I seemed to hear those songs of hope in the distance. 

New Orleans
New Orleans

In the street of New Orleans
In the street of New Orleans

Music In the street of New Orleans
Music on the streets

Laura’s plantation in New Orleans
Laura’s plantation
Slave register Louisiana
Slave register
Louisiana USA

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