Mexicans Take Root in the Crescent City

The illegal aliens who flocked to New Orleans for the rebuilding jobs after Hurricane Katrina never left. What a surprise. How you gonna keep them down in Mexico and beyond after they’ve seen the Big Easy?

Not only did the job-thieving foreigners not leave; their numbers have increased. Jackpot babies — the universal passport to American benefits! (Even the New York Times noticed the meal-ticket surge: Katrina Begets a Baby Boom by Immigrants, Dec. 11, 2006).

Anyway, back to the present Mexicanization update…

Five years after Katrina, New Orleans sees higher percentage of Hispanics, Washington Post, August 20, 2010

NEW ORLEANS — Five years after Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of the Big Easy has created a new community of Latino immigrants in this famously insular city, redrawing racial lines in a town long defined by black and white.

The change began just weeks after one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, which decimated homes, upended lives and drove a chunk of New Orleans’s black population to Baton Rouge, Houston and other places.

Although the overall number of Latinos isn’t huge, the population continues to grow and has had an outsize impact on the culture of this proudly eccentric city and on how people here view their home town. More than three-quarters of the 1.1 million residents in the New Orleans area were born in the state, compared with just 30 percent of residents in the Washington region. Many locals still point to long-defunct businesses as landmarks. Recipes at some beloved restaurants haven’t changed in 40 years.

The emergence of Latinos in the emotionally and politically charged aftermath of the storm sparked outcries from displaced residents who felt their jobs and their status in the city were being challenged. In one infamous news conference, Mayor C. Ray Nagin pledged to return New Orleans to a “chocolate city” after previously asking what he could do to keep the city from being “overrun by Mexican workers.” A documentary released last week by Latino performance artist Jose Torres-Tama titled “From Chocolate City to Enchilada Village” is reigniting the controversy on local talk radio.

Political and physical confrontations in the past couple of years have added to the distrust. One parish attempted to limit multi-family homes, a move that critics said targeted the Latino community. Another banned roving taco trucks, and state legislators considered requiring police to check immigration status after arrests. New Orleans police have reported repeated assaults on Latino workers, often targeted because they tend to carry cash, and have appointed one bilingual outreach officer to help combat the crimes.

“When I arrived to this city, the city was destroyed. We rebuilt it,” said Dennis Soriano, a construction worker and organizer with the Congress of Day Laborers, a local advocacy group founded after Katrina. “Do you want us to go back?”

Yes.

Nobody visits New Orleans to be around Mexicans. Visitors want gumbo and cajun music and jazz, not see a city that is beginning to resemble Lost Angeles, Mexifornia. And locals have protested the invasion from the start, not that citizen objections matter in elite circles.

If people want to experience tacos and mariachi, there are plenty of places for that, but there’s only one Louisiana.

Here’s some nice down-home music from the Savoy family — which represents the sort of traditional culture New Orleans and environs want to preserve.

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