“Where ya stay at” is a common question for natives of New Orleans, Louisiana. Although phrased differently, this is sometimes a typical question in other American cities; however, New Orleans is not a typical American city. Its neighborhoods vary in architecture, physical layout, and general atmosphere due to the many residing cultures. Over the course of several generations these neighborhoods have evolved, but natives honor their ancestors by staying true to their original cultural roots.
The city of New Orleans grew not from great urban planning, but by the accretion of cultures moving north and south from the quarter along the MS River - giving it the name “Crescent City”. Since its beginning in 1718, Nola has housed people from a variety of cultures including African, Native American, Spanish, French, Italian, Irish, German, Greek, Croatian, Filipino, Sicilian, Vietnamese, and Hispanic.
The city grew due to a particular groups need for land or development. To keep the peace, most groups separated themselves like the Americans, while others such as the Native Americans and Africans integrated. The physical composition of New Orleans was determined by the historical evolution of such varied cultures finding ways to coexist. Specific uses of space like the “neutral ground,” where all races and sexes could mingle freely to trade, as well as “Congo Square,” a place for free worship, still exist today. Asking “where ya stay at” gives a quick reference to neighborhoods today, whether it is a creole cottage near Esplanade or a large mansion on St. Charles.
People hold fast to their long-standing traditions because they are the heartbeat of this city; from them has fashioned a culture that transcends its entire varied people into one shared culture. Natives take great pride in Nola being like no other American city, as it has its own language, cuisine, festivities, cultural traditions, and unique ways of living.
No matter “where you stay at” - Mid-City, Uptown, Marigny, 7th Ward, or Quarter, to name a few - the response is always said with pride. Despite the race, background or socioeconomic status, the differences are what make everyone so alike.
All cities are unique. How were other cities formed and what historical events made them physically or socially what they are today?
Credits: Images by Allyson McAbee. Data linked to sources.