Quotable New Orleans:
“A part of New Orleans’ beauty is that she is a place where many people, stifled elsewhere, feel safe to be themselves: just safe to be.” – Quo Vadis Gex Breaux
In a setting of strategic importance, just up from where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans remains a city of economic and cultural importance. Founded by the French, the settlement was later taken over by the Spanish, then briefly returned to the French, before ultimately acquired by the United States through the historic Louisiana Purchase of 1803. While Native Americans had populated the land long before French colonization, in 1718 the French formally founded the settlement as Nouvelle-Orléans, with a location chosen on higher ground, as to create a natural levee to protect the city from flooding.
French, Spanish and Caribbean culture became ever-present in New Orleans as the city grew to become the largest port and largest city in the South. This made the city the site of several major battles – as control of New Orleans helped ensure control of the entire Mississippi River trading routes – which included the valuable cotton exports from the United States to Europe. Today, the city remains a crossroads of numerous cultures and ethnicity groups.
During the second half of the 20th century, river transport of goods became less important in the age of freight rail, truck and planes serving as the primary methods for moving trading goods between locales. While other metropolitan regions across the South have since grown to surpass New Orleans in population, the city has emerged as a tourism beacon. Surveys across the country list it as one of the most highly rated locales for tourism – especially when considering that the annual Mardi Gras celebrations attract hundreds of thousands of revelers to the streets to take in decorative floats during any of the parades that make up the festival.O
Finally, it is also important to note, of course, the event that most impacted the city over the past 15 years – Hurricane Katrina and the impact it had to the residents of New Orleans and across the state of Louisiana. Since landfall of the storm that September day, the city of New Orleans has remained in a process of renewal and rebuilding. The city lost nearly 30% of its population, as the storm fueled the mass relocation of hundreds of thousands of residents. However, during the 2010s, the city has since begun to see population growth of over 10% a year.