Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
“It is the most congenial city in America that I know of and it is due in large part, I believe, to the fact that here at last on this black continent the sensual pleasures assume the importance which they deserve…”
Henry Miller, The Air-conditioned Nightmare
The Crescent City… the Big Easy… the City that Care Forgot… N’awlins.
Whatever one calls her, New Orleans is, and has always been, one of the most colorful urban centers in America. Few cities in the union can boast such a deeply rich and multi-cultural heritage. The first neo-Americans in the region begat the Tchefuncte, who constructed scattered settlements of mud-caked thatch in the area that was to become New Orleans. From them arose the city’s Native American roots, with the Choctaw, the Houma, the Chickasaw, and the Muskogeans all struggling to eke out lives on the shores of Lake Ponchartrain.
All this would change when a Spanish explorer by name of Alonso Alvarez de Pineda sent word of the discovery of an entryway to the heart of North America in 1519. He had found the Mississippi, and now all of Europe was eager to explore. Although Hernando De Soto made it as far as the river in his grueling, three-year trek overland from Florida in 1542, it would be a Frenchman named La Salle who would finally settle and lay claim to the region for his king, Louis XIV (for whom the state of Louisiana was named), some 14 decades later. Afterward, once Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur of Bienville, located the river’s muddy outflow in 1699, the area became a viable colony as well as a symbol of European ambition.
Come tonight, however, the city that Bienville dubbed Nouvelle Orléans in 1718 (in honor of the Duc d’Orléans) is much more a symbol of America than of France. The city’s melting pot is full to overflowing with the cultural broth of its own people. The Native American, Spanish, French, Acadian, and Creole ingredients of yore, stirred together with the later Haitian, Latin American, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern elements, have resulted in a unique blend that cannot easily be defined or categorized. And while it is a melting pot that has often served as an example of the American ideal, it is also one that has proven easily brought to boil.
Approximately 340,000 people live in New Orleans proper. 1.27 million people live in the greater metro area. The city’s racial and ethnic makeup is:
• 60.2% African-American
• 33.0% White
• 5.3% Hispanic or Latino (1.3% Mexican, 1.3% Honduran, 0.4% Cuban, 0.3% Puerto Rican, 0.3% Nicaraguan)
• 2.9% Asian (1.7% Vietnamese, 0.3% Indian, 0.3% Chinese, 0.1% Filipino, 0.1% Korean)
• 0.0% Pacific Islander
• 1.7% are people of two or more races.
Perhaps equally important to the city, however, is its bustling tourist trade, which swells the ranks of its residents to nearly three times its normal size over the course of the year; nearly twice the normal population visits from out of town each and every month. The Kindred population also fluctuates a great deal with the festivals; during Mardi Gras hundreds of vampires may be in the city. Given this, it is not unreasonable to expect that not every character (even a starting character) in a New Orleans chronicle will be a Crescent City native. Indeed, some of the most interesting stories the city has to tell will be told to newcomers.
New Orleans is hot and humid, with summer temperatures reaching upward of 100 degrees. The Gulf of Mexico provides the region with a great deal of moisture, and the city receives more than five feet of rainfall annually. Indeed, perhaps the most dominant trait of New Orleans weather is that it rains… a lot. New Orleans has no “dry season,” and locals know to expect rain at any time of year.
Spring: The city’s notorious heat and humidity starts in April.
Summer: During the hurricane season, from June to November, the city is frequently drenched by torrential rains lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Though the summer sun is usually out for as long as 11 hours a day, driving temperatures into the mid-90s Fahrenheit, it is often obscured in the afternoon by rain clouds.
Fall: The months of October to March are known for the heavy fogs that roll in from the river, lake and Gulf of Mexico. They often cover the city in a thick blanket that rarely lifts before morning. Months until October are still notoriously hot and humid.
Winter: The city’s greatest natural threat comes from hurricanes, which buffet the Gulf of Mexico at regular intervals in the months between June to December. Winter months usually have the mildest climes. However, a New Orleans winter can become somewhat chilly, with temperatures approaching 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Keep in mind that the most predictable thing about New Orleans weather is that it is highly unpredictable. It can change quickly, especially in the summer months.
No person under the age of 18 is allowed on the streets after 11:00 PM.
The New Orleans economy is dominated by four major sectors: tourism, oil/gas and related activities, the port and ship/boat building, and aerospace manufacturing. The presence of universities, hospitals, legal/accounting and other professional services, together with key installations of the U.S. Navy and other military operations in the region, adds further to its diversified economic base.
Tourism continues to be the driving force of New Orleans’ economy. Boasting attractions such as its world-famous French Quarter, America’s largest Mardis Gras festival, and river-boat gambling, New Orleans has a history of solid tourist trade. In a city with more than 10 million visitors annually, the hospitality business supplies more than 66,000 jobs in the service sector such as accommodations and restaurants. In 2004, tourists spent $4.9 billion in New Orleans.
At the beginning of the 21st century, New Orleans was heralded by several magazines as a top place for small businesses and entrepreneurs. One magazine noted that statistics from the Small Business Administration showed that small businesses in the area create more than 75 percent of new jobs.
Some of New Orleans’s largest private employers are shipbuilding firms, where workers build and repair vessels for the U.S. Navy, merchant fleets, and cruise ship lines. Martin Marietta, manufacturers of aerospace components for NASA space projects, uses a large work force at its New Orleans operations. In recent years the economy has diversified into such varied fields as health services, aerospacesm, and research and technology. The New Orleans region is also a major transportation hub and a leader in production of crude oil and natural gas processing facilities. Offshore oil rigging saw a boom starting in the 1970s.
Average wages lag behind all states but two, even with plenty of white-collar jobs and lucrative waterfront trades. One in four people lives below the poverty line.
French colonials founded New Orleans in 1718 as a headquarters for a commercial land-development scheme for their 1682 claim of the Louisiana territory, and as a bulwark against English and Spanish expansion into the lower Mississippi Valley. The city floundered in the colonial era but developed into a major demand for enslaved labor, made New Orleans the premier slave-trading city in the United States, as well as the legal, financial, and commodities-handling capital of the South. Throughout the Antebellum era, the port ranked second only to New York City in traffic, while the city’s population doubled roughly every fifteen years, making New Orleans the largest city in the South and at one point the third-largest in the nation.
But the concurrent development of manmade waters like the Erie Canal (1825), plus a network of railroads (1830s-1850s) linking the trans-Appalachian West directly with the Northeast, increasingly gave shippers alternatives to the Mississippi River route to market. While New Orleans’ western commerce increased in absolute numbers, its relative share diminished. Coupled with the Civil War and the ensuing economic, social, and racial upheaval, New Orleans found its trajectory of metropolitan ascendancy reversed by the late 1800s.
The city reinvented itself at the turn of the twentieth century by modernizing its port, investing in municipal improvements in drainage, water distribution, transportation, and electrification, and encouraging the development of a manufacturing sector. Institutions of higher education formed and developed national reputations, particularly in the area of medical research. River traffic revived during World War I, as the nation upgraded its inland waterways system and barge fleet and the Mississippi River enjoyed a rebirth of domestic traffic.
New Orleans especially boomed during World War II, when major ship-building and armaments industries brought tens of thousands of rural workers into the city and the port became the point of embarkation for hundreds of thousands of troops. The 1940s also saw the conversion of the sugar cane fields along the lower Mississippi to petroleum processing and chemical industries, abetted by ocean-going shipping and the growth of Louisiana’s onshore, nearshore, and later off-shore oil-and-gas extraction industry.
With manufacturing in decline after the war, New Orleans rebounded with oil-and-gas related employment. Technological changes in the shipping industry, meanwhile, replaced thousands of dockworkers with containerization technology, to which the city responded by developing its service sector for the leisure and business tourism industry. The city that came onto the world stage as a river/ocean shipping port specializing in agricultural commodities entered the twenty-first century resting primarily on the tourism dominated service sector, port industries, and the oil and gas sector.
The deluge triggered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 brought great tragedy and great change. The postdiluvian city bustled with recovery investments and witnessed an influx of young, educated creative people who have introduced entrepreneurial energy to the city, adding to the local cultural renaissance. Employment rates have remained consistently well below the national average since 2008, and housing values have seen none of the flux of markets like California and Florida. The city’s media and entertainment sector, particularly the film industry, has gone from negligible to national-class in less than a decade, earning the region the moniker “Hollywood South.” With an improved public education system and a new hurricane risk-reduction system complete as of June 2012, New Orleans finds itself well positioned for an economic resurgence.
New Orleans has an elected mayor and seven-member city council. All members are Democrats, and the city remains a bastion of Democratic strength in the otherwise solid red Deep South (thanks to the large African-American population).
Like most Southern states, Louisiana was historically dominated by the Democratic Party from Reconstruction until the 1960s. There were occasional Republican officeholders afterwards, but it wasn’t until the Tea Party movement in the late 2000s/early 2010s that Louisiana became solid red, with a few blue holdouts. The city of New Orleans remains solidly Democratic, thanks to the large African-American population. Bar a major national political realignment, Republican dominance over the state is unlikely to change.
New Orleans’ colonial history of French and Spanish settlement generated a strong Roman Catholic tradition. Catholic missions ministered to slaves and free people of color and established schools for them. In addition, many late 19th and early 20th century European immigrants, such as the Irish, some Germans, and Italians were Catholic. Within the Archdiocese of New Orleans (which includes not only the city but the surrounding parishes as well), over one-third percent of the population is Roman Catholic. Catholicism is reflected in French and Spanish cultural traditions, including its many parochial schools, street names, architecture and festivals, including Mardi Gras.
Influenced by the Bible Belt’s prominent Protestant population, New Orleans also has a sizable non-Catholic demographic. Most Anglo-American immigrants to the city following the Louisiana Purchase were Protestants.
64.9% of the people in New Orleans identify as religious. The city’s exact religious makeup is:
• 35.9% Roman Catholic
• 25.3% Protestant
• 12.2% Baptist
• 3.1% Methodist
• 1.8% Episcopalian
• 0.9% Presbyterian
• 0.8% Church of Jesus Christ
• 0.8% Lutheran
• 0.6% Pentecostal
• 5.1% another Christian faith
• 1.4% eastern faith
• 1.2% Judaism
• 0.6% Islam
New Orleans displays a distinctive variety of Louisiana Voodoo, due in part to syncretism with African and Afro-Caribbean Roman Catholic beliefs. Slaveholders were required by Bienville’s Code Noir of 1724 to baptize and instruct their slaves on Catholicism, but slaves, other immigrants, and Caribbean cultural influences brought Vodoun to the city, where it has thrived.
In the real world, only a small number of New Orleanians are serious adherents of Vodoun (depictions by the tourist industry notwithstanding). In the World of Darkness, the faith is much stronger. It is not what it was during Marie Laveau’s heyday, but perhaps 5% of the city’s population identify as devout Vodouisants, and as much as 25% pay the faith some measure of lip service. Most Vodouisants are poor, black, or both.