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K10: La Renaissance de la Nouvelle-Orléans

An Op-Ed by Alexandre Vialou of

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levees destroyed lives and the physical infrastructure of the City of New Orleans. With it, the indigenous connection that had existed between New Orleanians and their French cultural heritage for 297 years was -yet again- put to test. Iconic Cajun and Creole restaurants had to close, local french-singing musicians were scattered all around the nation. Uncertainty even surrounded the fate of Carnival in 2006.


Today, there is now plenty of evidence that New Orleans French heritage did not wash away. New Orleans culinary scene is again vibrant with many restaurants proudly serving French-inspired cuisines from the veteran Antoine’s celebrating 175 years to the recently opened restaurant Compère Lapin of Bravo TV Top Chef Nina Compton.  There are festivals celebrating the French language or culture almost every month and the Consulate General of France in New Orleans still stands and is now the only official diplomatic representation from a European nation here.


As we look toward the future of the city, it is especially encouraging to witness the growing commitment that parents are making in choosing to educate their children in one of the five schools located in New Orleans offering French immersion programs. This year, enrollment exceeded 1,500 school aged children: more than in any other parish in Louisiana and historically probably a record not seen since the middle of the Twentieth Century.


Besides providing context to the local Cajun and Creole cultures, the French language also presents itself as a language of worldwide opportunities. Since Katrina, several French companies have settled here in New Orleans in sectors that are strategic to the growth of the City. And the growing number of French-speaking tourists is creating a demand for French speakers in the cultural and tourism industry.


For this French renaissance to continue it is particularly important that it reflects who New Orleanians are: a diverse population. To that regard further efforts should be made to provide easier access to the successful network of French Immersion programs to the areas of the city where it is still missing: Downtown, in New Orleans East and in the West Bank. 


Alexandre Vialou writes for

The text above is an op-ed and expresses only the opinion of the author, not NOLA Defender or NOLA Defender's Editorial Board.

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