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Ned Sublette by Garnette Cadogan
WEB EXCLUSIVE! Musician turned musicologist Ned Sublette unravels the histories and sounds that shaped New Orleans, our most “American” city. Out now: The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square.
Brings together the many aspects of the Vaquero Gentleman.
This is Part 1 of two parts.
Includes performance video clips and photographs.
Here's a sample of what they talk about.
[ NS Well, the word “Creole,” which can almost function as a red flag, has multiple meanings. Especially in Louisiana, where words often don’t mean the same things they mean elsewhere. The word Creole, from the Portuguese or Spanish criar — to raise, as in a child — became crioulo, a person born in the New World. It doesn’t imply anything about the skin tone of the person. The criollos in Cuba were the people born in Cuba at a time when the concept of Cuban nationality didn’t exist, as opposed to the peninsulares, from Spain. The idea of creolization is a fundamental concept of New World cultural theory. Certainly, writing about Cuban culture would be meaningless without it. In Louisiana this word got flipped around to where it meant something rather different. It came to mean French-speaking people. Some Louisiana historians of a bygone era insisted that Creoles were only white. More typically, the word has come to mean a lighter-skinned, and often more highly educated, person of partly French or Spanish, and partly African descent, versus the darker-skinned people of English-speaking descent. For example, Jelly Roll Morton, whose real name was Ferdinand LaMothe—a classic example of a New Orleans Creole. This was the successor class to the free people of color of slavery days.
In New Orleans, it’s a very confusing word that reaches directly into one of the fundamental dramas of the city: racial mixture.
GC Certainly, the word Creole is fraught with misunderstandings, and the way in which people argue over it—especially in New Orleans, where that argument has been going on since the early 19th century—points to the central role that race plays in the meaning of New Orleans. Indeed, it reveals something you hinted at: New Orleans is both a place and idea. As idea, people like to think of it as difference. You, however, by describing it as an “alternative American history in and of itself” have latched onto it as a different and quintessentially American spot.
NS Not merely a peculiar spot, but the logical outcome of competing international forces.
GC Your argument, then, is that New Orleans is not merely a small, different city, but is a city at the crux of America’s…
NS At the absolute crossroads of American history! Over and over again. Including now.
GC New Orleans—at once very American and very un-American! ]