What is New Orleans, to a native New Orleanian?

I pondered this question when I read a subsequent question on Quora.com from a former resident of the city who left, but she was not a native. Many residents of cities have a vast opinion of the cities they emigrate to because many of them were never natives. We, natives, learned the cultures, rules to live by, and lessons learned when those rules were not followed. This is my response to her question, and for all other travelers, wondering the same things about New Orleans.

As a native New Orleanian, we grew up with the tools and rules to live by. This is for every native in big cities. We know where to go and where not to go in the city. However, gentrifiers and non-natives do not know these things. They move to New Orleans for the “culture,” but miss the class on how to live and move throughout the city daily.

Housing: For natives, this has always been an issue. At the same time, we had family homes or the rent was so low, before Katrina, that you could live and rent here for generations, and not miss a beat. I was blessed to have relatives and a family that took us in when times were bad. My great aunt Juanita, lived alone and when my mom fell on hard times, my aunt moved us in with her in the big house (lol), off Claiborne in Piegon Town. We lived there for years until Katrina., when the home was damaged. However, by then, we kids were all grown, married, and lived in our own homes or apartments.

Crime: Again, native New Orleanians know how to move “in the city.” We know where to go, where to stay away from. My mom never liked the French Quarter, or downtown for that matter because of the crime. We are true uptown city people. What’s funny is that our family tree is from the 7th Ward, as Creole New Orleanians. However, over time, gentrifiers, and crime has changed most of the 7th ward. We still have family that lives in or around the area, but it has changed.

Post Katrina: Katrina changed everything for New Orleans and us natives. I am the remaining native in my immediate family. I have a sister who lives in Gretna. I told my husband that I will never sell my home and leave New Orleans. I am generational.

Many people think they know what it means to miss New Orleans, only when they leave her. To truly live here means to know how to navigate her. Since 1718, New Orleans has always been an anomaly wrapped in a creole headpiece. We natives just learned all the ways to wrap our headpieces around her and move with the times.



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