The connections between New Orleans and Haiti run deep. The threads that stitch the two together began unspooling during European colonization of the New World. Both colonies were controlled at times by the Spanish and French, and both were major destinations for the forced migration of enslaved Africans.
The bond was cemented by the Saint-Domingue revolution, which stretched from 1791 to 1804 and created Haiti, the first independent nation in Latin America and the second republic in the Americas. Thousands of people fled the nation, and in 1809, 10,000 French-speaking people arrived in New Orleans after an exile period in Cuba. This diaspora doubled the population of the fledgling American city, and the wave of immigration immediately impacted everything from food and music to art and architecture.
Artisans, musicians, cooks and tradespeople whose descendents bear names such as Dejean, Dejoie and Batiste helped shape the city, and their impact is immeasurable. It can be seen in the distinctive architecture of the Treme neighborhood where many of the gens de couleur, or "free people of color," settled after moving to New Orleans. Even the color schemes traditionally used to paint classic Creole cottages are reflected in the art of Haiti.
While much has been made of the connections between Native Americans and New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians, the Indians' call-and-response vocals and the unique terms in songs like "Hey Pocky Way" are rooted in the music and language of the French-speaking Caribbean. The beadwork of what has been called the Uptown style of flat patches Mardi Gras Indians sew on their suits closely resemble costuming and craft traditions of Haiti..
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