Welcome to the United States of New Orleans The city will fall on hard times, predicts scriptwriter and essayist Sylvana Joseph. But the expats of New Orleans will bring gumbo and good times to Manhattan, San Francisco and a slew of towns in between.
NPR logo Welcome to the United States of New Orleans

Welcome to the United States of New Orleans

Sylvana Joseph is an essayist, producer and lawyer living in New Orleans. A transplanted New Yorker she has learned to love grits, gumbo and the Gras. Her essays can be found at nolanoless.com. Isvara Wilson hide caption

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Isvara Wilson

It's hard to believe now that 50 years ago there was no NONY (New Orleans in New York) or Frisco Quarter or ChiNO.

The New Orleanization of America began on August 29, 2005. That's when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, precipitating the largest migration of U.S. citizens since the Dust Bowl.

The years after Katrina were hard for New Orleans. Then, an amazing thing happened. A journalist from the Times-Picayune was in Salt Lake City, Utah, and found herself in the middle of a Mardi Gras parade! It seemed that in the wake of the storm, a few hundred evacuees had ended up in "the Crossroads of the West," and stayed. As of 2010, Utah had 5,000 former New Orleanians, a Mardi Gras season and five restaurants serving Creole and Cajun food, not to mention a much more relaxed attitude.

The journalist began investigating. All over the world, New Orleanians were settling in. She began a series on the adventures of these expats, and discovered, as one former resident of Gentilly told her in Arizona, "All we New Orleanians need for a good time is one pot, two chickens and three friends."

According to a recent survey, the number of people who live outside of New Orleans yet who define themselves as New Orleanians has topped two million. Many of these people weren't even alive when Katrina hit in '05.

Harry Connick Jr.'s granddaughter, born and raised in Manhattan, makes red beans and rice on Mondays, and buried a statue of the Virgin Mary upside down in her potted palm to help sell her Manhattan condo (that's a New Orleans superstition that promises a quick real estate deal). "New Orleans can't be contained by geographic boundaries," she says. "New Orleans is the illness and the cure. You don't have to live in New Orleans; but if you really want to know how to live, you've got to live New Orleans."