Somos NOLA

Black Masking Indians or Mardi Gras Indians

Para leer en español, presiona aquí: Indios Negros Enmascarados o Indios de Mardi Gras

By AnaMaria Bech

Being part of one of the more than forty Mardi Gras Indian tribes is passed almost exclusively from generation to generation, and it is a tradition that involves several rituals that mix African and Native cultural traditions.

A carnival tradition we should learn more about is that of the Black Masking Indians, also known as the Mardi Gras Indians. The first time I saw them parade, their presence struck me, and I wondered why their colorful, impressive outfits resembled Native American attire and why they used indigenous names. I didn’t understand what carnival had to do with Native cultures, and since then, I tried to find out more about this tradition. In a city with such a mixture of cultures, the existence of Mardi Gras Indians makes a lot of sense. 

As the story goes, around 1718, the African and Native communities of Louisiana coexisted because, as they shared a common experience of enslavement, they helped each other. Native American tribes provided a haven for Africans who escaped slavery. For that reason, they learned from each other’s customs and created new traditions. The use of beads, feathers, masks, and headdresses was common in West African cultures, so making the suit was a tradition that offered some commonality between the two groups and allowed for the preservation of African traditions. 

According to historical accounts, adopting the indigenous persona by African descendants was not only done to hide their identity from enslavers, but it was a way of paying homage to the tribes that welcomed them and allowed them to practice their traditions. 

The carnival celebration in New Orleans was an exclusive event for white and affluent people, and elaborate costumes were a big part of the carnival. For African descendants, making and wearing Indian suits during the special celebration symbolized freedom and resistance as it allowed them to preserve their ancestors’ traditions. The suit-making tradition has been kept alive for generations. The Black Masking Indians took to the streets on Fat Tuesday, wearing their elaborate suits to take part in the celebrations, expressing pride in their culture, and remembering with songs like “Won’t bow down, don’t know how,” that they don’t know how to kneel before anyone.

Being part of one of the more than forty Mardi Gras Indian tribes is passed almost exclusively from generation to generation, and it is a tradition that involves several rituals that mix African and Native cultural traditions. The suits of the Mardi Gras Indians have special meanings, and putting them together with patches, feathers and colorful beads takes an average of nine months. Each suit is used only for the year it debuts, and it tells the unique story of the wearer. The story can vary in topics from autobiographies, family stories, and social issues to pop culture. The majestic suits can weigh up to 80 pounds.

Fat Tuesday is when suits are worn in public for the first time. The tribes have celebrated their traditions since before the First World War. Mardi Gras Indians took to the streets on St. Joseph’s night, as it was already a special day of celebration by Italian Catholics in the city.

Nowadays, the Black Masking Indians’ most significant celebration is on Super Sunday. Super Sunday was celebrated around St. Joseph’s Day but was established as an official parade in 1969 and set on the third Sunday in March. On this day, Uptown and Downtown tribes gather to dance and sing through the streets of Central City in New Orleans. 

Ceremonial dances occur during the parade, and when the tribes meet, a ritual of respect that involves bowing to the other tribe happens. Being a Mardi Gras Chief is a great honor. They have become role models for children who observe the respect chiefs receive from the community because they proudly represent their culture and traditions.

To learn more about the history of the Black Masking Indians, you can visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum at 1531 St. Philip Street in New Orleans.

Uptown Super Sunday will be on March 17 this year. The parade begins at noon in A.L. Davis Park at Washington Avenue and La Salle Street.

Venezuelan Community Honors Virgin of Chiquinquirá Day with Traditional Gaita Rhythms

Para español presione aquí >>A ritmo de Gaita, comunidad venezolana celebra el Día de la Virgen de Chiquinquirá

By Alejandro Salazar

Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá is the patron saint of Colombia and of the Zulia State in Venezuela. In Colombia, the image rests in the Basílica in honor of her name. In Venezuela, the image of the Virgin engraved on a wooden board is found in the Basilica of Maracaibo, Zulia State, and serves as its formal patron saint. Every year on November 18, the celebration of Her Day involves massive processions and songs in honor of the Virgin, also affectionately known as “La Chinita” or “Queen Morena.”

Celebrations in honor of La Chinita are now held worldwide by the Venezuelan diaspora. In this sense, on November 18, the Venezuelan and Hispanic community prayed with Brother Manuel Solórzano to celebrate a solemn mass and procession in honor of this invocation of the Virgin at the Hispanic Apostolate in Metairie. The celebration continued after the mass with a tasting of typical Venezuelan food enjoyed during the Christmas season.

For many, the day marks the beginning of Christmas. The Virgin is serenaded to the rhythm of Gaita de Furro, a musical genre originating in the Zuliana region that has spread to the rest of Venezuela. The traditional Gaita has very particular instruments, among which the following stand out: the cuatro, the maracas, the charrasca, the pipe drum, and the essential instrument called furro or furruco, a direct descendant of the Spanish zambomba. This rhythm can include religious, romantic, historical, or protest themes.

This popular rhythm is represented in Louisiana by the Nolagaita group, composed of a group of musicians and enthusiasts from Venezuela whose main objective is to make this popular genre known in the community and encourage its growth. The group maintains an active presence on social networks, posting about their presentations and activities. Nolagaita has 12 members who delighted the audience with songs dedicated to Chinita, such as “La Elegida” and “Reina Morena,” among many others.

The organizing committee was pleased with the participation and hopes the celebration will continue growing.

Shop Local

Para leer este artículo en español, presiona aquí>>Compra Local

By AnaMaria Bech

As the holiday season approaches, we prepare to celebrate the spirit of community and togetherness in New Orleans. One of the best ways to do that is by supporting local businesses. Shopping local during the holidays infuses the magic of the season with a unique New Orleans flair and plays a vital role in preserving the heart and soul of our city.

New Orleans is a city brimming with culture, history, and tradition. The local businesses here are the keepers of that heritage, offering a slice of NOLA’s distinct flavor. When you shop local, beyond buying a product, you’re investing in the community and helping local artisans, makers, and entrepreneurs thrive.

According to studies, for every dollar spent at a local business, 67 cents stays within the community, which translates into more jobs, thriving neighborhoods, and a more robust local economy. Supporting local businesses is investing in the prosperity of your neighbors and friends.

Moreover, local businesses often provide unique and unique gifts, showcasing New Orleans culture’s diversity. From handcrafted art pieces and jewelry to delicious cuisine and specialty items, you’ll find gifts that truly reflect our city’s rich heritage. These personalized gifts carry a special significance, making your holiday presents more memorable and meaningful.

Soon after the Thanksgiving Holiday, make it a point to enjoy the Christmas vibes in the French Quarter and take a day with a friend to stroll the six blocks of retail stores of the French Market. From the Upper Pontalba stores, the Shops of the Colonnade, all the way to the flea market, you will find art galleries, clothing stores, toy shops, home decor, handmade jewelry, and everything in between, finding New Orleans-infused gifts wherever you shop.

Enjoy coffee and beignets during your shopping break, or dine at a new restaurant. Take pictures with the holiday decor and the French Quarter as your backdrop and make your local shopping a whole experience. Do not overlook the delicious food at the farmer’s market restaurants when you visit the local artisans and find unique handmade gifts in the flea market.

This holiday season, let’s come together as a community to shop local, preserve our traditions, and ensure a prosperous future for our beloved city. In doing so, we’ll experience the true spirit of New Orleans during the holidays, and our celebrations will be more prosperous, more meaningful, and filled with the love and character that only local businesses can provide.


Para artículo en español clic aquí: ¡Esto es Bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S

By Axel Lola Rosa

I have the privilege of being a first-generation Latino in New Orleans. I get the best of every type of bean here. On Mondays, we have our traditional red beans and rice; on any other day, we have arroz y frijoles (Honduran rice and beans cooked by my mom). Since 2012, I’ve worked with tourists in the French Quarter and surrounding areas and even lived out of state. I proudly say I was born at Charity and raised in Metairie to Honduran Immigrants. I emphasize the Honduran part to make it known that a solid Honduran presence in New Orleans dates back to the early 1900’s. 

Growing up here, I noticed at a young age that the media talked about Honduras or its surrounding countries only if there was a Hurricane or something very wrong; go figure. I also noticed that Miami was “referred to” as Cuban, Texas as Mexican, and New York as Puerto Rican because of each city’s history with those countries. So why hasn’t anyone discussed the connection between New Orleans and Honduras? 

When you hear the words Banana Republic, you think of the multi-million dollar clothing brand owned by Gap, Inc., Right? But did you know that the Banana Republic is a real thing? Like about, you guessed it, BANANAS, B-A-N... How did it begin the history and relationship between the cities of New Orleans and Honduras? To be clear, I’m only discussing the “Banana” part and not the “Republic” part. 

Since New Orleans has a well-established port, it all began with popular produce brands that we’ve most likely all had in our kitchen: Chiquita, formerly known as the United Fruit Company, and the Standard Food Company, were based in New Orleans. For decades, New Orleans has imported and distributed Cavendish Bananas from Central America to all over the U.S. In the early 20th Century, these two companies created close ties, specifically with Honduras. Eventually, these companies bought land for plantations. They hired Hondurans as dockyard workers who decided to stay in New Orleans, making our city an entry point for Hondurans migrating to the U.S. Aside from the employment opportunities, many chose to settle in this region due to the heavy influence of Catholic culture. Some sent their children to Catholic Schools in New Orleans, and many stayed upon completing their studies. Besides Honduras itself, by 1962, New Orleans had the world’s largest population of Hondurans.

Over time, the population expanded further out of the city and into surrounding areas such as Kenner and the Westbank. According to NOLA.com, in 2010, Jefferson Parish had the fourth-largest Honduran population by county in the United States. In 2021, The Data Center analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau data from the American Community Survey 2021 reported that 36% of the Hispanic Origin in Jefferson Parish identified as Honduran, 21% in Orleans, and 32% in the Metro Area within an estimated 1.1 million Hispanics of Honduran origin living in the United States. Overall, according to brcitykey.com, Hispanics make up 7% of the population in Louisiana. Most recently, Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng mentioned in an interview that about 63,000 Hispanics make up 18% of the people in Jefferson Parish.  

Today, we see the influence of Honduras everywhere in our local community. We see cars with Honduras stickers or flags and find imported Honduran products. We see Honduran-owned and branded businesses. We enjoy frequent events featuring native Honduran bands like La Banda Blanca or Los Rolands. Even events honoring the Virgin of Suyapa, the Patron Saint of Honduras, occur at Divine Mercy Church in Kenner. These influences have maintained Honduran traditions that have helped shape not only the Latino Community in this city but also New Orleans itself.

WB Collective - A Welcoming Coworking Space for Women Entrepreneurs

Para artículo en español, click aquí: Latinas Supporting Entrepreneurs at the WB Collective

By AnaMaria Bech

The WB Collective is a woman-focused coworking space created by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South (WBEC South), and it is more than just a workplace; it’s a community where women from diverse backgrounds come together to share their expertise, support one another’s endeavors, and spark groundbreaking ideas. The beautifully designed and thoughtfully curated space, located at 401 St. Joseph Street in New Orleans, exudes an atmosphere of collaboration and creativity.

 At the WB Collective, diversity isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a guiding principle. Two Latinas play pivotal roles on the team. Katerine García, the Director of Operations of the WBEC South, brings her extensive experience in supplier diversity, always finds ways to connect women, and provides mentorship and growth opportunities for their companies. “We have built a strong community of women who understand and support each other’s challenges and aspirations,” says Katherine.

Karla López-Gammage is the Director of the WB Collective. She ensures that entrepreneurs have everything they need to work and thrive and that events become memorable. As Karla says, “Social expectations and mentorship opportunities are major hurdles to success for women,” she believes “being in a space that understands how much of a disadvantage women business owners are in helps the woman entrepreneur in so many ways.” 

Katherine and Karla represent the broader spirit of the WBEC South, which aims to empower women entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and break down barriers for women executives and CEOs. Their stories are a testament to the incredible potential of diverse perspectives in driving innovation and success.

Beyond its coworking memberships, mailboxes, luxury common spaces, private offices, dedicated desks, and smart meeting rooms, the WB Collective boasts a stunning event space for rent.  “When women are surrounded by leaders like themselves, in a setting like ours, they feel inspired rather than the need to be competitive,” adds Karla.

This versatile venue has become a destination for hosting seminars, workshops, and networking events. Its charming architectural details and modern amenities make it the perfect place to host gatherings that inspire collaboration and growth.

“When you’re seeking an opportunity to connect, think of the WB Collective as your go-to resource,” says Katherine.  Whether you’re looking for a workspace that inspires creativity, reflects your innovative personality, connects you to resources to grow personally and professionally, and helps leverage your network, or if you are ready to host an event in a stunning venue for your next event, the WB Collective has it all, making it a hub for empowerment and entrepreneurship in the Warehouse District of New Orleans.

To book a tour and learn more about the WB Collective in New Orleans or Nashville, contact Karla at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration at the French Market

Para español clic: Celebración Mes de la Herencia Hispana en el Mercado Francés

By AnaMaria Bech


As most know, the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. This commemoration serves as a platform to highlight the contributions of immigrants and Latino citizens in the country and celebrate Latino culture on a grand scale.


The historical New Orleans institution, the French Market District, takes part in this celebration by highlighting the Latino artists and vendors at the market, and it also organizes a great festival that provides entertainment to the entire community and, in turn, offers visibility to Latino cultural acts, musical bands, restaurants, and non-profit organizations.

Although the organization has held several events that showcase Latin performances and food, it officially established the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration in 2022. On its second edition, the festival will take place on September 16, starting at 11 a.m. at the flea market section of the French Market. This celebration includes live performances by various local bands every hour until 4 pm.


The Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration is a free festival for the whole family with activities for children, live music, delicious Latin food and drinks for sale, and the opportunity to find out about the programs of various organizations that support the Latino community in the city.

 The French Market District administration and organizers have done a great job putting together events that genuinely embrace the diversity of the New Orleans community and provide a space for an authentic representation of those participating in the festivals. Last year, bands like Arpa with the Garifuna Connection, Papo y Son Mandao, Merengue 4, and Julio & Cesar, among others, showcased various Latin music genres. At the same time, restaurants like El Gato Negro, La Milpa, and La Chilanga offered their already-recognized dishes from Mexico and Central America, while up-and-coming vendors like Numada and Punto Criollo had the opportunity to showcase their delicious meals.


We invite you to enjoy this annual Latin celebration in the heart of the French Quarter. Join the party, taste the delicious flavors of various restaurants in the city, dance to the contagious Latin rhythms, and browse through the French Market o discover the artists and vendors that bring a bit of Latino culture to the oldest market in New Orleans every day.

For an updated list of performances and participating restaurants during the 2023 Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration at the French Market, visit frenchmarket.org.

A Tourist in Your Own Town

En español >> Un turista en tu propia ciudad

Tips from Cassandra Snyder, Soul of NOLA Tours

We asked Cassandra Snyder, tour guide and founder of the tour company Soul of NOLA, how to enjoy New Orleans as a tourist, and she gave us some great suggestions. So be a tourist in your town, and if you have visitors this summer, don’t miss out on showing them the best of New Orleans and its surroundings:

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, City Park

FREE every day, 10 am - 6 pm


New Orleans Museum of ART, City Park

FREE Wednesdays for Louisiana residents. 10 am - 5 pm 

The Historic New Orleans Collection

FREE. 520 Royal Street, French Quarter Tuesday - Sunday

Vue Orleans

An observatory and cultural experience featuring the only 360-degree panoramic riverfront views of New Orleans and beyond. A state-of-the-art interactive technology and digital experience designed to honor, celebrate, and share stories of the diverse cultures that converged to create the magic that is New Orleans.

Bonus: Watch the 4th of July fireworks here. Purchase tickets in advance. Vueorleans.com

Adults $24.95. Special prices for juniors, seniors, Louisiana residents, students, and military personnel.

 The National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.


ACE Hotel New Orleans 

600 Carondelet -Boutique in NOLA’s Warehouse District, close to art galleries, museums, and shopping.

Day passes for the swimming pool for locals, deals for rooms for locals, and live music, including “La Noche Caliente,” a night of Latin music on the third Saturday of every month.

The Virgin Hotel, The ACE Hotel, The W Hotel, NOPSI Hotel

- Offer day passes for swimming pool access.

Coolinary August 1-31

Citywide, restaurants offer prix-fixe meals.

Great deals at some of New Orleans’s finest restaurants!

Away from New Orleans:

Whitney Plantation Museum, Wallace, La.

A non-profit whose mission is to educate the public about the history and legacies of slavery in the Southern United States. Self-guided tours in Spanish. $25

Destrehan Plantation 

A Creole-style plantation and the closest to New Orleans. You will learn the family’s history that lived in the house for several generations and its role in the Slave revolt. They offer self-guided tours in Spanish, or you can also schedule a time with a Spanish-speaking guide in advance. Guided tours in English are ongoing. 

A day trip to Bay Saint Louis 

A getaway only one hour away! On the 2nd Saturday of each month, the shops and restaurants in Old Town Bay St. Louis roll out the red carpet for guests! There will be live music, food and beverage, and retail specials.

SATURDAY, JULY 8, 2023, AT 4 PM is FRIDA FEST, which pays homage to Frida Kahlo- includes a Frida Kahlo look-alike competition!

You no longer have an excuse to experience and get to know New Orleans and its surroundings. If you want to learn more about New Orleans, its history, and the culture of the Crescent City, consider booking a private tour with Soul of NOLA. If you are looking for Spanish-language tours, they offer a French Quarter walking tour on Saturdays for small groups of up to 12 people: JUNE - SEPT 9 am - 11 am and OCT - MAY 10 am - 12 pm.

The Real Meaning of PRIDE

SAR_Rally.jpg  Sylvia Rivera. (2023, April 12). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Rivera

En Español >>El significado real del ORGULLO

By Axel "LOLA" Rosa

When you think of Gay Pride, what comes to mind? Rainbow flags, parades, parties, your gay coworker constantly reminding you of it all month? Yes, that’s all true, but have you ever wondered how PRIDE started? Perhaps, you didn’t even know that one of the first individuals to riot was a Trans Latina woman. 

The history of PRIDE, some say, began in the 1950s when the President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, identified homosexual men and women as a threat to National Security. During his time in office, he signed an executive order banning LGBTQ members from federal government jobs. 

At this point, homosexuality was still considered sodomy and illegal. Many members of the LGBTQ community experienced violence, harassment, discrimination, and even police raids. In New York City, Police raids on LGBTQ bars were common. Although these bars were illegal, the LGBTQ community could still enjoy themselves and socialize amongst each other thanks to the Mafia. They operated the establishments and paid police officers to look the other way. That would stop working on June 28, 1969, when police raided The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar on Christopher Street in lower Manhattan. Patrons were fed up, and their rebellious rioting that night ignited marches of activism and awareness across the nation, setting the tone for the modern gay liberation movement. A year later, on the first anniversary of the riots, the first Gay Pride Parade was organized and held on Christopher St. Back then, there was no glitter, no music, no cover charges, no shows, no sponsors, not even the rainbow flag. It was a movement to fight for the LGBTQ community’s rights. The Rainbow Flag would later become the universal symbol of PRIDE in 1978 by artist Gilbert Baker. Today, PRIDE is celebrated worldwide and still brings awareness to critical issues within the community. In 2011 President Barack Obama proclaimed June to be LGBT PRIDE Month.

The Stonewall Inn riots were said to be led by trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Rivera was born in 1951 as a male but identified as a woman. Her Puerto Rican father was absent, and her Venezuelan mother committed suicide when Rivera was three years old. Eventually, running away from home at 11, she fell victim to sexual exploitation and was homeless most of her young life. Later, she met Johnson, and the two were credited, amongst others, with throwing the first drink at police officers when the Stonewall riots began, and Rivera was only 17 years old.

Along with Johnson in 1971, the two created STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), where they housed and supported homeless transgender youth. Rivera died of liver cancer in 2002, but her legacy remains with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. In 2015, Rivera became the first transgender activist to have her portrait added to Washington D.C.’s National Portrait Gallery.

There is no New Orleans Without Nueva Orleans

There is no New Orleans Without Nueva Orleans

By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- >No habría New Orleans sin Nueva Orleans

The Spanish colonial period in New Orleans lasted for nearly four decades in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but its impact and legacy remain to this day. Although the city is known for its French heritage, the bilingual exhibition “Spanish New Orleans and the Caribbean” from The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) seeks to rescue the vital influence of the Spanish in the region.

Under Spanish rule, New Orleans saw advances in its infrastructure, economy, and population growth, with a cultural life enriched by its well-educated and knowledgeable leaders in science, agriculture, and the arts.

New Orleans served as an important center in the new world, along with cities such as Havana, Mexico City, Santo Domingo, Santiago de Cuba, and Veracruz.

In this exhibition, more than 120 objects are shown, including maps, documents, furniture, paintings, and books; THNOC owns some, and others are on loan from institutions in Spain, Mexico, and other cities in the United States. These objects are presented together for the first time and demonstrate the importance of New Orleans as a Spanish city in French territory.

Alfred Lemmon curated the exhibit. It was a slow process that took almost seven years due to disruption due to the pandemic. “We had to look for the right documents, but at the same time, we have to find visual documents that tell a story that is interesting to the attendees,” Lemmon said. He also explained some objects are replicas made using the techniques of the time. An example is three flags inside the exhibition. “Made in Madrid, the flags took ten months to complete using 18th-century techniques,” Lemmon added. Another replica is a model of a ship representing one of the Spanish galleons that traveled from the Caribbean to New Orleans, which took 18 months to build.

Touring the exhibition, one can understand the close relationship between the cities along the Gulf of Mexico. Even though Veracruz was closer to Mexico City than New Orleans, the topography made traveling between those cities difficult. According to Lemmon, the exchanges between Veracruz and New Orleans were more frequent, so a school was proposed for young students from Veracruz to study in New Orleans.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of THNOC

In the exhibition, you can see letters between Louis XV, King of France, and Carlos III, King of Spain, in which they greet each other with “dear brother and cousin.” The letters between the monarchs ​​are for the first time in an exhibition together. Based on these documents and years of extensive research, Lemmon concludes that the actual influence in New Orleans was the convergence of the Bourbon kings since the founding of the province of La Louisianne coincided with the strengthening and development of the Bourbons as kings of France and Spain. 

Lemmon also realized that the Spanish understood that although New Orleans had no wealth in gold, its most considerable wealth was the Mississippi River. For this reason, they made sure to populate the region by bringing the Acadians from the new France and the Isleños from the Canary Islands. These inhabitants helped prevent the English from crossing the river and seizing the riches of the Mexican territory.

The exhibition highlights Bernardo de Galvez, governor of Louisiana, son of the Viceroy of Mexico, and a relative of diplomats from Russia to Tierra del Fuego, who dedicated themselves to serving the Spanish crown. Galvez, renowned for his military might, was an intellectual who wrote plays, founded the San Carlos Academy, and donated much of his wealth to help citizens in Mexico. 

“At the end of the Spanish period, the city of New Orleans was three times larger, and the architecture was stronger. The city had a defined center at Jackson Square, with the Cabildo, the Presbytere, and St. Louis Cathedral. It remains one of the most beautiful official centers in the United States,” said Lemmon. 

According to Lemmon, the Spanish also contributed to the independence of the United States. “Carlos III was a close friend of George Washington. A lot of money from the revolution was moved from Havana to New Orleans to help Washington,” he noted.

To learn more about the fascinating history and details of Spanish New Orleans, attend the free bilingual exhibition “New Orleans and the Spanish Caribbean,” on view until January 22, 2023. 


Mardi Gras with Arthur Hardy

Mardi Gras

with Arthur Hardy

By Ana García

¡Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Let the good times roll!

Click aqui para español- >Mardi Gras con Arthur Hardy

New Orleans is known worldwide for its nightlife and, during Carnival season, for its colorful costume parades and parties on its busy streets. Mardi Gras is not only a big party in the Big Easy, but it is also a deep-rooted tradition that makes our city the most magical of all.

Arthur Hardy, recognized as the leading authority on New Orleans Mardi Gras, is a fifth-generation New Orleanian. Since 1977, Hardy has shared his knowledge of Mardi Gras while appearing on all local and various national media. This time he addresses a bicultural audience for the first time to share the meaning and history of the New Orleans Carnival.

The beginning of Carnival

January 6, Three Kings Day, also known by Christians as “Epiphany,” marks the official start of the Carnival season. Carnival comes from the Latin “carne levare,” meaning “farewell to meat.” Hardy reminds us that the carnival season can be as long as 63 days, always culminating on Fat Tuesday, the day before the important day of repentance in the Catholic tradition of Ash Wednesday. It is that last day of carnival, Mardi Gras, when people opt to party and feast on the famous Bourbon Street.


The King Cake

During this season, it is also tradition to enjoy the famous King Cake, which includes the surprise of a plastic baby. The person who gets the piece with the baby in it becomes the king or queen for the day. According to Hardy, that’s the good news. “The bad news is that person has to buy the next cake or throw the next party, so it’s a fun tradition.” King Cake is the flavor of Mardi Gras, and “hundreds of thousands of King Cakes are shipped out of town to give people a little taste of the Mardi Gras season,” adds Hardy.

Krewes through the years

Krewes are another vital component of the Mardi Gras celebration. Hardy reminds us that the first krewe began in 1857. It was a group of white men, mostly very wealthy, who practically ran the city and society. This krewe was a free party for visitors and its residents. Since then, it has become a more diverse and inclusive celebration. “It started small, and now it’s big. It was exclusive, and now it’s inclusive. Women have taken over within the last ten years. Women now lead large krewes like Muses,” says Hardy.

“There’s something for everyone at Mardi Gras. If you want to join an organization, you’ll find one for you. There are male organizations, female organizations, predominantly black, co-ed, any combination of gender and race you want.”

Ball Dances

Some of the oldest krewes that continue today maintain their traditions. Rex, established in 1872, is the oldest parade, which this year celebrates its 150th anniversary. Comus was the first parade, but now they only have the gala that represents the closing of the carnival on the night of Mardi Gras. The carnival ball is a unique experience. “These are all traditions where for one day you can be a queen or a king, it’s all a fantasy, but it’s fun, and in New Orleans, we take fun seriously.”

A celebrity always represents the King of Bacchus and, instead of the traditional ball, there is a big party at the Superdome,” Hardy relates.


Zulu, a parade whose members are African American, was the first parade to include white people as guest passengers on its floats, and its tradition has wearing blackface. “It’s a controversial thing; some people think it’s undignified,” says Hardy, who doesn’t see this tradition as a controversy. “It’s what we’ve done since 1910. We think it’s fun, so if you don’t like it, don’t come. I like that attitude, don’t tell us how to celebrate, we know what we’re doing, and we have fun. If they don’t get it, tough luck.”

The Colors

Rex’s krewe chose the representative colors of the Mardi Gras Carnival. Hardy reminds us that the meaning of each color comes from the Catholic Church. Purple represents justice, green represents faith, and gold signifies power.

Throw me something, mister!

Each float has tokens members throw to carnival-goers as souvenirs.

The doubloon is one of the oldest objects, introduced in 1960 by the Rex parade. This coin is a favorite among collectors and is made of aluminum and comes in various colors, the most predominant being purple, green, and gold.

Plastic cups and beads are also popular during Mardi Gras. They usually have the krewe’s logo, the float’s name, and the year.

Handmade throws include the famous Zulu hand-painted coconuts and the Muses’ shoes decorated and designed uniquely, with lots of shine and personality by its members.

Toys are also crucial for the children in the crowd. Some of them have the krewe’s emblem, and although they do not have a historical significance as the doubloon, they are lots of fun to try to grab.

The meeting of the kings

Lundi Gras is the annual meeting between the King of Rex and Zulu, representing the opening of the Mardi Gras festivities. This tradition that existed many years ago resurfaced when Errol Laborde, publisher and editor of New Orleans magazine, came up with the idea of hosting a Monday night event to bring people back to be part of the celebration. “Now on Lundi Gras, it’s a huge deal. Parades in the evening, Rex and Zulu’s landing at the foot of the Mississippi River. It used to be a slow carnival day to get ready for Fat Tuesday, but now it’s a big celebration.”

Today’s Mardi Gras

Hardy believes that Mardi Gras is such a big celebration that it has no room to grow any bigger, although he acknowledges that there are always ways to innovate and improve it. Carnival is also a significant economic driver for New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, which, according to Hardy’s research, no one has been able to measure accurately. “It’s big business. When we lost Mardi Gras last year, it was devastating to many people. So I think this year will be a very successful Mardi Gras.” Hardy believes that Mardi Gras is better now than it used to be.

The Mardi Gras Guide

Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide is the only publication dedicated 100% to Carnival. It includes articles, facts, and the schedules of all the Mardi Gras parades. Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide has sold more than three million copies and received multiple awards. The guide is available in all supermarkets in the region, and you can buy it on mardigrasguide.com.

Hardy, who has participated in parades, shares one last thought about what Mardi Gras means to us in our city. “Mardi Gras is a warm and wonderful thing. I’ve never tired of it. If you can’t have a good time during Mardi Gras, check your pulse.”

VIVA NOLA: Best of Latino Representation in entertainment 2021

By Cody Downey

With 2021 at a close, it is time to look at how Latinos progressed in representation this year. Though it can always be better, the presence of our culture and community on film and television has increased.

Below are some of the best Latino representations portrayed this year.

*Note: These films and shows are what I picked based on what I saw this year. If you believe we missed out on something, make sure to leave a comment and let us know.)


Best Actor: Anthony Ramos as Usnavi de la Vega in “In the Heights”

Returning to the role he last played on stage in 2018, Puerto Rican actor Anthony Ramos shines as Usnavi de la Vega in the “In the Heights” film adaptation.

The son of Dominican immigrants, Usnavi runs a bodega in Washington Heights with his cousin Sonny and hopes to return to his parents’ home country to revive his father’s business. Throughout the movie, he must deal with the changing demographic of his neighborhood, the discovery of a winning lottery ticket bought from his store, and the potential relationship blossoming between him and his crush Vanessa.

Ramos does excellent in this role, bringing his amazing vocals and acting talent to the film. He brings a charming and relatable vibe to the character of Usnavi, making the viewer want to see him succeed. Though he may not have been the originator of the role, Anthony Ramos makes sure to provide an unforgettable performance, nonetheless.

In the Heights movie scene
In the Heights movie scene. Courtesy Warner Bros.


Best Actress: Lorenza Izzo as Celina Guerrera in “Women is Losers”

Telling an inspiring story of a woman’s fight to rise above her circumstances, Chilean actress Lorenza Izzo breaks through as Celina Guerrera in “Women is Losers.”

Growing up in 1960s San Francisco, Celina Guerrera is a young math prodigy who faces a series of setbacks after becoming pregnant by her Vietnam veteran boyfriend. Meeting all the hardships of a young mother in this era, Celina takes it head-on, managing to find her way in a world that isn’t always looking out for her.

Izzo is an absolute standout in this film, carrying it and creating a character that is easy to root for and want to follow. Choosing the lead actor is essential in a movie like this, and Izzo effortlessly takes control of the screen.


Best Actor in a Series: Jaden Michael as Colin Kaepernick in “Colin in Black and White”

Traveling from the world of vampires in Vampires vs. the Bronx to the world of youth sports, Dominican-American actor Jaden Michael plays the role of the former football player and activist Colin Kaepernick in “Colin in Black and White.”

The series follows Colin through his football career as he develops into an athlete and a teenager. His unique experience shapes Colin’s world. He discovers himself through different encounters in life and with the help of his close friends and his adoptive parents.

Michael shines in the role of a young Colin Kaepernick, showing all the nuances of a young man who must go through a lot before he truly understands who he is in the world. Taking on the many twists and turns the character faces, Jaden Michael masterfully shows a bright future ahead of him in acting.


Best Actress in a Series: Selena Gomez as Mabel Mora in “Only Murders in this Building”

Moving past her days of being a Disney Channel star, Mexican-American actress and singer Selena Gomez shows her growth with her performance as Mabel Mora in “Only Murders in this Building.”

Drawn together by a shared love of true crime podcasts, Mabel Mora befriends former television actor Charles-Haden Savage and Broadway director Oliver Putnam. They all live in the same apartment building. When a fellow resident is murdered, the trio decides to make a podcast to investigate, quickly realizing that there is more to the murder than they initially thought.

Despite acting for years now, Gomez does a fantastic job holding up comedically against comedy legends like Steve Martin and Martin Short. She shows her versatility in this role, proving that she is more than just a former child star.

"Encanto". Courtesy Disney.


Best Animated Film: “Encanto”

Presenting a beautiful depiction of Colombia with an almost entirely Colombian and Colombian-American cast, Encanto is another Disney film that speaks to people of all ages.

Following the Madrigal family of Colombia, Mirabel Madrigal is the only member of her family who doesn’t have a special power like super strength or shapeshifting. However, when her family’s magical powers start to fade, it is up to Mirabel to discover what’s happening and how to stop it.

Showcasing a powerful and vibrant Latino family on-screen, Encanto helps send a message of the importance of family and how everyone is unique.


Best Animated Series: “Maya and the Three”

Inspired by the mythology of early Mesoamerica, Maya, and the Three is another beautifully animated tale from Jorge Gutierrez, creator of “The Book of Life and El Tigre: The Many Adventures of Manny Rivera.”

Following the warrior princess of Maya on her fifteenth birthday, the young woman discovers the world she was raised in is not what it seemed. This realization comes as the gods of the Underworld threaten her family for committing a series of misdeeds. It will be up to Maya and her three new friends to fight to save their family and fulfill an ancient prophecy.

With excellent voice acting and excellent visuals, this miniseries presents a new female hero to enter leagues with other great women icons and be a role model to young girls.


Best Series: “Gentefied”

Bringing the very different Morales cousins back again to protect their family, Gentefied manages to balance varying storylines to offer a tale of community and solidarity.

After their grandfather Casimiro “Pop” Morales is released from jail, cousins Erik, Ana, and Chris Morales work together to keep Pop from leaving for Mexico and keep the family restaurant alive. All the while, the cousins have their problems from new opportunities, changes of scenery, and new relationships.

Able to mix comedy and drama perfectly, this series allows each character the focus to do something new and experience it in a familiar space.


Best Documentary: “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It”

Telling the life of the iconic actress, activist, and EGOT winner, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It takes a look at the actress and how she paved the way for Latino actors and actresses in the entertainment industry.

The documentary follows Rita Moreno throughout her life, from coming to the United States from Puerto Rico to landing the role in West Side Story and the aftermath of that role. It also talks about other aspects of Moreno’s life from her relationships, activism, and fight for non-stereotypical roles in Hollywood.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It is a very human documentary getting to the complete essence of who Rita Moreno is without pulling any punches and being completely honest about her experiences


Best Film: “In the Heights”

Taking the popular musical and putting it onto the big screen, In the Heights tells a story of fighting for your dreams against all odds and finding your place in the world even when it feels like there isn’t a place for you.

Washington Heights is the film set. The plot is about a wide variety of characters striving to achieve their dreams. The story develops around a bodega owner who tries to revive his father’s business, a young woman dealing with the pressure of being one of the few in her community to go to college, and a stylist who wishes to leave her home. These characters interact with one another and face a series of challenges that include gentrification, losing loved ones, and navigating changing relationships.

“In the Heights” is undoubtedly the biggest Latino film of the year, with an almost entirely Latino cast in a story that doesn’t fall into any stereotypes. With beautiful choreography and fantastic songs, this film is an instant classic proving how Hollywood can show Latinos on the big screen.


Latino Creative of the Year: Lin-Manuel Miranda

From his humble beginnings to his meteoric rise of fame, Puerto Rican actor, composer, director, producer, and singer Lin-Manuel has managed to dominate, representing Latinos in 2021.

As an actor, Miranda played the bit role of Piragüero in the adaptation of his first Broadway musical, “In the Heights.” He was the voice for the titular kinkajou in the animated Netflix film “Vivo.” He composed the music and contributed to the writing of “Encanto” and directed and produced “Tick, Tick… Boom!” about Rent’s playwright Jonathan Larson. He was also the producer of the documentary “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.”

Miranda has shown that no matter how he is working in the entertainment industry, he will find a way to put Latinos on the big screen!

Walt Disney y su conexión con Latinoamérica

Por Ana García

Para entender el mundo mágico de Disney, solo basta con explorar la visión y sueños de un genio que, con su creatividad, curiosidad, talento, perseverancia y con una imaginación sin límites, cambió el mundo del entretenimiento para siempre.

Walt Elías Disney nació en Chicago el 5 de diciembre de 1901.  Desde muy pequeño demostró su talento haciendo caricaturas, las cuales comenzó a VENDER para ganar un poco de dinero. En su adolescencia, descubrió su pasión por el cine.

En 1923, junto a su hermano Roy O. Disney, comenzaron a producir dibujos animados para luego crear uno de los personajes animados más famosos de la historia, Mickey Mouse. Fue durante una visita a Sudamérica, donde a este pionero de películas animadas le nació su amor por nuestra cultura latinoamericana y donde su creatividad creció aún más.

En 1941, en vísperas de la entrada de Estados Unidos a la segunda guerra mundial, el presidente Franklin Roosevelt envió a Disney con 16 de sus artistas a Latino América con el fin de frenar la influencia de los Nazis y fascistas en este continente. Para Roosevelt, Disney encarnaba el espíritu capitalista americano. Esto llevó a Walt y su grupo de artistas a conocer Brasil, Argentina y Chile. Durante su aventura por todos estos países latinoamericanos, conocieron muchos artistas y aprendieron mucho sobre el folklore de las regiones que visitaban. Exploraron y buscaron canciones, lugares, bailes y personalidades para sus animaciones. Así nació la inspiración de crear el personaje de José Carioca, un loro brasilero. Toda esta aventura llevó a la creación de un sin número de animaciones de películas y cortos con personajes basados en culturas hispanas como, “Saludos Amigos”, “Los Tres Caballeros”, y muchas más.

Castillo de Cenicienta Disney World
Castillo de Cenicienta Disney World. Foto por Rebecca Green.

La compañía de estudios Disney cuenta hoy con un sinfín de películas. Como latinos, para nosotros es muy especial saber que películas producidas por esta compañía están inspiradas en nuestros países latinoamericanos. Las películas como: “Coco” (México), “Up” (Venezuela), “Las Locuras del Emperador” (Perú), y, la más reciente, “Encanto” (Colombia) estrenada en noviembre 2021, representan mágicamente culturas que hacen que familias se transporten a estos lugares sin tener que salir de casa.

 La visión de este soñador iba más allá de sus películas animadas. Por eso creó los parques temáticos de Disney en California para que gente de todas las edades “entren a un mundo del ayer, del mañana y de fantasía”. Años más tarde y después de su muerte, nace Walt Disney World con la misma visión de entretener y de hacer los sueños realidad a todos quienes visiten el parque.

 Walt Disney World está de fiesta por su 50 aniversario, y aunque este empresario admirado por muchos alrededor del mundo no esté con nosotros, su visión sigue gracias a un sin número de “Imagineers” que con su talento continúan haciendo llegar el legado de Walt Disney a todos los hogares, sin importar el idioma. Hoy, todo lo que Walt Disney representa se ve reflejado no solo en estos parques sino también en sus películas que nos hacen soñar, reír y llorar con sus mensajes inspiradores.



By Ana García

Click aqui para español- >VIVA LATINO AMERICA

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed in the U.S. from September 15 through

October 15. How much do you know about Latin American / Hispanic countries?

Here are some cool facts about these beautiful nations.


Costa Rica

Capital: San José.

What country is “Pura Vida”, and its typical breakfast is “Gallo Pinto”? Costa

Rica, located in Central America, is one of the most biodiverse countries in

the world and is one of the few countries in the world with no army.




Capital: Mexico City

Mexico has the largest square plaza in the world and the second most

visited Catholic sanctuary in the world.

Its capital city has over 170 museums, which makes it the second city in

the world with the largest number of museums.

The meteorite that wiped out dinosaurs millions of years ago hit the

Mexican Yucatan Peninsula.


El Salvador

Capital: San Salvador

The delicious “pupusas” are known throughout Central America

but are originally from El Salvador.

It is the smallest country in Central America and is home to the

largest soccer stadium in Central America, the Estadio Cuscatlán.



Capital: Guatemala City

The Mayan ruins of Tikal are today for this country, what the great pyramids

they are for Egypt, a national symbol. The national bird is the quetzal. The coin is named after the bird. Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America.



Capital: Belmopan

The song “La Isla Bonita” was written as a lament for the people of Belize and was later reworked by Madonna for her album in 1986. It has the most recently established capital city in in Central America, founded in 1970.

Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, represented by a Governor General.





Capital: Managua

Félix Rubén García Sarmiento, better known as Rubén Darío, is one of the most recognized poets in the Spanish language.

Lake Nicaragua is Central America’s largest lake.

Granada is the oldest city in Latin America. It was founded in 1524.



Capital: Tegucigalpa

Honduras’ native dance, Punta, was declared by UNESCO as “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”

Honduras is home to the second largest coral reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.

The Archaeological Park of Copán houses a Hieroglyphic Staircase that contains the largest written text in the world. Built in 755 AD.



Capital: Panamá City / Ciudad de Panamá

Besides having one of the 7 wonders of the world, The Panama Canal, this country has spectacular flora and fauna.

The territory was controlled by the United States between 1903 and 1977.

It is the only country in the world where you can see the sunrise in the Atlantic Ocean and the sunset in the Pacific from the top of its highest point, the Barú volcano.


Dominican Republic

Capital: Santo Domingo

Merengue and bachata are unique Caribbean musical genres heard around the planet and deemed world heritage.

The Dominican Republic is the site of the oldest colonial settlement in the Americas and home to Christopher Columbus’s first New World landing point in 1492.It is the largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region.



Capital: La Habana / Havana

This country is known all over the world for its famous cigars and for having one of the most popular Latin singers of the 20th century, Celia Cruz ... “¡Azúcar!”

Cuba is home to the bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world.

Its main music genre is son Cubano, which is a unique mix of instruments like bongos, trumpets, keys and the tres guitar.


Puerto Rico

Capital: San Juan

Casa Bacardi is the largest rum distillery in the world. It is so large that more than 70% of the rum sold in the United States comes from this country.

Puerto Rico has the largest shopping center in the Caribbean, Plaza las Americas.

The remains of the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León are found in a tomb inside the Cathedral of San Juan.



Capital: Bogotá

Colombia is recognized worldwide for its delicious coffee, and for its music such as cumbia, vallenato, and salsa. Traditional meals include the Bandeja Paisa, Sancocho, and Pandebono.

It has a naturally occurring Rainbow River, the Caño Cristales. The river’s vibrant water and unique colors are found in no other streams on Earth.

90% of the world’s emeralds come from this Colombia.



Capital: Caracas

This country is known for having the highest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, which was Disney’s inspiration for the creation of one of his films “UP.”

NASA declared Lake Maracaibo the thunderstorm capital of the world.

Canaima National Park is a jewel of natural splendor comprised of some of the oldest landforms on earth. It is one of the largest national parks in the world.



Capital: Lima

In this country you can find 12 examples of UNESCO world heritage sites and more than 100,000 archaeological sites: being Machu Picchu, one of them.

It has the highest sand dune in the world: Cerro Blanco in the Sechura Desert.

It has the tallest flower in the world, the Puya Raimondi plant that is only found in the high peaks of the Andes.



Capital: Quito

Ecuador is known for its enchanted islands, The Galapagos, its location in the middle of the planet, its famous pasillo music, and its delicious fried food.

Ecuador is home to the closest point to outer space on Earth: the Chimborazo volcano.

The Panama hat comes from artisans who reside in the cities of Cuenca and Montecristi.

Capital: Santiago
Chile is recognized for its wines and for being the host of one of the greatest cultural events such as the Viña del Mar Festival. Chile is alsoknown for the great poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda.
It is home to the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on the planet.Its national liquor, Pisco, is a type of Brandy produced in the Chileanregions of Atacama and Coquimbo.

Capital: Asunción
Paraguay is a country where 90% of its population is bilingual. Its official languages are Spanish and Guaraní. It has one of the most important and extensive ecosystems in the world, the banana plantation, which is shared
with Brazil and Bolivia.The ”Tereré” is the national drink, named a cultural heritage. The Paraná River, which runs through Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, is the second longest in South America after the Amazon.

Capital: La Paz
This country has the largest salt flat in the world: The Salar de Uyuni is so big that it can be seen from space. Beneath the salt flat is the world’s largest lithium deposit. La Paz is unofficially the highest capital city in the world. The official capital is Sucre but the working capital (the seat of government) is in La Paz. Lake Titicaca which straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia is the world’s highest navegable lake.

Capital: Montevideo
Known for its delicious dishes such as chivito and asado and also for hosting the first soccer World Cup in 1930. Uruguay’s national anthem is the longest in the world with more than 102 music bars and a duration of 6 minutes. The capital city, Montevideo, is located on the Río de la Plata that separates Uruguay from Argentina.




Capital: Buenos Aires

Tango, the most sensual dance, was born in Argentina.

The famous Río de la Plata is of great economic and social importance.

Argentina is home to the highest and lowest points in the southern hemisphere.

The first animated film was created in Argentina in 1917 by Quirino Cristiani, who inspired Walt Disney during his tour in Latin America.



Capital: Brasilia

Samba music is recognized as the national cultural heritage of Brazil. The national soccer team has been the only one to attend all the World Cups.

60% of the Amazon rainforest belongs to Brazil. There are more than 400 airports in this nation.

Rio de Janeiro was once the capital of Portugal, which means that it was the only European capital city located outside of Europe.



Capital: Madrid

Flamenco is one of the symbols of the Iberian country. The famous Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was the author of the first modern novel in history, Don Quixote de la Mancha.

Tapas are a national gastronomic pride. Madrid has the oldest restaurant in the world, Botín restaurant, recognized in Guinness Records. Spain is the only European country that has a border with an African country.


The Entrepreneurial Spirit of The Jalice Brothers

The Entrepreneurial Spirit of The Jalice Brothers

By AnaMaria Bech

Click aqui para español- > Los emprendedores hermanos Jalice

Some things are just evident. The Cuban-born brothers have each other’s back. Their parents moved the family from Guantanamo to New Orleans when Rene was 15 and Javier was 8. They grew up in the Greater New Orleans area and integrated into their new country. But their Cuban roots are still very present.

Their entrepreneurial spirit showed early on. Right after high school, Rene began to work in sales and, in his ‘20s, was a top-performing sales representative at mobile stores. His manager gave him an idea to open his store, and with an old computer and second-hand furniture, he opened his first mobile store Wireless City on Magazine street. He included his then 16-year old brother in the business, and soon after, they had multiple stores in the Greater New Orleans area. That was the beginning of an entrepreneurial journey. Nowadays, they are still in business, and although they are in constant collaboration, their paths are much different.

Javier has focused entirely on his professional career as an attorney. After finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of New Orleans, Javier expressed an interest in attending Loyola University’s Law School. “Rene told me not to worry about the cost of school and that he would pay for it.” “It was just for motivation,” Rene says when asked if he fulfilled his promise to his younger brother. But it worked.

With over seven years of experience, mainly in employment and corporate law, the bilingual attorney is growing his independent practice, Jalice Law Firm. “The ability to work for me and wanting to assist clients in different areas of the law pushed me to accomplish the goal of opening my firm.” Jalice Law Firm’s main office is located at 3500 N. Hullen St. in Metairie, although Javier meets his clients wherever they need him.

Rene has been a role model for Javier, who admires his boldness and fearless attitude in life. When the wireless business was winding down, Rene quickly decided to purchase a business and came across Down the Hatch, an Irish neighborhood bar and grill located on 1921 Sophie Wright Pl. in the Garden District of New Orleans. His passion for cooking led him to own a restaurant. Nine years as its owner, Rene has improved the place. “I changed the menu, looked for the right team, remodeled, added a Cuban touch to it, and made it family-friendly.”

Now and then, Rene sprinkles some of his Latin flare with Latin nights, down-packed soccer watching parties, and if you have the Irish luck, you may even get to enjoy a taste of the whole pig roasted in traditional Cuban style. You may even run into one of Cuba’s best artists who have made a required stop at Down the Hatch when visiting New Orleans.


Thanks to Rene’s vision, Down the Hatch offers something unique to the regular customers, families enjoying a nice meal at the patio, the late college crowd, or during a special private event. You can enjoy your favorite sports at Down the Hatch, a delicious, varied menu, and great drinks.

Following a strong business ethic and relying on each other, the Jalice brothers continue to grow their respective businesses. The success of the two brothers makes their immigrant parents very proud. As Javier said, “we are fulfilling the very reason why they moved here from Cuba, for their children to have a better future.”

Rene follows a straightforward business approach that Javier has grasped and that all entrepreneurs should follow: “There is no failure. If someone else is doing it, I can do it, too.”

Norma Castillo’s Legacy

Norma Castillo’s Legacy

By Ana Isabel Gil

Click aqui para español- > El legado de Norma Castillo

With courage and determination, Norma Castillo learned everything about a bakery in just six months. She learned how to make cakes, desserts, bread, and many Cuban treats. She is a native of Villanueva, Honduras, so there was some controversy when she won the award for the best Cuban sandwich in New Orleans, right after Katrina. 

Norma is the first name that comes to mind for Latinos who are looking for a special occasion cake or a traditional treat of Latin American cuisines like her famous tres leches dessert or her guava pastries.

She remembers lovingly the encouragement her late husband gave her to get her bakery. At 47 years old, when she stopped fearing failure, she did it. That idea was present since her former employer and mentor, Don Tomas, approached her when she worked at the casino to offer her a job running his bakery. She excitedly answered yes. Don Tomas, who is no longer with us, gave Norma a chance to start over.

In 2003, she opened the doors to Norma’s Sweets Bakery in Kenner. She opened her second location in New Orleans about 12 years ago with her son José Lorenzo, who helps her run it.

Last year, she moved her business in Kenner to a spacious and modern space a few yards from the original premises. Norma’s International Market & Bakery reflects the growth of her business and her brand. Her youngest son, Manolo, helps to manage it. 

Customers who have known Norma for over fifteen years describe her as “a fighter and a woman who works very hard to achieve what she wants.” Others say they admire her and consider her a role model that many in the Latino community should follow.

Norma is proud of her accomplishment, but most importantly, she feels fulfilled for building a legacy to leave to her children and grandchildren. She hopes they will carry on the family business and will remember her for it.

The key to having a prosperous business, according to Norma, comes in two steps:  

Plan: “When you have a plan, you always have to get organized, learn and do it.” If you have a clear idea and know what you would like to do, you must get into a business you have learned everything about, know how to do it, and manage it.

Action: “It is important to find good employees and treat those who help you in the business well. When they see their workplace as their own, they take good care of business.” Norma stresses the importance of doing things with honesty and working on something that one enjoys.

The Rosa Cousins: EDG El Agresivo & South 25 Entertainment

The Rosa Cousins: EDG El Agresivo  & South 25 Entertainment

By Cody Downey

Click aqui para español- > Los primos Rosa: EDG El Agresivo y South 25 Entertainment

After years of not talking with one another due to fighting within their family, cousins Kevin and Axel Lola La Rosaa met up once again while Lola was on Spring Break from Full Sail University. They reconnected through music when Kevin showed a song to Lola. Upon finding out that his cousin made the single, Lola was shocked.

“Before I left, he just did hip hop and rap, and he was just mumbling like all these other dudes,” Lola Rosa said. “When he came home and played the reggaeton track, I was like, ‘Oh my God. This is it.’ I asked, ‘Would you like me to manage you?’ and we’ve been working ever since.”

With Lola now in charge of South 25 Entertainment, armed with both a bachelor’s and master’s in Entertainment Business, and Kevin becoming reggaeton artist EDG El Agresivo, the Honduran-American cousins are working to make a name for themselves in the music industry.

Growing up listening to plenty of different music types, Kevin said that he was inspired to begin a music career of his own after seeing how others were doing the same.

“I had just seen friends who were recording, and I felt that maybe one day I could do that,” he said.

Now, Kevin is known as EDG El Agresivo, a shortening of Edgardo’s middle name and adding “The Aggressive” as “something for the ladies.”

His first official single, “Sufrimiento,” was released in March 2020. The single is produced by Bless the Producer, who served as a producer on fellow reggaeton artist Ozuna’s debut album “Odisea.”

Kevin says his music is inspired by his past relationships, which helps him make what he calls “sad pop music.”

“[My exes] They broke my heart, so that’s how it inspired me to write heartbreak songs,” he said. “Everything comes from the heart.”

Joining an already competitive industry with many others out there, Lola said that his cousin is different from other Latino artists because he is from New Orleans.

“We want to incorporate our red beans and rice culture with our arroz and frijoles culture,” he said. “We’re not Latinos from Miami; we’re not from PR [Puerto Rico], we’re not from Texas or Mexico. We’re from New Orleans with our big Central American population here, and that’s what is going to make EDG El Agresivo stand out.”

They highlight that they are from New Orleans by making the city prominent in their videos and content.

“Everything we’re doing we’re not outsourcing. We’re not going out of state to shoot; we’re not going to the beach in Miami with a bunch of hot girls to film,” Lola said. “Everything is going to be Louisiana. It’s literally going to be in people’s faces.”

The launch of his entertainment company South 25 Entertainment, was something Lola had in his head since he was a child. Within his place of power, he is glad to have the freedom for his cousin to write what he wants without push back.

“It’s just really about having creative control. I don’t want anyone to tell my cousin you can’t release that song,” he said. “With us, if we hit a blow, that’s our loss, not a billion-dollar corporation’s.”

However, the collaboration between the pair has meant more for them than just business. Lola and Kevin have rekindled their relationship after growing up apart due to their mothers not speaking to each other. Axel says that this project brought the two of them closer together.

“We never hung out, we never argued, we never really did anything but see each other now and then for the holidays, and that’s it,” he said. “But now, we’re always texting; we’re always communicating. I feel like, even though he is my baby cousin, he’s more like my little brother.”

With Kevin’s new single, “Amor Ciego,” coming out around Valentine’s Day and their continuous hard work, the Rosa cousins feel that they will succeed together being the yin to the other’s yang.

“He’s not educated. I’m educated. I don’t know how to write music. He knows how to write music,” Lola said. “But, for a music business entity, it takes not just an artist, but it takes someone behind the artist to carry them.”

30 Films to celebrate Hispanic Heritage (Part 3)

30 Films to celebrate Hispanic Heritage

By Cody Downey

Click aqui para español- >  30 películas para seguir celebrando la herencia hispana (Parte 3)

A great way to explore our culture is through film. Though Latino and Hispanic representation in Hollywood has been lacking, many films have focused on Latino life and history. Movies portray from historical dramas, family comedies, stories during the Mexican revolution to the activist movements during the 1960s.

I have created a list of 30 films that include Latino and Hispanic representation. We will describe five movies per month. To make this list more interesting, I decided to stray away from the typical films that are usually suggested, such as “La Bamba,” “Selena,” and “Stand and Deliver.” I hope you find a new favorite and broaden your scope of films.


This list doesn’t even cover everything, such as the films of icons such as Rita Moreno, Jennifer Lopez, and Andy Garcia or films released outside of the United States. Make it a point to watch some of these films or maybe come up with a list of your own. Either way, find a unique way to honor our history and keep it alive.

A Walk in the Clouds (1995) - Alfonso Arau

World War II veteran Paul Sutton, played by Keanu Reeves, runs into Victoria Aragon, played by Aitana Sanchez-Gijon. Paul pretends to be Aragon’s husband to escape resentment from her family.

“A Walk in the Clouds” is one of the rare romantic films that are more than a cheesy love story, also providing commentary on issues of class and expectations for women. The film was one of Latino Academy Award winner Anthony Quinn’s last few films before passing away in 2001.

Real Women Have Curves (2002) - Directed by Patricia Cardoso

Ana Garcia, played by America Ferrera, graduates high school. Her teacher Mr. Guzman, played by George Lopez, encourages her to believe that she can get to college. However, Ana comes into conflict with her mother, played by Lupe Ontiveros, who believes that Ana should work at her sister’s textile store instead of attending college.

“Real Women Have Curves” has been praised by many for its portrayal of Latina women and body positivity discussions. The film also introduced the world to America Ferrera, who would star in “Ugly Betty,” for which she later won an Emmy.

The Perfect Game (2009) - Directed by William Dear

In 1950s Mexico, Angel Macias, played by Jake T. Austin, convinces former St. Louis Cardinals member Cesar Faz, played by Clifton Collins Jr., to help form a Little League baseball team. The team manages to compete against the other teams despite facing racism and troubles with their visas.

“The Perfect Game” tells an inspiring true story that appeals to the underdog in all of us. The film features a cast of young actors who would become more famous later on, including “The King of Staten Island” actor Moises Arias and “Pair of Kings” actor Ryan Ochoa.

The Book of Life (2014) - Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez

Manolo, voiced by Diego Luna, is caught in a bet between Mexican rulers La Muerte and Xibalba, voiced by Kate del Castillo and Ron Perlman. Xibalba kills Manolo after he confessed his love for Maria, voiced by Zoe Saldana. Now trapped in the Land of the Remembered, Manolo must find a way to make it back to Maria before she accepts a proposal from their friend Joaquin, voiced by Channing Tatum.

Outshined by the 2017 film “Coco,” “The Book of Life” brings together a cast of stars from both American and Mexican films to tell this tale of fighting for love despite the odds. The film was famous in its day and got nominated for Best Animated Film at the Golden Globes that year.

Sergio (2020) - Directed by Greg Baker

Brazilian U.N. Special Representative in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello, played by Wagner Moura, goes to Iraq to negotiate American troops’ withdrawal during the country’s 2003 invasion. However, things become dangerous for Sergio after terrorists attack their base.

“Sergio” tells the real-life story of Sergio Vieira de Mello and his fight to promote peace and independence in the region. “Narcos” actor Wagner Moura tells this story giving an outstanding performance and giving the character life.


30 Films to Keep Celebrating Hispanic Heritage (Part 2)

30 Films to Keep Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

By Cody A. Downey

Click aqui para español- > 30 películas para seguir celebrando la herencia hispana (Parte 2)

One of the best ways to explore our culture is through the media of film. Though the amount of Latino and Hispanic representation in Hollywood has been lacking, many films have focused on different parts of our life and history. From historical dramas to family comedies to stories during the Mexican revolution to the activist movements during the 1960s, these films show it all.

I have created a list of 30 films that include Latino and Hispanic representation. We will describe 5 movies per month. To make this list more interesting, I decided to stray away from the typical films that are usually suggested such as “La Bamba,” “Selena” and “Stand and Deliver.” I hope you find a new favorite and broaden your scope of films.

This list doesn’t even cover everything such as the films of icons such as Rita Moreno, Jennifer Lopez, and Andy Garcia or films released outside of the United States. Make it a point to watch some of these films or maybe come up with a list of your own. Either way, find a unique way to honor our history and keep it alive.

  1. Zoot Suit (1981) Directed by Luis Valdez
  2. The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1983) Directed by Robert M. Young

Based on a true story, the film follows the titular Gregorio Cortez, played by Edward James Olmos, who becomes a folk hero after killing a sheriff in self-defense after a translation error. Gregorio soon goes on the run to avoid capture all the while inspiring those along the U.S.-Mexico border.

  1. Born in East L.A. (1987) Directed by Cheech Marin
  2. The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) Directed by Robert Redford
  3. El Mariachi (1993) Directed by Robert Rodriguez
  4. Blood In Blood Out a.k.a. Bound by Honor (1993) Directed by Taylor Hackford

After leaving his violent and racist father, bi-racial Miklo, played by Damian Chapa, moves in with his cousins Cruz, played by Jesse Borrego, and Paco, played by Benjamin Bratt and joins their gang. However, a murder will set each of them on different paths with Miklo going to prison, Cruz becoming an artist, and Paco becoming a police officer.

Though there are many Hispanic and Latino gang movies, “Blood In Blood Out” differs from most by presenting different views on how circumstances can affect who a person becomes. The film helped influence the careers of all of its lead actors including Bratt, who was later nominated for an Emmy.

  1.  Mi Vida Loca (1994) Directed by Allison Anders
  2. I Like It Like That (1994) Directed by Darnell Martin
  3. My Family (1995) Directed by Gregory Nava
  4. A Walk in the Clouds (1995) Alfonso Arau
  5. Fools Rush In (1997) Directed by Andy Tennant
  6.  The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998) Directed by Stuart Gordon

Five Mexican-American men put their money together to buy an ice cream white suit that each could never afford on their own. As the men agree to take turns wearing it, they discover that wearing the suit makes their dreams come true.

Despite having a somewhat cringey performance by Italian-American Joe Mantegna as a Mexican-American, “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” presents a silly, magical story of how men get the chance to achieve dreams they wouldn’t have been able to. The film even features an otherwise mostly Latino cast with actors Clifton Collins Jr., Esai Morales, Gregory Sierra, and Edward James Olmos.

  1. Girlfight (2000) - Directed by Karyn Kusama
  2. In the Time of the Butterflies (2001) Directed by Mariano Barroso
  3. Real Women Have Curves (2002) Directed by Patricia Cardoso
  4. Chasing Papi (2003) Directed by Linda Mendoza
  5. Maria Full of Grace (2004) Directed by Joshua Marston
  6. Goal! The Dream Begins (2005) Directed by Danny Cannon
  7. Walkout (2006) Directed by Edward James Olmos
  8. Nothing Like the Holidays (2008) Directed by Alfredo De Villa
  9. The Perfect Game (2009) Directed by William Dear
  10. A Better Life (2011) Directed by Chris Weitz

Illegal immigrant and gardener Carlos Galindo, played by Demain Bichir, is trying his best to provide his son Luis, played by Jose Julian, a better life than what he has. However, after his truck is stolen, Carlos and Luis try to find it without seeking any other help.

“A Better Life” presents a gripping story about a man trying to provide his son with things he never had. Bichir would be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance, and to date, he is the last Latin American actor to be nominated in that category.

Una vida mejor (2011) - Dirigida por Chris Weitz

  1. The Book of Life (2014) Directed by Jorge R. Gutierrez
  2. Spare Parts (2015) Directed by Sean McNamara
  3. Hands of Stone (2016) Directed by Jonathan Jakubowciz
  4. Lowriders (2016) Directed by Ricardo de Montreuil
  5. El Chicano (2018) Directed by Ben Hernadez Bray
  6. Miss Bala (2019) Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
  7. Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019) Directed by James Bobin

In this adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon series, Dora, played by Isabela Moner, is sent to live with her cousin Diego, played by Jeff Wahlberg, in Los Angeles after her parents, played by Michael Pena and Eva Longoria, go to find the lost city of Parapata. However, Dora will have to go and find them after they are kidnapped by another group searching for the city.

“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” brings the iconic series to both screen and live-action with a majority Latino cast. The film provides a nice viewing for the young ones in the film all the while showing them a young Latina traversing the jungle and being heroic.

30.Sergio (2020) Directed by Greg Baker

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1983) - Directed by Robert M. Young

Based on a true story, the film follows the titular Gregorio Cortez, played by Edward James Olmos, who becomes a folk hero after killing a sheriff in self-defense after a translation error. Gregorio soon goes on the run to avoid capture all the while inspiring those along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Guillo, el armadillo”

“Guillo, el armadillo”

Click aqui para español- > “Guillo, el armadillo”

A book that inspires children to find their unique talents.

As a local Spanish teacher, mom, and author, Andrea Olatunji has always strived to connect with her community. When schools closed this past March, she found herself teaching six classes from home while helping her five-year-old son with his, and also promoting her recently published book “Omar, el jaguar”. 


Looking for ways to help others in her situation, she created a Youtube channel where she reads books for children in Spanish; she participated in storytime events with her book at Children’s Hospital, The Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University, and UNICEF, among others.  And, on top of that, she finished working on her second book, “Guillo, el armadillo,” which will be published this October.

Andrea, tell us about your book? What is it about?

This is the second book in a series that depicts animals that are native to the Americas. The first one is “Omar, el jaguar”, a story about a jaguar that learns to celebrate diversity. “Guillo” is the story of an armadillo, a popular and protected species in my home country, Uruguay. Guillo wakes up on a Monday ready to start school. He is excited and can’t wait to learn new things. However, as the week goes by, he grows increasingly disappointed because he can’t meet the challenges proposed each day by the teacher. He is either too short, too slow, or simply unable to accomplish these activities. By the end of the week, he is convinced that he does not have any talent and he is reluctant to come back to school. Eventually, however, his talent unexpectedly reveals itself.


Which other autochthonous animals are depicted in your books? 

The books include a sloth, a toucan, an anaconda, a pink dolphin, and a condor, among others. This is a great opportunity to teach kids about these animals and their environments, and about the reasons why some are in danger of extinction, along with deforestation in the Amazon forest. 


Where did the idea for “Guillo, el armadillo” come from?

It is inspired by my students. In my twenty-plus year journey as a Spanish teacher, I have always enjoyed using projects to enhance my student’s learning experiences. One of my favorite activities is called “Mi Talento” (My talent). Here students need to teach their classmates and teacher something they know how to do well. Most of my students loved to show off their talents, but there are always a couple of children who seem intimidated by the challenge. When talking with them, they would tell me “I don’t have a talent. What can I teach?”. This puzzled me. Guiding these students in the process and then seeing them empowered by the discovery of their talents is what inspired me to create “Guillo, el armadillo”.

What makes “Guillo, el armadillo” a special book?

Its empowering message: to believe in yourself and discover your unique talents. As a teacher, I wrote it thinking about those kids who are learning the language. Thus, the vocabulary is simple and repetitive, enabling children to remember it easily. 

This is a book specially designed so a child with basic knowledge of the language can understand it. This enables the educators to teach in context and to elaborate as the child progresses. Finally, parents that do not speak the language have found the vocabulary intuitive, which together with the illustrations, has enabled them to understand the story.


The book’s illustrations are fun and eye-catching. Inspired by Panamanian “molas” (colorful fabric panels made by the local Kuna women), and the work of Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez Vilaró, the animals are full of detail and intricate shapes. Yet, there is a simplicity to them. The backgrounds are reminiscent of something that young children do a lot: cut and paste. This tissue paper collage gives the illustrations a nice 3D effect. Finally, there is a guide to accompany the book, which comes with lesson plans, printables, project ideas, and guiding questions.

How have teachers and parents reacted to your books so far?

“Omar, el jaguar” has become an asset in many teachers´ curricula during this pandemic. 

Also, several parents that were now teaching their kids at home considered it as an option to help their kids continue practicing their Spanish.


When will “Guillo” be available?

I am doing a crowdfunding campaign from September 15th till October 15th to get funds to finish editing this book and print it. This is a costly process, so I need help. 

This campaign is an “all or nothing”. This means that if I don’t meet my desired goal, then the project does not get funded and I won’t be able to print my book. But what I like about it is that people do not just give money to a cause; they get to purchase exclusive rewards. For example, they can pre-order signed copies of the book for less including shipping; they can get a class package that includes an author virtual visit, etc. It is a great way to get help and at the same time give back.

Where can people join this campaign?

I invite those interested to subscribe to my website www.cuentacuento.com for information about the campaign. I also give my subscribers first dibs into the rewards and they get opportunities to participate in discounts and giveaways. I can also be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Whitney Plantation

The Whitney Plantation 

By AnaMaria Bech

Para español hacer clic aquí ->La Plantación Whitney

Last Summer, I took out-of-town visitors to the Whitney Plantation Museum when I heard it was the only museum in Louisiana with an exclusive focus on the lives of enslaved people. Most of the tour took place around the grounds of the plantation complex, which has over twelve historic structures. It was a very hot day and I was in agony. My distress was null in contrast to the pain that I could hear within the stories of life in the sugar plantation and the difficult conditions endured by enslaved people. Hearing their names, seeing them engraved on the memorial walls, and even finding their relation to known local descendants put everything in perspective and made it feel too real and present. Perhaps one of the hardest thoughts was when I heard that when slavery “officially” ended, many workers decided to stay at these plantations because there were no other worthwhile alternatives for them.

Recently, our world has been protesting and questioning more than ever the systemic racism that continues to hurt the quality of life of Black Americans and other people of color. 

It is important to educate ourselves and understand the past, and how it has shaped our current society. When you visit the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana and take one of their accurate historical tours that talk about the culture, life, and operations of New Orleans plantations and the history behind the Atlantic Slave Trade, your eyes will be open to seeing that slavery is not such a distant entity. A tour is not enough, but it can be the beginning of an educational journey so that we can all understand better and become advocates for a fair society for Black Americans and others who face injustices.

“The Wall of Honor is a memorial dedicated to all the people who were enslaved on the Whitney Plantation. The names and the information related to them (origin, age, skills) were retrieved from original archives and engraved on granite slabs. So far, more than 350 slaves were identified on official records.” - Whitney Plantation Museum

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