Brazilian tinge to Post-Katrina New Orleans

The Latin Tinge in New Orleans is not only a turn-of-the-20th century phenomenon that helped shaped the history of jazz. It continues today, taking on new forms in the years since hurricane Katrina so profoundly disrupted the landscape. During the post-2005 rebuilding, Brazilians seeking construction work increased over tenfold in the city, and with this shift, the cultural imprint of Brazil on the city became more visible. Brazilians, with their world-famous carnaval traditions, have found that Mardi Gras is an event where they can assert their presence in New Orleans.

Casa Samba is a New Orleans-based Rio de Janeiro-style samba school that has been performing in the city for over two decades. Director Curtis Pierre has maintained long-term collaborations with Brazilian musicians such as percussionist Jorge Alabê. Mardi Gras has offered opportunities for Brazilian immigrants, or Brazucas, to be seen as a part of a kind of "universal carnival citizenship."

It has also, however, tested the limits of how compatible the distinct celebrations of Brazilian Carnaval and New Orleanian Carnival can be. For example, Casa Samba tried to perform during the annual Endymion parade in the 1980s, but the six mile route ultimately proved impossible to endure while doing a dance as athletic as the samba. On the other hand, the group is often hired at the private balls of the carnival krewes, and during these jobs they are often billed as representative of New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition, rather than an exotic example of Brazilian Carnaval.

Brazucas also recognize the affinity between Brazilian Carnaval blocos and New Orleanian Carnival krewes. Both are groups of revelers, inspiring young Brazilians to print up T-shirts and form a bloco that joins the revelry by one of the main Uptown parade routes. As the mingle with the crowd, people often ask them what krewe they belong to.

In addition, bands like Chegadão made up of both Brazucas and New Orleanians are also forming, exploring the affinities between samba and funk, and between accordion-based forró and zydeco. As the city's demographics change, new attempts to season the gumbo of New Orleans music emerge.

For more information on this subject, read Annie McNeill Gibson's book "Post-Katrina Brazucas: Brazilian Immigrants in New Orleans."