Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Introduction to the book

El Nuevo: A Changing New Orleans, represents a seemingly small population that has been making an immense impact on the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

In the aftermath of the storm, the entire ethnic and racial composition of New Orleans changed drastically due to the mass displacement of individuals from the city. Today, New Orleans continues to change as individuals make their way back to their homes, while new residents arrive to take advantage of the opportunities that the area can provide. The Hispanic population increased greatly as new individuals arrived to rebuild businesses and homes destroyed by Katrina. It is estimated that the Hispanic population in New Orleans has reached 150,000, which is double the amount of Hispanics in the city before the storm. According to information provided by the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas, even when construction work becomes more difficult to find for the migrant workers in the New Orleans area, it is likely that they will remain in the city.1

Hispanics became an integral part of the reconstruction in New Orleans. They represented nearly half of the reconstruction workers in the city, helping to make 86.9 percent of households functional by early 2008.1 Yet almost four years later recovery is still slow, and resources are still very limited for many areas of New Orleans, posing challenges for all residents. Hispanics must overcome even more unique obstacles, including limited English proficiency and a lack of cultural familiarity, making survival even more difficult in the vulnerable city1.

Organizations as well as private businesses throughout the city have stepped up to try and provide the resources necessary for the Hispanic population to assimilate into the New Orleans community. I set out to photograph these types of businesses that cater to the Hispanic population, such as taquerias, restaurants, barbershops, music stores, and grocery stores, as well as other elements of the Hispanic culture that were evident in the city. In doing so, I have never before come into contact with so many individuals that were willing to assist me in my ventures. I recognize that this work is just a glimpse into this culture; there is much more to be said about them and their impact on the city.

It is through the efforts of its natives working hand in hand with its new residents that New Orleans continues to evolve, making the complicated city even more diverse.