creole woman

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WOMEN’S HISTORYMARIE LAVEAU (10 September 1794 or 1801 - 16 June 1881)

Marie-Catherine Laveau was a Louisiana Creole woman and practiconer of Vodou. Records indicate that Laveau’s parents were both free biracial people of color. In 1819, she married an immigrant from Haiti named Jacques or Santiago, who disappeared in 1820. She later became the lover of a white man named Christophe Dominick Duminy de Glapion, by whom she had seven children, though only two daughters survived until adulthood. Folklore claims that she earned a living as a liquor importer or hairdresser.

Most of Marie-Catherine Laveau’s life is often conflated with that of her daughters, Marie-Heloïse-Euchariste and Marie-Philomène.

The legend of Marie Laveau runs deep through the veins of New Orleans. The Voodoo priestess was believed to have been born free in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, about 1794, the daughter of a white planter and a free Creole woman of color. During the mid 19th century the city pulsed with crowds, commerce and an undercurrent of secret power. The source of this power was the Voodoo religion and its queen, Marie Laveau. She was worshiped and feared by people of all races. Some scholars, however, believe that her powers were actually based on a network of informants. As a hairdresser, when she visited her clients (mostly white) she listened closely to their gossip. Some scholars assert that she ran her own brothel and cultivated information in that way as well. It is presumed that she used this inside information to influence and instill fear in her believers. Whether or not the legends of her abilities as a Voodoo priestess are true, it cannot be denied that she has left her mark on this town. She was buried in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans in 1881. To this day her tomb continues to attract visitors who unlawfully desecrate it by marking three “x"s (XXX) on its side, in the hopes that Laveau’s spirit will grant them a wish.

Today in Gentrification: My 70-year-old neighbor is giving up a bowling night.

Miss Anne is a 70-year-old stately Creole woman who lives below me and that’s my gossip queen.  She always has the scoop on absolutely everything, and sometimes we just sit out in the courtyard discussing the goings-on in the community.  She’s a bowler who goes to Yonkers three nights a week for her leagues and she drives because who is trying to carry bowling balls on the bus?  Every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, Miss Anne is on the way to the bowling alley by 6 and she’s home by 10:30.  

This weekend we were sitting out on the stoop and she gave me the tea about all the renovations going on in our complex.  Apparently, the apartment above me has been completely redone with recessed lighting, taking down a wall to open up the living room & dining room, brand new appliances, the whole nine yards.  We both have this sense of foreboding that our rent is about to skyrocket and we’ve been living with this threat since they installed a new digital intercom system, replaced the washers & dryers in the laundry room, and uprooted the old plants along the walkways to put in new ones.  

As we were talking about our complex, she also brought up the changes to the neighborhood as a whole and she has given up one of her bowling nights because she no longer has a parking spot.  She has to wait for one on the street to open up, and the other day she got to her address at 10:30 and waiting to park until 11:45.  A 70-year-old woman waiting in her car for place to park outside a building she’s lived in for 25 years because the balance between residents and longtime businesses is being tipped in favor of prospectors looking to get rich.

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The legend of Marie Laveau runs deep through the veins of New Orleans. The Voodoo priestess was believed to have been born free in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, about 1794, the daughter of a white planter and a free Creole woman of color. During the mid 19th century the city pulsed with crowds, commerce and an undercurrent of secret power. The source of this power was the Voodoo religion and its queen, Marie Laveau. She was worshiped and feared by people of all races. Some scholars, however, believe that her powers were actually based on a network of informants. As a hairdresser, when she visited her clients (mostly white) she listened closely to their gossip. Some scholars assert that she ran her own brothel and cultivated information in that way as well. It is presumed that she used this inside information to influence and instill fear in her believers. Whether or not the legends of her abilities as a Voodoo priestess are true, it cannot be denied that she has left her mark on this town. She was buried in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans in 1881. To this day her tomb continues to attract visitors who unlawfully desecrate it by marking three “x"s (XXX) on its side, in the hopes that Laveau’s spirit will grant them a wish.