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Today, I’m sharing some images from one of the unique things about New Orleans/SE Louisiana: the cemeteries, or cities of the dead. Common legend dictates that the ground is so low and soft in the city, and the water table so high, that burying folks below grounds doesn’t quite work–a big rain, and granny’s remains could easily be floating down the street. Not a good thing.
As I understand it, that’s partially true, and it’s partially just that the practice of 18th-century French and Spanish people who lived in the city was to bury people in vaults.
For whatever combination of reasons, in the older parts of the city, especially, people are buried aboveground. The oldest cemetery in the city–which is the site of a major scene in Royal Street–is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (yes, there’s also a No. 2, which is almost as old). St. Louis No. 1 dates from the 1700s. You can see from the photo above how close it is to downtown NOLA.
There are a couple of tombs for people who play a role in Royal Street. The first is that of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. As you can see, people still feel the need to leave their calling cards (or graffiti) on her tombstone.
And here is the tomb of Dominique You. “Captain Dominique” was the trusted lieutenant and reported half-brother of the pirate Jean Lafitte, and he makes a couple of major appearances in Royal Street (Jean is a series regular). After the Battle of New Orleans in 1814, President James Madison pardoned Jean Lafitte, his brother Pierre, half-brother Dominique You and the rest of Jean’s pirate hordes as a reward for helping the American’s save New Orleans from the British. Jean wasn’t a guy to settle down to a life of respectability, however, and went back to pirating. No one is sure where he’s buried–or if he died at sea in battle. But Dominique took his pardon and became a respected man in the city…thus, his tomb.
The cities of the dead are kind of creepy, yes? St. Louis No. 1 made a great spot to set a scene in the novel.