08 Feb Spanish Town Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is Louisiana’s biggest party of there (though that’s a hard title to give considering how those in Louisiana love to laissez le bon temps rouler.) Stemming from the fasting tradition of Lent, Mardi Gras is the party before all partying stops. Must be why it’s so much fun.
New Orleans isn’t the only place where fun is being had though. Baton Rouge has many events of its own. Much less crowded and arguably just as fun, it’s a great way to experience Mardi Gras without the overwhelming mass of drunk humans vomiting or peeing on your shoes.
One of my favorite parades in Baton Rouge is the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade. Started in 1981, and obsessed with its flamingo mascot, it runs through the Spanish Town neighborhood, the oldest neighborhood in the city, located in downtown. Founded in 1805, this historic neighborhood has strong Spanish influence.
Interestingly, East Baton Rouge Parish, along with several other parishes, wasn’t considered part of the Louisiana Purchase, rather belonging to West Florida and the Spanish. During the next 5 years, the people of these parishes protested to become part of the United States. But settlers from the Canary Islands came to inhabit the Spanish Town neighborhood precisely because of its Spanish rule, maintaining their language and sense of community.
Many years later, this neighborhood has retained a unique sense of community. Spanish town is called home by a wide array of artists, musicians, actors, teachers, writers and more. While there is a great disparity between wealthy neighborhood residents and low-income residents, they still really identify as a community …and love tacky pink lawn flamingos. Above all they love to be seen as a tolerant and diverse part of the city.
The neighborhood’s motto is “poor taste is better than no taste at all,” and thus we have the origin of the lawn flamingo. While many viewed the neighborhood as questionable and unkempt, this ugly lawn ornament if a symbolic FU to all the boring, uptight people who dared to criticize it.
For that reason, sarcasm, irony, and criticism of authority figures play a large role in their Mardi Gras parade. It’s meant to mock those in power and call out controversial socio-political issues. It’s also meant to have shock value, appearing wildly indecent, tacky or offensive.
This year’s parade was “pink themed” and the flamingo’s were out in full force.
Have you been to Mardi Gras? What were your experiences like? Have thoughts to share on this story? Write in to the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you!