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Postcards: Carnaval Latino


And we're going to end our program today with a segment we call Heard on the Street. This is where we go out and find people making music, making sounds, being heard out in public. Today, we travel to - where else - New Orleans. Recapturing the magic that defined the Crescent City remains a challenge, with former residents scattered across the country. But those remain with the help of some new faces have been creating new traditions, as well as resurrecting some old ones, like last weekend's Carnival Latino.

Independent producer Molly Peterson was there, and she brought us this audio postcard.

MOLLY PETERSON: I never knew how bananas influenced New Orleans until Carnival Latino. A century ago, tropical fruit sellers connected the city's port to Honduras. The capital's a sister city. Since then, this area has become a major Honduran population center. Fredy Omar is the Latin king of Frenchman street. It turns out, he was born in Honduras.

Unidentified Man: (Spanish spoken) Fredy Omar!

(Soundbite of music)

PETERSON: Fredy Omar has earned his New Orleans stripes, living here for more than a decade. After Katrina, Fredy's even got a new mint-green house in the famous Ninth Ward musicians' village.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. FREDY OMAR (Musician): (Singing in Spanish)

PETERSON: Like every New Orleans event now, Carnival Latino is a negotiation between new traditions and old roots. The last Carnival Latino was 12 years ago. But now, it's found a new life, and at least one Latino resident likes what it says about how things are changing.

Mr. RUFINO SAVEDRA(ph) (Resident, New Orleans): My name is Rufino. Rufino Savedra. I've been here for 23 years.

PETERSON: The day I met him, Rufino's mission was to fill a U-Haul with earthquake relief for his homeland, Peru. Relentlessly upbeat, he got even people living in trailers to give a little.

Mr. SAVEDRA: They're responding from up here - to help to build - rebuild our destroyed region. And we're very proud of them. We need to live in the most diversified environment, and there are some of the Hispanics, (unintelligible), we got Middle East, whites, we've got blacks. I think all of us, we should live here in harmony.

(Soundbite of clacking sound)

PETERSON: Closer to the kids' area, I met Rosa and Miguel Ponce, keeping on their son Manuel. They've spent eight years in the U.S. and five months in New Orleans so far. Rosa sees work possibilities everywhere. She offered to clean my house. And Miguel told me he's been busy with rebuilding.

Mr. MIGUEL PONCE (Resident, New Orleans): I've got a lot of job, you know, that pay good, you know. (unintelligible)

(Soundbite of music)

PETERSON: Rosa's not alone in seeing financial opportunity in the Neuva Orleans. When co-organizer of Carnival Latino, Barry Kern, is famous around here because his Kern Studios produces Mardi Gras. The rest to the time, Barry's job is selling the city's culture around the world. He sees Latino newcomers as part of the new New Orleans.

Mr. BARRY KERN (Co-Organizer, Carnival Latino): The people that are here are the ones who are fighting for it. And, you know, the (unintelligible) have done so much to influence what New Orleans is today. I mean, we're going be better for it.

PETERSON: That's the city's new spirit - tentative but hopeful.

(Soundbite of music)

PETERSON: As evening became night and the Iguanas took the stage, I saw people looking around at each other, trying to figure out what we add up to, who we are now. And naturally, they helped me.

(Soundbite of music)

THE IGUANAS (Music Group): (Singing in Spanish)

MARTIN: That was independent producer Molly Peterson, with her audio postcard from Carnival Latino. And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow. We'll have more of our coverage of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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