Louisiana: The Pelican State

Louisiana, which is in the South of the United States, is situated where the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf of Mexico. It has two nicknames: the Pelican State, which is due to the bird on its seal, and the Bayou State – derived from its various bayous. The Mississippi and its tributaries have deposited such large quantities of mud in their beds that sometimes they rise higher than the surrounding land. So over a length of nearly 3,220 km (2,000 miles) dykes and other constructions protect against flooding. The state’s largest lake is the salty Lake Pontchartrain. Due to rising sea levels, parts of Louisiana are endangered. According to the results of a study published February 2000, several thousands of hectares of land are being flooded every year. The area of the state of Louisiana is not very large (134,382 square kilometers = 51,885 square miles), but it holds many surprises. Louisiana is being called the gem of the southern states for a reason. Here, Spanish, French, English, Native American and African influences melt together to form a unique mixture.

Half of the state is covered with forests. The states flora and fauna is varied and divers. Louisiana’s scenery, however, not only has forests, but also bayous, farm land and the gulf coast. Louisiana is home to elegant villas on the Mississippi shore and modest farms in the back country. The state’s largest city is the tourist metropolis of New Orleans, the capital is the port Baton Rouge. Also Shreveport and Lafayette are of great economic importance to the state.

In 1901 natural gas and oil was found near the town of Jennings, ever since then Louisiana has been the second biggest producer of these natural resources within the US. The chemical and petrochemical industry are also very advanced compared to other states. Baton Rouge on the Eastern shore of the Mississippi is also the farthest inland port on the Mississippi, which affected the industrial development of the city. Today, it is a vital port for both inland and maritime shipping. The city with a population of 220,000 is the main center for the production of petrochemicals and a major trading center for soy beans and sugar cane from the surrounding regions. The city’s main landmark is the 34-storey high Capitol, built 1932.

In 1861, Louisiana was one of the states that founded the Confederate States of America. Agriculture was the basis for Louisiana’s economic power for a long time. Then tourism experienced substantial growth rates and also the production industry developed to be an important economic factor. The state was named after the former French territory west of the Mississippi River. The name of this territory, in turn, was given by the French explorer Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, who named it after the French King Louis XIV.

New Orleans is home to a thriving cultural scene

Its cosmopolitan flair and Creole architecture and cuisine has made New Orleans the cultural center of Louisiana. It is also the birthplace of jazz. Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans on August 4, 1901. He greatly influenced the development of New Orleans Jazz – he established a style that shifted the focus from collective improvisation to individual solos – the first star soloists emerged in jazz music. The city has several museums. These include the State Museum with historical collections, the New Orleans Museum of Art with European, pre-Columbian and African paintings and sculptures, a Jazz Museum, and the Mardi Gras Museum. These places reflect the colorful history of the state that was first Spanish, then French, and only became American in 1803. The Vieux Carré Historic District (French Quarter) in New Orleans is famous for the historic buildings from the 18th and 19th century. These include the great Saint Louis Cathedral (1794). The site of the Battle of New Orleans (1815) is in the Jean Laffite National Historical Park and Preserve. The greatest New Orleans attraction, however, is the annual Mardi Gras Festival in spring. The whole event includes parades, processions and costume balls.