Fast-forward another fifty years, when Spanish Town became the closest neighbor to a newly-minted Louisiana State University.
Spanish Town Road was renamed Boyd Avenue, and its shotgun homes were populated with professors, students, and artists.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, the neighborhood flipped again, becoming home to a network of tight-knit Catholic families, many of whom went to Mass at Saint Joseph’s Cathedral every Sunday.
Together, paraders gripe, drink, and pay homage to body parts usually kept under wraps but unveiled in handcrafted detail on floats during the parade.
There’s plenty of cross-dressing, sexual innuendo, and foolishness; and folks from all of Baton Rouge’s conservative corners come out in droves to revel in it.
The parade’s flamingo mascot, ubiquitous on this day along with its signature Pepto-Bismol pink, purposely invokes tackiness; and that quality is inherent in parade themes and float design.
With themes such as “FEMAture Evacuation,” “BP Blows and Wiki Leaks,” and “*[email protected]# Big Brother,” taste clearly goes out the window.
While the following words are certainly a story about a Mardi Gras parade, they’re also a story about the neighborhood it came from and the unique constellation of historical circumstances and personalities necessary to spawn such an irreverent party. Nevertheless, the Islanders, who had only wanted to continue living under Spanish rule, ended up, less than a decade later, within American jurisdiction.
A Lengthy, Brief History In 1805, Spanish Town was inhabited (and named) by Canary Islanders who had left Spanish-ruled Galvez Town, southeast of Baton Rouge, when it was ceded to the U. Fifty-odd years later, Spanish Town found itself within cannon shot of the Civil War during the Battle of Baton Rouge.
Likewise, organizers shun celebrity royalty, more likely to crown a local (columnist Smiley Anders, for one), a dog (his name was Rubin), or a convicted former governor (Edwin Edwards) than a famous actor.
After a few years of wandering the streets of Spanish Town with the purpose of researching a book, I’ve come to realize that this place, and its parade, are far deeper subjects than can be explained by a thirty-five year span, the length of time the parade has been rolling.
Many beautiful homes were razed for firewood to warm Union troops.
When the fighting stopped, newly-freed slaves found a fresh starting ground in Spanish Town’s rubble, where they carved out new lives for themselves and their families.
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