Home at the Mouth of the Mississippi

Two months after Katrina's surge, distant from its foundation, this house floats in an irrigation ditch. Photograph by Andrea Booher, FEMA.

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Home at the Mouth of the Mississippi

by Judith A. Howard
Southern Cultures, Vol. 14, No. 2: Katrina

"Little notice has been given to Plaquemines Parish, where few structures escaped damage from Katrina, and where the region south of Port Sulphur looked like a bombed-out war zone. Yet this isolated parish suffered only four deaths and two missing in Katrina, out of a population of 27,000."

Create a place and there will always be people who figure out how to live there. So it was with Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, only one-third of which is dry land (and most of that only barely so). This hundred-mile long peninsula, bisected by the Mississippi River and formed by thousands of years of silt scoured from the heartland, became home to a melting pot of Croatians, Italians, Canary Islanders, and other European immigrants, as well as segregated African American communities. Self-reliant locals on this remote sliver of land have traditionally fished, hunted, trapped, and farmed for their livelihoods. Experience taught them to be distrustful of outsiders, particularly the state and federal government, when it came to protecting them from natural disasters.