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Pirate Culture: New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay

What’s worse: having the bye week in the first half of October, or desperately needing a bye week in the first half of October? After the Saints’ Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret-level late blooming this season, I daren’t talk any smack, so all I’ll say is thank you, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for inviting us to your lovely home. Later this season, when you return the visit, we hope you’ll take advantage of the many pirate-themed amenities New Orleans has to offer.

jean lafitte new orleans history

One pirate you don’t want to mess with. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Pirates don’t tend to have permanent homes, as it isn’t really convenient to wait for gold-laden ships to come to you, but they do have hideouts. Jean Lafitte, one of America’s most famous pirates (sorry, “privateers”) tended to hole up in New Orleans or on a small island in nearby Barataria Bay. Several years after the United States bought Louisiana, a naval detachment was sent to “de-pirate” the area, and captured many of Lafitte’s men. The gentleman himself slipped away, and later that year made a deal with General Andrew Jackson – if the pirates helped defend New Orleans against the expected British attack, they would be pardoned. (This was in 1814, during the inaccurately named War of 1812.) Well – SPOILER ALERT – the British were defeated (again,) New Orleans was saved, the pirates were freed, and the people of Louisiana celebrated by naming everything they could find after Jean Lafitte. This includes a gigantic national park system, the six-site Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. It includes the Barataria Preserve, a gorgeous wildlife preserve with walking trails and canoe tours through forests and marshland, near where Lafitte’s hideout was; the Laura C. Hudson Visitor Center, a free museum interpreting New Orleans and South Louisiana; and the Chalmette Battlefield, the battlefield just east of New Orleans where Andrew Jackson persuaded Great Britain – via cannonfire – that, no really, we were broken up for good.

Of course, in New Orleans, history isn’t history until there’s a nightlife culture around it. Bourbon Street boasts not one, but two bars named after Jean Lafitte: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, reputed to be the oldest building in the United States to currently house a bar; and – for those whose ideal pirate is less blood-and-guts and more Johnny Depp sashaying around in eyeliner – Café Lafitte in Exile, the oldest gay bar in the United States.

Now, admit. This is all infinitely superior to the forced silliness of “Talk Like a Pirate Day.”