New Populations Initiative

The New Populations Initiative of the Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Program reaches out to our state's immigrant and refugee communities. The goal is to address an underserved sector within the cultural economy and provide an opportunity to engage these communities in the identification and documentation of their traditional culture and art forms.

The focus of New Populations research has been on communities with foreign-born members. However, documentation included the cultural practices of second- and sometimes third- generation community members, who are part of the cultural whole. Some of the individual artists who were documented for the project have lived in Louisiana for over forty years, while others have been here for only a few years. New Populations documentation revealed that many immigrant communities have created non-profit organizations to support their cultural activities. These organizations may conduct language schools, produce concerts, and hold community celebrations. Many immigrant communities center around religious affiliation with a church, temple, or mosque. Some of Louisiana's cultural communities are comprised of individuals who would be unlikely to know each other back in their countries of origin, but who have sought out others from home, or those who speak their language or practice the same religion.

Louisiana is home to significant numbers of people from Vietnam, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, India, China, Taiwan, Palestine, and the Middle East, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Korea, El Salvador, Japan, Columbia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Laos, and Thailand. In addition, there are trans-national cultural groups, such as the Garifuna and Mayans here. Our priority is on the larger, more concentrated communities with long-term residence in Louisiana rather than university students or those that have most recently arrived. Some cultural groups have come to Louisiana in successive waves - some up to seven generations - replenishing ties to the home country. This project focuses on the most recent arrivals that include foreign-born members.

This project asks communities and individuals how they maintain their home culture here in Louisiana. We ask: Do you make crafts, music, or foods that are traditional in your culture? Do you celebrate holidays that are important to your culture? Do you work at traditional occupations?

Our strategy in the first phase of this project was to reach out to these communities by documenting their traditions. Generally, documentation focuses on folk traditions rather than classical or popular art forms, although we recognize that some classical or popular art forms take on new meanings in a diaspora setting. For more information about folklife, see Key Folklife Definitions. Fieldworkers documented community traditions, art forms, and events and then provided essays and photographs that are listed below. Fieldworkers also helped us identify the following in these communities and submitted a field report on their findings:

Folk Tradition-bearers - people who are maintaining traditions that have been in their community or family for many years, such as music, crafts, sacred traditions, occupational traditions, foodways, celebrations, or holidays.
Professional Artists - such as dancers, musicians, actors, creative writers, designers, painters, craftspeople, and filmmakers.
Organizations - groups that may want to apply for a grant to support arts activities or other cultural endeavors.
Community spokespeople - people who might like to participate in the statewide arts network or receive information about resources and opportunities.
Artifacts - items or displays that could be featured in a temporary museum exhibit in the future. The item might be loaned or recreated, such as an altar, handmade crafts.

New Populations Research

Use the expandable list below to see a list of the communities and traditions documented in the New Populations project. Projects that have a field report available upon request are marked with an *. To receive a copy of field reports, contact the Folklife Program, or 225/342-8178.

For an overview of all of Louisiana's traditional cultures see Louisiana's Traditional Cultures: An Overview.

Explore Louisiana's New Populations(click to expand or collapse)



* Music and Dance in South Louisiana's Cuban Community - Tomás Montoya González with T. Ariana Hall

Shreveport - Bossier City

Other Articles on Louisiana's New Populations:
These articles were written through initiatives other than the New Populations Project.

The Open Doors Mentoring Program provided training and mentoring for immigrant organizations in 2010 and 2011. For information about the project, see Open Doors Mentoring Program

For a complete list of web articles, see Louisiana's Living Traditions - Articles and Essays.