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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.


Kathia Duran, cheese maker

Laura Westbrook: It’s November 11th and this is an interview with Ms. Kathia Duran at a coffee shop next door to Union Supermarket in Metairie, which sells Kathia’s cheeses. The interviewer is Laura Westbrook. Kathia, will you pronounce your name for me?

Kathia Duran: Sure; my name is Kathia Duran—Kathia Duran, was Hidalgo.

And how long have you lived in this region? How long have you lived near the—?

I came to New Orleans 15 years ago. I went to school here to Loyola University and—

I did too.

Yeah; I studied there and then like a lot of us—fall in love with the city and all the little things that they had so then I stayed here and I’ve been here ever since. I kind of moved out of Orleans Parish and I live in St. Charles Parish but this more community; so I’m still going back and forth—back and forth to—to New Orleans.

And what was it like—where did you come from and what was that like making the decision to move here?

Well I am from San Jose, Costa Rica and all my family is from there and everybody is there except my mother who I brought about five years ago. And I just—it was one of those love connections—stories in which you meet an American there and you fall in love and we had a long distant relationship and you know finally after dating for a couple—about a year he came back to Costa Rica so we can continue in this long-distant relationship; we’re spending a lot of money on—on telephone and he was almost finished with his—his career in—studies at Tulane so he brought me here to study English and you know we got married and—you know I stayed. [Laughs] I stayed in New Orleans; so that’s how I ended up originally in—in New Orleans and I found a lot of similarities that is—believe it or not but for—it’s a lot of Spanish and French influence so you know I’ve—what shocked me at the beginning quite frankly was the large black American community, which we don’t have.

So the beginning living in—in Orleans Parish was for me a little bit scary quite frankly because we—we don’t know. But then they had a lot of—kind of Spanish, French—the Creoles and the Cajuns and all this various cultures and that’s what I kind of felt at home with the red beans and rice on Monday which we eat it every day. And it was funny because that’s what we eat every day and here they—they eat it every Monday, so—and the sausage and—and all the—the food and the meals you can—and the family ties and you know it’s—it’s more the slow pace atmosphere, the easy going; that kind of thing I’m very familiar with—with the Spanish culture. So there was a—for me a connection; it was very—actually very easy to—to meld into—into the culture and you know I stayed and that’s—that’s one of the difficult things right now after Katrina that for a lot of us who are actually not from here—not born here which we—we kind of adopt the City and love it and everything that it’s a time that is so difficult that 50-percent of me says, “Got to get out of here; there’s nothing here.” I mean there is nothing for you here to offer and a lot of my family and friends that live out of state—that’s what they say. Get out of that black hole; that’s what they tell me. But another 50-percent of me—is in love with the City and—and—and the morning. I mean the morning every day, the City—what’s happening and I just want to be part of the construction and the building and—and having again that sense—That’s where it—it kind of tears me apart.

( Read the full interview by following the PDF link above )

Date of interview:
2005-11-11 00:00

Laura Westbrook, University of New Orleans


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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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