NEW ORLEANS -- Juan Pardo has risen to become the Big Chief with the Golden Comanches, But he could soon become the Big Chief of affordable housing.
It begins with the lot at the corner of First and East Streets in Bridge City, which now sits empty.
"The lot was originally owned by my Grandfather who was born in 1900 and acquired that land in 1945," Pardo said.
To him, the lot has a rich, spiritual connection. It's been in his family for decades and his Grandfather set the example by letting people who fell on hard times stay at the house that used to be there.
"A family or someone who knew someone that their house burned down or fell on hard times, and they just couldn't afford to be anywhere he would let them stay there," Pardo remembered.
He says they were just doing what true New Orleanians did: taking care of their own.
But Hurricane Katrina destroyed the house on that lot and eventually, the land was repossessed by Orleans Parish. It was on the verge of being sold off in 2016.
"And I always said if I could acquire it back based on what happened that's what I would put it back in use for," he said.
Pardo worked to save it. And as he's risen to become the Big Chief of the Golden Comanches, he knows it's a battle to keep the culture alive.
"Mardi Gras Indian culture is not just the culture of pageantry and beauty, but it is a resistance, it is a rebellion."
Part of that he says is doing something about soaring housing prices, to keep people from fleeing.
"It is almost impossible to live in the community where the culture happens," he said.
The dream in the works now is this, to transform his grandfather's property into a lot with two 500 square feet homes.
The homes will be available to anyone in the community in need, particularly the elderly.
"As they come, I'll put them until I have to get another lot and put more units in," Pardo said.
But the challenge is now to raise $60,000 to make this happen.
"Next year, I want to be able to say someone was able to have a Christmas on this property."
If you would like to help the Chief, please check out his gofundmepage here.
He will also be performing with 101 Runners at the Maple Leaf Bar, Jan. 6, on Twelfth Night.
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