Freedom and Liberty

Freedom and Liberty
I travel in Freedom but sleep in the security of Liberty (not only on the road, but in this amazing country of ours)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cajuns, Creoles and Acadiens

Location: Cajun RV'era (El. 17 ft); New Iberia, Louisiana

All pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 Cell Phone
(click pictures to enlarge)

I'm in the heart of Cajun Country. New Iberia is about 25 miles south-east of Lafayette, Louisiana. By the way, it is pronounced, "laugh-e-et", with the first "e" being long and the second being short sounding. The campground is only about a year old and is about 10% filled. It is a Passport America park which reduced the daily cost, but the taxes are nearly 30%. Wow. There are a few reasons I came to this area. One is to visit my sister, another is to explore a little bit of the area. Although I lived in Lafayette when I was 13 and 14 years old and then again when I went to the local college, there are areas I haven't seen.
Campsite at Cajun RV'era

Sunset over a mostly empty campground

I guess some people may be curious about the names Cajun, Creole and Acadien and where they comes from. Well, I'm not a Cajun and only know what I have picked up from other Cajuns while living down here. To get the answer we have to go back in time to around the American Revolutionary War. One important date is about 1755 when the British required the people of a colony they had just taken control of from France to swear allegiance to the King of England. Of course they refused. It wasn't that they were loyal to the French King because he hadn't treated them very well either over the last 100 years. It was because they had become very independent and just wanted to be left alone in their New World colony they called Acadia. The British being British, couldn't let it go and when the Acadiens refused to swear allegiance, they were forcibly removed from their lands. This removal was called the Great Expulsion and is still a sore spot in the hearts of their descendants. The British packed the Acadiens in the cargo holds of ships and exiled them to many places. Almost one half of the 15,000 Acadiens who existed at the beginning of the expulsion, died. Of the approximately 7,500 who survived, about 2,500 of them ended up in New Orleans. New Orleans had recently came under the control of Spain who treated the arriving Acadiens with respect. The Spanish wanted people to help settle the areas they had just acquired. The Acadiens were given land and equipment to the west of the Mississippi River. However, the good property near the river had already been settled, mostly by Creoles. That didn't bother the Acadiens since they liked the open prairie-like land just the west of the Atchafalaya Swamp near present day Opelousas and Lafayette.

The Creoles were anyone who was a second-generation settler. It didn't matter where you came from or who you were. The Creoles were mostly richer, city folk. The opposite of the Creoles were the Acadiens who set down deep roots in the country beginning what was to be a simple easy-going lifestyle. 

The Acadiens spoke French and as time went by, they began to slur some of their words into a new dialect. As English speaking people would ask them who they were, they would respond in their heavy French dialect as A-cadiens. Due to the heavy accent, the English just heard the word as Cajun. So, they became known as Cajuns to the more powerful English who had taken over New Orleans and surrounding area by then. Since the Acadiens/Cajuns were a more simple county people than the high flouting English and Creoles in the big city, they were looked down on as inferior. The term Cajun became a derogatory word to describe the Acadiens. But they got the last laugh as the term Cajun now-a-days implies a lively, fun loving, good eating, hard working people. 

There is a lesson to be learned today from the Cajuns of the past. That lesson is "assimilation". The Cajuns were mostly isolated due to limited access to the land they settled. They decided to keep their old ways and especially their language, which was a French dialect. They continued this Cajun language thing way too long. Their children only knew the Cajun language so therefore when they came of age, they couldn't move anywhere else to improve on their lifestyle. Trade with other areas was hampered because of the Cajun only language. It was only in 1922 when the State of Louisiana passed the Compulsory Education Act that required all schools to teach in English only. That was a good and bad thing. The bad was that the Cajun language almost disappeared but has made a comeback over the last few decades. The good was that it finally began the assimilation that should have happened many years prior. Other nationalities that arrived in the U.S.'s "great melting pot" took pride in learning the English language because they knew that was the best way for their children to get ahead in this new country. They may speak their native language at home and around family, but in public, it was English all the way. That way, they honored their past and present and planned for their future. 

Today is Fat Tuesday, which to non-southerns, is also Mardi Gras. I hope to find an old-fashioned Mardi Gras somewhere in a small town. I hope it turns out to be fun or as some of my Cajun friends say, "I plan to pass a good time, yeah".  

I hope the history didn't bore you too much, but for me, learning about an area is part of exploring the area. :) More pictures in the next post for sure.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.   

10 comments:

  1. My mother was half Cajun. She pronounced it more like Kayjoon to my ears. There is some might good eatin over dere.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great history lesson. Really enjoyed. Happy Days Ahead, Martin

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great explanation. I never knew all of "dat". We loved your home state.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad yall had a good and safe time. Nice posts about your visit

      Delete
  4. I always learn something thru your blog. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Darrell, I have enjoyed following your travels for some time now. We actually share several coincidental life experiences. I retired from Oregon state highway department on 1-1-2013. Also, I served in the navy from 1-73 to 12-75, I was a gunners mate aboard the USS Barbour County LST-1195. I have really enjoyed following your travels, and as soon as my wife retires ( approximately 3 years) I hope to see many of the same places you have traveled too. Until then, I look forward to our next adventure. Good luck and stay safe. Ben

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Ben. Thanks for the comment and I'm glad you enjoy the blog. Yes, it does sound like some of our life overlapped. Hello to another Gator Freighter Sailor. :) Your state of Oregon is in my top 5 best states I've visited. Cya down the road.

      Delete