Monday, February 27, 2012

"Creole,Cajun,Acadian,~What's In A Name~" ?

The term "Creole" can generate much confusion & controversy.What's does it mean? To be sure, it has many meanings some of which concern race or ethnicity.In the context of Louisiana history,"creole " means native to Louisiana. Then there's the historically accepted meaning that creole means black,white and mixed race persons native to Louisiana_it means different things to different people.BUT,what you may not know is that more than one ethnic group claim that term as well!

Actually,the word itself derives from the Latin(creare),meaning to beget or create.Portuguese used the form as (crioulo),meaning a slave born in the New World as opposed to Africa.By the 1600's,crioulo meant a New World colonist regardless of racial or ethic background.Then in Louisiana,the term criollo(Spanish) evolved into creole(French).18th Century free mixed race people in Louisiana became_Gens de Couler Libres in French_aka Free People Of Color.After the Civil War the Creoles were left with their group identity and nostalgia for halcyon days. Further,many whites in antebellum Louisiana referred to themselves as Creoles usually the upper class French or Spanish people as well as those of  GERMAN ancestry.To complicate matters more,the white Creoles inter-married with Acadians(poor rural people).
This "Portrait of a Creole Gentleman" by Julien Hudson depicts a prosperous, fashionably dressed figure.It is an oil on canvas and is in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.

In "Portrait of Betsy"(1837) by Franz Fleischbein,a housekeeper wearing an elaborate high tignon, the hair covering mandated for women of color after 1785. The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Acadians are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonist who settled in Acadia located in the Eastern Canada Maritime provinces_Nova Scotia,New Brunswick,and Prince Edward Island_ as well as part of Quebec, and present-day Maine to the Kennebec River. Here's a great link to learn about the Black Culture in Nova Scotia_ on the Oprah Show she made mention of her lack of knowledge about Black Nova Scotian History:

After the "Expulsion of the Acadians" from some of the areas_some settled in Louisiana.With the inter-marriage between Creoles and Acadians,they became known as Cajuns_ speaking a broken dialect of Cajun English/French!
Kathleen Babineaux Blanco,the78th Governor of Louisiana. She was the first woman to be elected to this office and she has Acadian heritage.

Contemporary Creoles have either full or partial African heritage. Like their ancestors,these Creoles are typically French speaking and Catholic.Whereas Louisianans of African heritage are English speaking and Protestant. Large populations of these Creoles can be found in New Orleans,the Acadiana region of Southern Louisiana,The Cane River/Isle Brevelle area near Natchitoches and in East Texas and Houston. Lalita Tademy traced her ancestry to the Cane River/Red River area in a extraordinary book called:

This book was so interesting,I finished it quickly and moved on to her next generational family story:
Both of these books trace Lalita's  history from 1834 to present day. I wondered why she had some features that looked Asian.In one of here many family trees _an ancestor was called "China Man",could that be a piece of the puzzle.These are two books you must read!

There are so many nuances involved with trying to decipher what's in a name. Like I said in another post_this Color business was/is confusing. But,what I do know is_ historically,any person with African ancestry,even if they were mostly white were designated and classified as black,according to the "ONE DROP THEORY".Whoa,that's a "subject" all to itself ! There is no clear cut way to determine all of the ethnics groups in America. In fact,the American Indian & Mexicans people commingled with Creoles as well_ creating another mixed group.

So,my the words of Rodney King,May 1, 1992, the third day of the L.A. riots,appearing in public,appealing for Peace asking:

"People,I just want to say,you know,can we all get along? Can we get along?

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