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What is the difference between Cajun and Creole?

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In Lafayette, you can eat Cajun Samurai pizza after cheering the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns football team to a win at Cajun Field, next to the Cajundome. Opelousas recently hosted the Creole Holy Ghost Festival, 3 km from the Creole Heritage Folklife Center and 2 hours from the Creole Heritage Center in Natchitoches.

The Cajun and Creole people are celebrated for their cuisine, music, language, art, architecture and ways of life that make the locals thank God we are not Mississippians. Yet the two terms have fueled generations of misunderstanding and discrimination that still lead to virtual fights and friend bans on social media.

Kelly Crouch, a New Orleans native who lives in Bozeman, Utah, wonders what the difference is between a Cajun and a Creole. The answer depends on the time period, geography, and the person telling the story.

Nowadays, it is common for whites to be called Cajuns, and blacks and mestizos, Creoles. The media and marketing have placed Cajun stickers on almost everyone in Louisiana or on food laden with salt and pepper.

But such use can be misleading and ignore the complex history and nuances of each of the races.

The Cajuns are descendants of the Acadians, exiles from Nova Scotia who settled in southern Louisiana in the mid-18th century. As historian Shane Bernard points out in his 2003 book, The Cajun: The Americanization of a People, this group of about 3,000 Acadians intermarried with French, Spanish, and German settlers, as well as Anglo. – Americans and Native Americans.

“They were also influenced by Afro-Caribbean slaves and their descendants, who, like the Cajuns, shared a Catholic French heritage. This cross-pollination transformed the white ethnic groups in the region into a new ethnic group, the Cajuns…”

But Cajun became a dirty word when these French-speaking immigrants met Americans in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Bernard quotes journalists who describe the Cajuns as “lazy wanderers”, “ignorant and wretched”, and “good representatives of white trash”.

French was later banned in public schools as students were beaten for speaking the language. Cajun musicians who were invited to perform at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival were mocked in an Opelousas Daily World editorial titled “They Call That Music??!!”

Ironically, the musicians were greeted with a standing ovation. This applause followed them home and helped launch a musical, linguistic, and cultural renaissance during the 1970s and 1980s.

Creole culture became a footnote in this renaissance, although Creole predated the Cajun in Louisiana and was present all over the world. Historians trace the word’s origin to the Portuguese language CriolloRefers to anything or anyone born in the new world.

The term has been used for centuries – in Africa, the Caribbean, and throughout North, Central, and South America.

In her 2018 book, “Southern Louisiana Creoles: Three Strong Centuries,” Elista Easter, Ph.D., places Creoles in three distinct regions: near Natchitoches along the Caney River; in the prairies and swamps of the southwestern region called Acadiana; and New Orleans. Istre details the wealthy white creole classes of the plantation aristocracy, enslaved black creoles, and free or colored creoles.

Istre writes “With so much confusion surrounding the use of the term ‘creole’, even among scholars, it is not surprising that so many people bring their own idea of ​​’creole’ or ‘creole’ to the table. … The truth is that all of these definitions are correct.” ».

Christophe Landry, Ph. D., a native of New Iberia and director of the Ancestry Research Team, calls Creoles and Cajuns “cousins” who have shared the same land, the same lineage, and the same cultural identity for more than 200 years.

“In the 20th century, I switched to Cajun for white and Creole for everyone else,” Landry said.

“I get follow-up questions, dealing with okra with tomatoes and all this crap that people are fighting about on the internet. It’s all a distraction. Still, okra. People are really trying to find a fundamental difference between Cajun and Creole because they’re so similar. Period.

Ashley Michott, 41, represents young citizens who embrace this more inclusive perspective. Growing up in Ville Platte in Evangeline Parish, Michotte remembers many seniors describing themselves simply as “French”.

Technology and a variety of research shaped a more personal identity, Michotte said.

“I accept that I am Cajun and that I live as part of the Cajun culture in Louisiana,” said Michotte, a French writer and radio host. “I have Acadian ancestry from both sides of my family.

“But I also have Creoles, Hispanics, and all sorts of other ancestors. Thanks to my access to genealogy, I’ve been able to understand myself better and not just listen to what X or Y or Z has to say.”

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