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A Little Louisiana Cultural History

[ 0 ] August 11, 2012 |

Beryl StokesLouisiana really has 3 distinct cultural areas, New Orleans, Acadiana or Cajun country, and the rest of the state north of Alexandria. Most people outside the state associate Louisiana with New Orleans and don’t realize Cajuns aren’t New Orleanians. All three cultures are entirely different.

Cajun refers to people originally from southern France who immigrated to Acadia (Nova Scotia in Canada), then to south Louisiana around 400 years ago. Cajun means a person is Acadian or from Acadiana. Some Cajun families were well off, but many more were extremely poor sharecroppers and lived off the State’s natural resources and what they could grow.

Few Cajuns still learn Cajun French (our own dialect of French) as their first language and English as a second language prior to 5 years of age. After World War II the language began dying out as more people of Cajun heritage were not taught Cajun French at home because it was strongly discouraged in school. World War II was a time of great cultural change all over America, and south Louisiana was no different from the rest of the country.

Red Beans And Rice HistoryA state-wide effort has been underway since 1968 to bring Cajun French and Cajun Culture back to South Louisiana. Children can now study Cajun French in immersion programs and learn the language of their grandparents in school.

For a close look inside one Cajun family’s history, I highly recommend reading The Prudhomme Family Cookbook by Chef Paul Prudhomme and all his brothers and sisters. It’s a cookbook, but the introduction and every recipe comes with a history lesson in this rich culture.

Category: History

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