What are some characteristics of the Cajun people


The long ordeal of the Cajuns

“I don't want to speak French in the schoolyard”

The places are called Pointe-aux-Chenes, Jeanerette or Vacherie, the bayous and lakes Fausse Pointe, Grand Caillou or Boeuf, the families Thibodeaux and Chenier and Sonnier - France in the south of the USA, but it was a long ordeal until the immigrants left of the Old World arrived in Louisiana, and more effort was needed to preserve their culture.

Between 1632 and 1654, French farmers mostly emigrated from the Center Ouest provinces to Nova Scotia in what is now Southeast Canada. La Cadie was the name of the colony discovered for France in 1604, land of diversity, analogous to the Greek “land of milk and honey”, Arcadia. La Cadie became L’Acadie and later Acadia, and Cadiens or Acadiens became Americanized Cajuns (read: Kedschns).

The early colonists developed their own identity, and so they did not feel really connected to either party in the Anglo-French War (later this independence found expression in the massive desertion of Cajuns from the civil war army of the south). In addition, after the land had become English property, they were guaranteed their independence as a culture in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The British, however, mistakenly regarded the “foreigners” as allies of the French enemy and threatened deportation if the crown was not sworn allegiance and the Acadiens did not take part in the war against France. They did this with the ulterior motive that the area could then fall to English immigrants. The Acadians, on the other hand, assumed that they would at best be deported to French-Canadian territory, but their persecution, another dark chapter in British colonial history, turned out to be much more serious.

The eviction from Nova Scotia

Their houses and fields were burned down, and in 1755 they were brought to the Carolinas or Georgia under inhumane conditions. Out of 417 deportees, 207 died on the way to South Carolina. In Philadelphia, the deportees had to spend the winter on board for three months, which many of them did not survive. Whole families were torn apart, many people enslaved and thrown into prisons.

Le grand Dérangement: On the expulsion of the Cajuns by the British
also recalls the fate of Evangeline in St. Martinville

Quite a few Acadiens fled, took up the fight against the British, traveled back to France, and 2,000 of them sailed to what is now Haiti - the path of the displaced therefore by no means led directly to Louisiana, which had been French property since 1762 and where the first in February 1765 192 displaced people arrived and soon found further followers.

Their experience as early colonists and their fate, le grand dérangement called, soon made them the dominant group in the “melting pot” of diverse ethnic groups in Louisiana. First they went into rough terrain as trappers, then as hunters and trappers, and later they worked as farmers. All of this happened in the swampy landscape under the most difficult conditions. The Cajuns wrested their livelihoods from wild nature, owned farmland, operated dairy farming and pig breeding, traded in fur (40 percent of the US supply comes from Louisiana), hunted crocodiles, bears, the coypu rat (nutria) introduced from South America in 1937 and deer, made plenty of prey in the water: lobsters, crabs, crabs, oysters, shrimps, frogs.

"Poor White Trash"

By 1900 the Cajuns were far from being Americanized. For many, they were still strangers, “poor white rubbish” somewhere in the country backwoods at the swamps. In the course of nationalization and the Education Act under US President Theodore Roosevelt (“One country, one language”) their language was officially banned since 1916: the children who continued to speak French during the school break had to write “I don't want to speak French in the school yard” a hundred times as a punishment.

The Cajuns more and more often left their self-chosen isolation, moved to Texas in the oil business, got to know other countries as sailors and, above all, as soldiers in World War II, and gained self-confidence when they felt linguistically "at home" in France and Belgium.

With the 200th anniversary of the Akadian displacement in 1955, claims to preserve one's own culture manifested themselves, which in 1968 led to the founding of the state agency CODOFIL, the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana. CODOFIL has now undertaken a variety of initiatives to revive the Cajun culture, which expresses festivals and Cajun cuisine. The Cajun French could no longer be saved, but the development of an entire region has given back its identity, which is now expressed again everywhere in musical “hymns” such as “Jolie Blonde” or “Allons à Lafayette”. “And then”, said Barry Jean Ancelet from the University of Lafayette, describing the revival of Cajun culture, “they got their accordions from the loo again ...”.

For a long time in Central Europe no one knew of the existence of these “French” near New Orleans. In the German-speaking countries, the Hollywood cinema with the Cajuns and the Cajun music known. First there was the action film “The Last Americans” (“Southern Comfort”), In which National Guard people freaked out and attacked“ hillbilly ”during a reserve exercise. For the bloody finale, of course, a Cajun band plays (was shot at Lake Charles). "Belizaire, the Cajun" was produced for US television and disappeared from German cinemas after a week. Richard Gere fled to the swamps with Kim Basinger ("Merciless"), as did some prisoners in "Down by law". Jill Clayburgh as a New York journalist discovers a much exaggerated “hillbilly” family on the bayou, this in the film “Shy people / Threatening Silence”, and in the New Orleans crime novel “The Big Easy” there are also plenty of Cajun fiddlers in the Commitment.

In any case, the cinema had also contributed to the fact that Cajun Country was no longer a blank spot on the map.