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Cajun Open Mike Night, friendly small towns

Hi everyone!

We are still in Lafayette, Louisiana and are just packing up to leave.  We’ve had an amazing few days here, and found exactly the culture, friendliness, fun and music that we were hoping for.  It has been AMAZING!!  We leave today for Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where we will be spending another fun-filled weekend.  And on Sunday, we check into an amazing luxury cabin on a lake in the Ozarks, where we will veg out and do absolutely nothing for four days.

My beloved mentioned in her previous post that I wandered around the Acadian and Creole museum taking notes in my little Hello Kitty notebook.  She was right, except that my notebook has a picture of a pink shoe on it…..sadly, I have not found a little Hello Kitty notebook yet!!  But the notes….yes, that is exactly what I do in museums!  I found it super interesting, mostly because I learned the difference between cajuns and creoles, something that I was not clear on before.  The museum was a tribute to the Acadians who were expelled from Canada and the Creoles–two groups that built Louisiana into what it is now.

Louisiana was settled by the English, French and Spanish, and it was actually the Spanish who were in power when the Acadians were unceremoniously booted from Canada.  It was interesting to me to see how many of them were tricked by the colonial government into deportation; after pledging *conditional* allegiance to the British crown (the condition was that they would never have to fight against the French or any aboriginal group that supported the French), there was relative peace between the English and the French in Acadie.  That is, until the English decided, in secret, to deport the 10,000 Acadians who would not swear unconditional allegiance to the crown.  Many of them were tricked into churches, under the guise of a church meeting, and then loaded on ships and unceremoniously deported.  Of the 10,000 given the boot, 3,000 came to Louisiana and were welcomed with open arms by the ruling Spanish government; they were given land, seeds, clothes etc upon their arrival, and set out integrating into Louisiana.  At that time, there were three groups of people in Louisiana: whites, free people of colour and slaves.  Within the loosely defined category of “whites” were French, English, Spanish, German, Welsh etc settlers.  The Acadians identified themselves first as Acadien then as Cadien (spoken with French pronunciation).  The term was eventually anglicised by the English speaking folks living here to Cajun (and actually, that sounds remarkably similiar to the word cadien!).  Although the cajuns were the minority of french speakers in Louisiana, eventually any white, poor, french speaking person in Louisiana was called a cajun.  The practise continues to this day, with any person with French heritage being called a cajun, when in fact they may not be a descendent of one of the 3,000 acadians booted out of Canada.  However, a teeny and gorgeous town here called St. Martinsville, has erected an Acadian memorial (which we visited) which pays tribute to those 3,000 Acadians who were so instrumental in builing this part of Louisiana.

At the same time the cajuns were integrating themselves into Louisiana, the Creoles were facing their own changes.  A creole had always been defined as a (presumably white) person born in Louisiana–at the time, generally of French, Spanish or English heritage, but born here in Louisiana.  Before the civil war, the whites, the free people of color and the slaves had well defined roles in Louisiana but after the civil war, the free people of color lost that special status, and began calling themselves “Black Creoles” (much to the horror of the white Creoles!!) to distinguish themselves from former slaves. Eventually, any person born in Louisiana became known as a Creole with the exception of the cajuns.  Honestly, things are not much clearer now!  Creole culture is now a mixture of southern, spanish, african and english cultures while Cajun culture is based on french heritage (regardless of whether that heritage is from France or from Acadie).  

We have definitely found the culture here to be fascinating and FUN in the extreme.  We have spent our days driving from small town to small town, getting lost in conversations with locals and just having an absolute blast.  Yesterday we drove to a small town called Opelousas, wandered into an amazing restaurant/museum and ordered some food.  A charming woman, Wanda (who we discovered was the owner) wandered over to chat with us, eventually pulling up a chair and joining us at our table for an hour and a half of eating and chatting……absolutely wonderful for both Tel and I, and another long term friendship, we are certain.

Last night, we went to the Blue Moon Saloon, a local bar, for Cajun open mike night…..and discovered the heart of francophone culture in Lafayette!  All of the singers/musicians were French!  And, when I asked the bartender if he spoke French, he responded with a line we’ve heard often in Louisiana: “No, I’m Texan, I speak Spanish”!!!  But a few minutes later, two men approached us asking if we spoke French….they’d been sent to us by the bartender!!….and suddenly, we were surrounded by French speaking Louisana folks who were THRILLED to be able to speak French with us.  We met a woman from Quebec, here studying at UL, who adores the culture here, and was at the saloon with her fiddle for open mike night!  We also met two other guys, Michel and Lucien, both of whom have travelled to maritime Canada in order to go to school in French, and both of whom are part of a group of people here that are quietly trying to preserve the French language in Louisiana.  We spent the huge majority of the night speaking in French, having a blast.  And the MUSIC….wow, the music!!  By the time we left at 11 pm or so, there were 4 guitars, a steel guitar, two accordians, 3 fiddles, a banjo and a triangle being played, with all of the songs being sung in French.  We also met two delightful folks from Arkansas–DeeWayne-Eddy and his wife Lauren–with whom we hung out all night and had a really great time.   Honestly, we had an absolutely amazing night and made even more friends.  I will say again that the friendliness of people here truly gives Newfoundland a run for its money (and you folks know that I do not say that easily!!!).

We are a tad hungover today, but are just heading to our car to start the long drive north.  It’s about 10-11 hours to where we are going in north west Arkansas, so we will be stopping somewhere to sleep tonight.  We will be spending the weekend in Eureka Springs, a funky, proudly-artsy, blatantly gay-positive town……all adjectives not normally associated with rural Arkansas!!  After that, we are going off the map for a few days of blissful downtime in a luxury remote cabin–a wedding gift from ma tante and Uncle Dennis!

You can probably tell what a fabulous time we’re having, especially if you’re watching my posts and updates on Facebook!  I love it here, and find the pace of small town Louisiana much better than New Orleans, where it felt impossible to NOT be a tourist. 

Thanks for reading, and bye for now!









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