Creole

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Creole




What is a Creole? The word Creole means many things to many people. It derives from the
Latin word “Creare,” meaning “to beget” or “create.” The Webster dictionary says a Creole
is a “white person descended from the French or Spanish settlers of Louisiana and the Gulf
States and preserving their characteristic speech and culture.”

Creoles, a term first used in the 16th century in Latin America to distinguish the
offspring of European settlers from Native Americans, blacks, and later immigrant groups.
In colonial America the designally originally applied to the American-born descendants of
European-born settlers. The term has since acquired varying meanings in different
regions.

In the United States, the state of Louisiana has a diverse Creole population. White
Creoles are the French-speaking descendants of early French or Spanish settlers. Black
Creoles are generally the French-speaking Louisianians of mixed race, once constituted a
separate group, but have now largely assimilated into the black Creole population. These
people have their own culture and customs and even a composite language derived from the
French. In Latin America the term may refer to people of direct Spanish extraction or
just to members of families whose ancestry goes back to the colonial period. In the West
Indies the word Creole is used to identify descendants of any European settlers. (Encarta
Encyclopedia 226).

The Spanish introduced the word as Criollo, and during Louisiana’s colonial period
(1699-1803) the evolving word Creole generally referred to persons of African or European
heritage born in the New World. Creoles can mean anything from individuals born in the
New Orleans with French and Spanish ancestry to those who descended from African,
Caribbean, French, and Spanish combinations. The Creoles have played an important part in
the heritage of New Orleans.(HERRIN,29)

Strictly speaking, a New Orleans Creole is a descendant of an early French or Spanish
settler, “born in the colony,” not in Europe. Most colonials in the eighteenth century
were French. They dominated New Orleans cultural and social life for more than 100 years,
long before the “Americans” arrived. Most Creoles called themselves “French,” spoke
French and considered themselves the only true “natives”. They occupied a middle ground
between whites and unslaved blacks, and as such often possessed property and received
formal education.

Today Creole is most often used in Arcadian to refer to a person’s full or mixed African
heritage. It is generally understood among these Creoles that Creoles of the Color still
refers to Creoles of mixed-race heritage, while the term black Creole refers to Creoles of
more or less pure African descent. Their popular ethnic music, known as zydeco, is
celebrated annually at the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Festival in Plaisance. Creoles of
Africa descent exerted a strong influence on Cajun culture and vice versa, affecting, the
Cajuns music, foodways, and religion.(Herrin,67)

In 1952, they founded a preservation group, C.R.E.O.L.E, Inc., which stands for (Cultural
Resourceful Educational Opportunities toward Linguistic Enrichment). (Herrin, 82) When
New Orleans was founded in 1718, Creoles were strictly cosmopolitan city dwellers.
Cajuns, on the other hand, were rustic, self-sufficient country dwellers. They lived
along the bayous and amid the swamps of South Louisiana for two centuries, isolated,
clannish, devoutly Catholic, French speaking and happily removed from mannered city
society.

Creoles are not Cajuns, and Cajuns are not Creoles. Both groups are French in descent,
dating back for centuries. There both hunters, trappers, fishermen, farmers, boat
builders, breeders of quarterhorses who worked hard weekdays and weekends celebrating life
with their fais do-do’s. “Laissez les bons temps rouler” meaning (Let the good times
roll) has been a part of their basic philosophy. They lacked in education, they lived
close to land, intermarried, and proudly retained their own customs, their religion and
their own provincial form of the French language. (Herrin, 102)

The Cajuns’ ancestors, were cruelly exiled from New Acadia by the British in 1765. In one
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