Encyclopedia of
Cajun Culture
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3 Cajuns
Dictionaries generally define Cajun as "a Louisianian who descends from French-speaking Acadians."  However, many common Cajun surnames — for instance, Soileau, Romero, Huval, Fontenot — are not Acadian in origin, but rather are Spanish, German or French Creole.  Some are even of Anglo or Scotch-Irish origin, as in the case of famed Cajun musicians Lawrence Walker and Dennis McGee.  For this reason, contemporary scholars of Cajun history and culture tend to offer a more complex, comprehensive view, attributing the traits of modern-day Cajuns to a dynamic, unending process of ethnic interaction.  Although modern Cajuns are largely homogenous, their ancestry consists of a mixture of many ethnic groups.   Most early Acadians originated in the Centre-Ouest region of France, but others came from families of Spanish, Irish, Scottish, English, Basque, and, in a few instances, American Indian heritage.  After their 1755 expulsion from Nova Scotia, Acadians seeking refuge in South Louisiana again intermixed with other ethnic groups, particularly with French, Spanish, German, and, later, Anglo-American settlers, as well as Indians (albeit to a lesser extent).  Historian Carl A. Brasseaux has shown, for example, that after the Civil War over fifty percent of brides and grooms with Acadian surnames were marrying persons with non-Acadian surnames.  In addition, Cajuns borrowed much of their culture from their black Creole neighbors.  This cross-cultural pollination in Acadia and South Louisiana changed many dissimilar ethnic groups into a single new ethnic group — the Cajuns.  Cajuns thus derive not only from French-speaking Acadians, but from several ethnic groups over which Acadian culture prevailed (at least until this century, when Cajuns underwent a wide-spread process of rapid Americanization).  (See also "Cultural Cajun")

Sources: Ancelet et al., Cajun Country; Brasseaux, Acadian to Cajun; Brasseaux, Founding of New Acadia; Dormon, People Called Cajuns.

Three Cajun men from early 20th century.  Photo from Écu Media Design Collection.


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This page last edited on 11/18/00 03:43 PM

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