VITAL SIGNSrnREGIONALISMrnThe Cajuns ofrnLouisianarnby Roger L. BusbicernIn the 1980’s, “Cajun” suddenly becamern”cool.” From rotund Chef PaulrnPrudhomme and high-rolling LouisianarnGovernor Edwin Edwards to the musicrnof Beausoleil and “blackened” redfish,rnanyone and anything associated with thernremnants of French culture along thernGulf Coast was “in.” The nation eagerlyrnembraced the battle-cry of the Gajun:rn”Let the good times roll!” In the popularrnimagination, south Louisiana becamernthe land of bayou-dwelling fiddle-players,rnendlessly stirring giant kettles filledrnwith spicy jambalaya. To many Americans,rn”La Louisiane” was the ultimaternlaid-back, fun-loving, lackadaisically governedrnsociety, where a prominent politicalrnboss once observed that “corruptionrndone with a jest” is applauded. French-rnLouisianans basked in their new prominence,rnrejoiced that free enterprise is thernAmerican way, and thanked God thatrntheir ancestors reached the swampyrn”Eden,” as Henry Wadsworth Longfellowrncalled it.rnAs always, the reality is somewhat differentrnfrom the perception. The true storyrnof the Cajun is a bitter and sometimesrnbloody narrative of hope, betrayal, renewal,rndespair, and survival. The mythrnof gumbo, Spanish moss, and perpetualrnjoy is rooted in fact but fails to capturernthe essence, the lingering nobility of thernCajun people. Because of the Cajun,rnSouth Louisiana does indeed remain anrnoutpost of Old World charm, culture,rnand language. The ties to France and tornFrench Canada are stiong, and the Gallicrnlegacy of the Cajun past is never forgotten.rnIn fact, perhaps to a greater extentrnthan elsewhere, the past has moldedrnthe present.rnIn 1608, Samuel de Champlain establishedrnthe first permanent French colonyrnin North America at Quebec, overlookingrnthe St. Lawrence River. However,rnthe first French involvement in what becamernknown as “Acadia” happened fourrnyears earlier. Drawn by the spirit of adventure,rnthe French found fish, furs, andrnfertile land in the region. The namern”Acadia” or “La Caddy” was possiblyrnderived from a Micmac word meaningrn”piece of land,” and settlement soonrnfollowed exploration. The area becamerna constituent, albeit “fringe,” part ofrnNew France. The present Canadianrnprovinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick,rnand Prince Edward Island, as wellrnas part of Maine, composed the quicklyrnbooming agrarian Acadia.rnAs New France grew and prospered,rnso did New England and the Britishrncolonies to the south. Inevitably, conflictingrnterritorial claims led to war . . .rnand war . . . and war. The French werernat a disadvantage because, with the exceptionrnof the agricultural Acadians,rnthey had favored itinerant trading overrnsettlement. New France largely remainedrna society geared toward commercernin furs, while the British Coloniesrnbecame a “homeland” in their ownrnright. The result was that the British settiersrngreatly outnumbered the French inrnNorth America, and they were motivatedrnby a desire for land which exceeded thernFrench desire for animal pelts. ThernFrench view, naturally, endeared themrnto most of the Indian tribes; but in fourrnbloody conflicts, from 1689 until 1763,rnthe French and their Indian allies wererndecisively defeated. During the secondrnof these colonial wars, French Acadiarnwas seized by the British, and their possessionrnof the region was legitimized byrnthe Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The Acadiansrnremained on their farms and inrntheir villages, tolerating Britain’s rule. Inrngeneral, the farmers and fishermen wererncontent to adjust to new realities as longrnas their Catholic faith and their culturernwere not endangered. While willingrnto accept de facto British control,rnthe Acadians were not willing to swear allegiancernto the British monarch. Inrnshort, they would not disown their heritage.rnWhat the French in North Americarnwould call the “War of the Conquest”rnand what the British settlers would referrnto as the “French and Indian War” beganrnin 1754. The next year, the Britishrninsisted on a declaration of loyalty fromrnthe Acadians; when many refused, theirrnproperty was confiscated and they werernforced into exile. Families and friendsrnwere separated, villages were abandoned,rnfields and livestock were destroyed,rnhomes were burned, and thernlong, dark night of the Acadian diasporarnbegan. Approximately 6,000 men, women,rnand children were sent by ship to thernBritish colonies of the Atiantic seaboard,rnand eventually some reached France. Asrna people, the Acadians endured and, afterrnthe Peace of Paris ended the war inrn1763, journeyed in large numbers tornLouisiana.rnThe Gulf Coast colony, the “Land ofrnLouis,” had been established by PierrernLe Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, in 1699,rnand New Orleans, founded in 1718, hadrnbecome a potentially important port city.rnDuring the war, Spain had served as arnfaithful French ally and, in so doing, lostrnFlorida to the British. To compensaternSpain for Florida, France presentedrnLouisiana to the Spanish Crown. Thernexiled Acadians, yearning for Frenchrnrule once again, found themselves enteringrna newly designated Spanish colony.rnHowever, the culture, the language, andrnthe administration of Louisiana remainedrnoverwhelmingly French.rnThe Acadians had little interest inrnNew Orleans, for they longed for landrnand for the freedom of an agrarian society.rnIn short order, they settled alongrnBayou Lafourche, Bayou Teche, and inrnthe prairies to the west. During the yearsrnthat followed, the Acadians became anrnintegral part of the population of Louisiana:rnisolated and self-sufficient, they preservedrntheir heritage and their traditions.rnAs trappers, fishermen, small farmers,rnand planters, they thrived in their newrnhome. By the 19th century, numerousrnAcadians were prominent in governmentrnand in the professions, and, inrn1861, like virtually all Louisianans, theyrnrallied to the Confederate cause. Alsornlike their fellow Louisianans, they enduredrnthe brutality of Union invasionrnand postwar “Reconstruction.”rnGradually, the word “Acadian” wasrnabbreviated into “Cajun.” In the 20thrncentury, the Cajuns continued to survivern40/CHRONICLESrnrnrn