The mystique of the Acadian culture captured our attention today as we made our way across America’s largest swamp, in Southern Louisiana. The temptation to go off our budget in pricey New Orleans had persisted for a time but was ultimately discarded when we discovered that the famous Mardi Gras celebration had ended the day before. Plan B would place us in close proximity to the city of Lafayette, home of the Acadian Cultural Center. Being briefly familiar with Cajun sightings in past visits to New Orleans, I seemed to preconceive this term as sort of a “hillbilly” person who ate spicy food and perhaps wrestled alligators for fun. I was clearly dissatisfied with this stereotype and desired to learn more.
What exactly did “Cajun” then mean in this part of the state? How silly of me to believe my previous biases were true as this was in fact a highly developed culture. In my visit to the Cultural Center, a Cajun would soon became clear to me as a direct descendant of the Acadians, a long persecuted French immigrant society deported from Nova Scotia, Canada centuries ago. While Acadian music and food would ultimately become popularized at the annual Mardi Gras celebration, I learned that this culture had prospered on its own in this harsh environment with a distinct French-derived language, a self-sufficient seafood trade, and a loyal adherence to the Catholic religion. As I left the center that day, I wondered why the American History books I used as a Social Studies Teacher omitted such mention of Acadian progress.
I also found the lighter side of Cajun Louisiana a captivating one to photograph today. Boiling crayfish, a spicy condiment- “Slap Ya Mama”, Cajun record albums, unusual musical instruments; all of these most assuredly provided me with a rare glimpse as to how Acadia fun attracts the tourist dollar today. Observing their culture logically, then, If one has to live in a swamp, you might as well enjoy it.