When Creoles met Cajuns (a short palatable history)

I have written a bunch of novels about the Creoles and Cajuns, slaves, and Americans who populated early Louisiana. (See Author Page on Amazon or my website.) This is the outline of my earliest research so I wouldn’t tell folks the Creoles were from Hungary and the slaves were all from China.

The Louisiana Creoles are a particularly romantic bunch. They are also a bit on the motley side. The French “discovered” Louisiana around 1700 and sent intrepid settlers to tame the wilderness. Some of them were men of vision, like de Bienville, some were entrepreneurs, some were adventurers, or maybe all three, but all of them were risk takers. It was hot, the miasma was dangerous and often fatal (think yellow fever and malaria), there were insects Europeans never dreamed of, and monsters like twelve foot gators. And lord at the snakes in the swampy land.

Enter the Germans, 1721, only a few years after the first French. Upriver from New Orleans is even known as the German Coast. These folks came for the same reasons as the French – land and opportunity. Cane wasn’t big yet, not until the late 1700s, but  indigo, and the blue dye they made from it, was profitable.  Indigo was  particularly hard on the slaves – I’ll write about that another time.

And enter the Spanish. The British and the French and the Spanish were forever picking at each other, and in 1763, the Spanish gained control of Louisiana. Some of the features we think of as French Creole in the French Quarter are also very much Spanish, like the filigreed wrought-iron balconies.

So by the time the Acadians/Cajuns arrived starting around 1760, the Creoles were a mixture of German, Spanish, and French Europeans. The word “creole” has more than one use, but in this case, it refers to people born in Louisiana of European parents. The culture, the language, and the bloodlines of these Creoles was decidedly French.

The Acadians had been French farmers and fishermen in Acadia, in Nova Scotia. Maybe you have visited the fort at Louisville in Nova Scotia where they have reconstructed the thriving village and populated it with knowledgeable actors and actresses in costume. It’s a great trip if you haven’t been. Anyway, the ever-warring British and French were at it, and at this stage of their hostilities, the British were ascendant, and in 1755 they booted the French Acadians out. Just rounded them up and loaded them on ships and took them away.

Some of those ships took the Acadians back to France. Some went to Maryland. Some to the Caribbean. Eventually, many of the displaced ‘Cadians migrated to New Orleans where people spoke French. Ironically, at this time the Spanish were in control of the Louisiana territory, but they welcomed the new settlers and gave them a little help getting started.

By the time the ‘Cadians arrived, the Creoles were well established. These newcomers, they exclaimed, didn’t speak proper French, and they dressed funny. They called them ignorant and poor and dirty, and that attitude lasted a long time. But the decades moved on, and the Cajuns stuck it out and demonstrated courage, resourcefulness, and grit. What would Louisiana be today without them? They contribute flavor to the language, wonderful cuisine, happy music, and a unique cultural heritage.

So the Creoles and Cajuns learned to cohabit the territory, along with the slaves which of course outnumbered the whites and who are not, ever, forgotten in thinking about who settled Louisiana.

If this period interests you, you might take a look at Always and Forever, A Saga of Slavery and Deliverance, Book One of the Plantation Series.  This is the story of Creoles running a cane plantation, the slaves who labor in those fields, and the Cajuns living in the bayous. You can read all the great reviews, the blurb, and the first chapter on my website or on Amazon.

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About glcraig

Gretchen Craig’s lush, sweeping tales deliver edgy, compelling characters who test the boundaries of integrity, strength, and love. Told with sensitivity, the novels realistically portray the raw suffering of people in times of great upheaval. Gretchen was born and raised in Florida. She’s lived in climates and terrain as diverse as the white beaches of the Gulf Coast, the rocky shores of Maine, and the dusty plains of Texas. Her awareness of place imbues every page with the smell of the bayous of Louisiana, the taste of gumbo in New Orleans, or the grit of a desert storm. Rich in compelling characters and historical detail, Always and Forever is a sweeping saga of Josie and Cleo, mistress and slave. Amid Cajuns and Creoles, the bonds between these two remarkable women are tested by prejudice, tragedy, and passion for one extraordinary man. Gretchen’s first novel won the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence for Mainstream with Romantic Elements and was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in the Historical Novel Society reviews. Ever My Love, winner of the Booksellers Best Award from the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America, continues the story of Cleo and Josie’s families, of their struggle for principle, justice, and love in a world where the underpinnings of the plantation culture are crumbling. Crimson Sky, inspired by the pueblos, mountains, and deserts of New Mexico, evokes the lives of people facing neighboring marauders and drought. Now the march of Spanish Conquistadors up the Rio Grande threatens their homeland, their culture, and their entire belief system.
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