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Cajuns aren't the only Frenchmen here
Lafayette (LA) Daily Advertiser

Cajuns aren't the only ones who make Acadiana French.

There was a steady stream, or at least a regular trickle, of Frenchmen who came to Louisiana for more than 200 years. Lots of them had stopped someplace else, picking up strange accents and different ways during their trek to Louisiana. They made for a mixed community among Louisiana francophones. And not everybody here liked everybody else that much.

The folks who spoke French in Louisiana shared the language, and many of them shared the Catholic faith, but that was about all that many of them shared. For example, the Acadians who came here from the cool climes of Canada had little in common with Frenchmen who came at another time from the Caribbean, and neither had much in common with someone coming directly from France in yet another era.

Historians tell us that there are at least four different French heritages in Louisiana--and that these could probably be divided even more.

There are those who came directly to Louisiana from France in the early 1700s. These are the early settlers of Mobile and New Orleans and Natchitoches, and whose descendants would settle in places like Opelousas.

There are the Acadians who settled in old Acadie in the early 1600s and were there until their exile in 1755.

There are French-speaking black people who were brought to Louisiana in the 1800s by French-speaking white refugees from revolution in Santo Domingo.

There were aristocrats who came to Louisiana at the time of the French Revolution, and common soldiers who came here after Napoleon's adventures went awry.

The first Frenchmen, who came here between 1700 and 1765, were dreaming dreams of getting lucky and getting rich. They hoped to find gold and silver and Indian slaves to mine it, the way the Spaniards had in Mexico and Peru. They took to Louisiana the way we moderns take to the Louisiana lottery. They wanted to get rich, but they didn't want to work particularly hard to do it.

Nor was official France willing to work too hard at making them rich. At least in the beginning, the king and his court thought of Louisiana as little more than a place to put soldiers to guard the back door to Canada. There weren't many farmers or craftsmen in that early lot, coming here to put down deep roots and a permanent home.

A good number of the men and women who came here at first did so because they were sent here as soldiers, use they had no place else to go, or because they dreamed of sharing in the "wealth of the Indies." The idea was to come to Louisiana for a little while, get rich, go home, and live happily ever after.