Cajuns aren't the only
Lafayette (LA) Daily
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.