Cajun Culture Essay

1468 words - 6 pages

Nous sommes Acadiens. (We are Acadians.) Some outsiders see us as a quaint, virtuous people, spending a great deal of time singing, dancing, praying, and visiting? (Conrad, 1978, p.14). Others see us as independent and unsophisticated. We see ourselves as fun-loving, carefree, happy, proud people who have a great love for our culture. The Acadians were French settlers of eastern Canada who were exiled from their land in the 1750?s. The Acadians are known to have settled in the southern bayou lands of Louisiana around that time. The Acadiana people acquired their nickname, ?Cajuns,? from those people who could not pronounce Acadians correctly. Due to the opinion that Cajuns were ?different?, they lived close together and became isolated from others in Louisiana. They have since developed their own distinct characteristics which make them unique and unlike no others in the bayou state. Family, music, housing, food, marriages, and ?traiteurs? were all a part of the simple but challenging lifestyle of the Cajuns.

The early Cajuns did not have a social life as we know it today. Occasionally, they would attend dances, but family and friends were their main source of fun and relaxation. Because of the hardships of not being able to travel long distances, the Cajuns would gather with family for Sunday dinners and special occasions such as birthdays and holidays. One of their favorite pastimes was to gather, play cards, and sing. The families spent an extreme amount of time together. They shared their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with each other. Most importantly, they needed each other. The desire to be with family is one of the unique factors that has kept the Cajun identity so strong through time and troubles (Hebert, 1997).

Music played an important part in the Cajun?s lifestyle. Cajun music originated in the 1700?s and developed significantly over time. It was the primary pastime of families. The music was original and they were proud of it. The Cajuns sang from the heart, and that is what made the music the best and only one of its kind. They expressed their love, joy, pain, and grief through song. Playing the accordion was an important accompaniment to their singing. This instrument gave Cajun music its remarkable sound and beat. French songs sung by the Cajuns many times reflected their language. Slang phrases such as ?oh-yai-yi?, an expression of grief or pain, and ?Aaeeh? were shouted during the song when no lyrics were sung. One particular phrase used most often in French love songs was ?oh, petite chérie?, which meant ?dear little girl.? A few French songs that became well known around Acadiana in the 1920?s and 1930?s were ?J?ai Passé Devant ta Porte,? (I Passed in Front of Your Door), and ?Saute Crapaud,? (Jump Frog). The most well known Cajun French song ever depicted is ?Jolie Blonde? (Beautiful Blonde). It is popular not only in Acadiana but in many other places outside of Acadiana, Louisiana, and the United...

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