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Cajun vs. Creole

By : Chrissy LeMaire | 0 Comments | On : September 21, 2004 | Category : Cajun Country Blog

After hearing me talk for a while, people often catch my mild accent. They usually ask where I’m from and sometimes they guess. The strangest guesses I’ve gotten are Australia, Canada, Germany and Boston. Nope, none of those!
 
I always tell people I’m from South Louisiana making sure to put an emphasis on South. North Louisiana is a whole different state, I tell ya. After people find out where I’m from, I generally expect to hear something about one of three C’s — Cooking, Cajun or Creole.
 
“Oh, you are one of them creole ladies.” No, not quite.
 
I always thought of Creoles as people from the New Orleans area. They were Creole and we Cajuns were from around the Lafayette area. I often correct whomever I’m speaking to but over the years, I felt the need to tell a more accurate tale. “So what is the difference?” they’d ask. I generally said Creoles were from New Orleans and “they use more celery and celery seeds than we do.” Later on, it seemed to me that being Creole also had something to do with being from Africa or the Carribean. To further confuse things, I know that we Cajuns are big fans of Tony Chachere‘s seasonings but they call it Creole seasonings.
 
There’s a reason for so much confusion. After a bit of research, I stumbled upon the now-defunct CreoleInc.com. Creole Inc states that over the years, there have been more than 30 known definitions for the term “creole.” The one they have decided on and adopted as the official definition is individuals of African descent whose cultural roots have been influenced by other cultures such as French, Spanish, and/or Indian.
 
Since the site no longer exists, here’s a longer explanation what “Creole” means.

WHAT IS A CREOLE?

For many centuries, the word Creole has had as many as 30 known definitions. It is a fact that the word Creole had its origin in Africa, citing the countries of Senegal and Mali. In these areas it is believed that in the 11th century Creolism began. In search of new lands, ideas, riches, knowledge and to dispute the philosophers and historians, men became daring explorers. It is through their discoveries that these varying cultures co-existed in harmony to form the cradle of Creolism. It is documented in the annals of history, that the Creoles of Senegal, whether as freemen or as slaves, traveled directly from Senegal and Mali to Louisiana.

The members of C.R.E.O.L.E., INC. define Creole as individuals of African descent whose cultural roots have been influenced by other cultures such as French, Spanish, and/or Indian.  These individuals have traveled through the centuries carrying their oral history, art forms, culinary skills, religious beliefs and kaleidoscope culture.

C.R.E.O.L.E., Inc. Flag

FLAG OF THE CREOLES OF SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA

Designed by Pete Bergeron in 1987 and adopted by C.R.E.O.L.E., Inc., the Flag of Louisiana Creoles represents the cultural melting pot that is the Louisiana Creoles.
The upper left section, a white flour de lis on a blue field, represents Louisiana’s French heritage. On the lower left and upper right sections, West African heritage is represented by the Mali Republic National flag and the Senegal Republic National flag (both green, yellow and red). Spanish Colonial heritage is depicted by the Tower of Castille (gold tower on a red field) on the lower right section. A white cross dividing the four symbols represents the Christian faith accepted by the Muslim and Islamic from Senegal and Mali in Louisiana.

 

So now it appears the definition is as clear as black and white 😉

 

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