Creole Diaspora Communities

Since Creole is not a direct descendent of a singular population or culture, we have to look at Louisiana and Southern Creole as its own diaspora community. It is actually a diaspora within a diaspora! The original settlement of the French Acadians in Louisiana was the first diaspora, and as the Creole culture developed and migrated, the Creole population developed secondary diasporas.

Throughout Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, there are several main local Creole communities that are considered offshoots of the original ‘Creolophones’ of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, St. Martin Parish, and Beaumont. One of the largest communities can be found in the Houston area, where my extended ‘Landry” family lives. The next largest communities reside in Chicago and California, with California holding the largest population outside of the American south.  Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino county, and the San Francisco bay area house a quite large population of Louisiana (and Haitian) Creoles.

Other sizeable communities exist along Bayou Têche in St. Landry, Avoyelles, Iberia and St. Mary Parishes. There are smaller communities on False River in Terrebone Parish, Pointe-Coupée Parish, and along the lower Mississippi River in Ascension, St. Charles, and St. James and St.John the Baptist parishes. More than 10 languages and regional variations are spoken in Louisiana. (wikipedia). It is interesting that even within these regionally located communities, variations occur so readily among dialect that Creole off-shoots are considered their own language!

This was originally not the case. Before the start of the 20th century, the word Creole had a significantly different meaning. Creole scholars such as Charles Gayarre andAlcee Fortier began to assert that the word Creole referred exclusively to people of wholly European descent. However, references to “Creoles of Color” and “Creole Slaves” can be found in colonial-era documents. Today, I assert that Creole means the complete opposite of what Gayarre and Fortier theorized. For their time period, the French southerners had little interaction with black slaves or Spanish speaking settlements, and therefore did not encounter the same level of interbreeding as we can trace back today. This is a perfect example of how a ‘cultural theory’ or definition can change over time as the social context or structure is altered.

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