Swamp People For A Day
Our European visitors wanted to go on a swamp tour. We signed up for Cajun Country Swamp Tours, in the Atchafalaya Swamp near Breaux Bridge. It was a lot of fun. We saw plenty of gators.
And we saw many beautiful birds, like this great blue heron:
It was a good way to spend a couple of hours. Afterward, we went to Johnson’s Boucanière for lunch (get the rib), and then motored out to Vermilionville, the folk life Cajun village on the banks of the Vermilion River. It was really something else. The village exists to show historical aspects of Cajun life, including domestic architecture (1785-1890), interior design, plants ground around household, and so forth. The parts I enjoyed the most was listening to my friend Philippe, a native Parisian, speaking French to a couple of Cajun volunteers.
One of them, a woman from Henderson who spun cotton thread, explained that she was speaking Creole. This was odd to us; we assumed that Creole was what black people living among the French spoke historically. This white woman told us that her husband is from Arnaudville, not too far away from her hometown, and he speaks Cajun French. This is just what she grew up with. Later, Philippe talked to a guide whose French was accentless.
We also saw this in the replica classroom, of the sort little Cajun kids would have been taught in many decades ago:
The culturally dominant English speakers tried to force Cajun school children to speak English by punishing them for speaking French in school. This seems terrible today, and a way of robbing a people of its language for the sake of erasing its memory and dominating them. On the other hand, this is how you unite a disparate nation. It is not pretty.
Driving back home, I told my wife that even though I am not Cajun, who the Cajuns are and what they’ve accomplished is what makes me proudest to come from south Louisiana.