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Acadiana

Map of Acadiana Region with the Cajun Heartland subregion highlighted in dark red.

Acadiana (also called Cajun Country) is the official name given to the French Louisiana region that is home to a large Cajun population. Of the 64 parishes that comprise Louisiana, 22 parishes, or about one-third of the total, make up Acadiana. [1]

Contents

Origin of the term

The word Acadiana reputedly has two origins. Its first recorded appearance dates to the mid-1950s, when a Crowley, Louisiana, newspaper, the Crowley Daily Signal, coined the term in reference to Acadia Parish, Louisiana.[2]

However, KATC TV-3 in Lafayette independently coined "Acadiana" in the early 1960s, gave it a new, broader meaning, and popularized it throughout south Louisiana. Founded in 1962, KATC was owned by the Acadian Television Corporation. In early 1963, the station received an invoice erroneously addressed to the Acadiana Television Corp. Someone had typed an extra "a" at the end of the word "Acadian." The station started using it to describe the region covered by its broadcast signal.[3]

In 1971 the Louisiana state legislature officially recognized 22 Louisiana parishes for their unique Cajun and Acadian heritage (House Concurrent Resolution No. 496, June 6, 1971), and made Acadiana the official name of the region.[4]

Today, there are numerous business, governmental and nonprofit organizations that utilize Acadiana in their names, e.g., Mall of Acadiana, Acadiana CARES, and Acadiana High School.

Flag

Official flag of Acadiana

In 1965, Thomas J. Arceneaux designed a flag for Acadiana[5]. Arceneaux was a professor at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and had derived the flag from the University seal. In 1974, the legislature officially adopted Arceneaux's design as the official Acadiana flag, (House Concurrent Resolution 143, passed 5 July 1974).[6] The three silver fleurs-de-lis on the blue field represent the French heritage of Acadiana, the gold star on the white field symbolizes Our Lady of the Assumption, patron saint of Acadiana (the star also symbolizes the active participation of the Cajuns in the American Revolution, as soldiers under General Bernardo de Gálvez, Spanish governor of Louisiana). The gold tower on the red field represents Spain, which governed Louisiana at the time the Acadians arrived.[7] (Purely by coincidence, this flag closely resembles the Philippine flag.)

People

Cajuns are the descendants of Acadian exiles from what are now Canada's Maritime Provinces, particularly Nova Scotia. They prevail among the region's visible cultures, but not everybody who lives in Acadiana is culturally Acadian or speaks Cajun French, nor is everybody who is culturally Acadian or "Cajun" descended from the Acadian refugees.

In addition to the Cajuns, Acadiana is home to several Native American tribes and enclaves of black Creoles.

German settlers also found their way to Acadiana as early as 1721, preceding even the Cajuns.[8] More recently, political refugees from southeast Asia (Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, among others) have brought their families, cultures, and languages to the area, and have contributed significantly to its fishing industry.

For more details on this topic, see Cajun.

Geography

Despite the frequent association of Cajuns with swamplands, Acadiana actually consists mainly of low gentle hills in the north section and dry land prairies, with marshes and bayous in the south closer to the coast, increasing in frequency in and around the Atchafalaya and Mississippi basins. The area also is filled with fields of rice and sugarcane.

Acadiana, as defined by the Louisiana legislature, refers to the area that stretches from just west of New Orleans to the Texas border along the Gulf of Mexico coast, and about 100 miles inland to Marksville. This includes the 22 parishes of Acadia, Ascension, Assumption, Avoyelles, Calcasieu, Cameron, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jeff Davis, Lafayette, Lafourche, Pointe Coupee, St. Charles, St. James, St. John The Baptist, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, Terrebonne, Vermilion, and West Baton Rouge. The total land area is 37,746.756 km² (14,574.105 sq mi). At the 2000 census its total population was 1,352,646 residents.

Of those 22, eight parishes make up the Cajun Heartland, which is the central portion of Cajun Country initially settled by the majority of relocated Acadians. These parishes include Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion. The total land area of the Heartland is 14,554.693 km² (5,619.598 sq mi). Its census population was 601,654 residents.

Three of the parishes, St. Charles, St. James, St. John The Baptist, are considered the River Parishes, along with occasionally included Ascension Parish. Present-day St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist parishes also made up an area called the German Coast of Louisiana.

Most populous areas

The largest metropolitan area in Acadiana is Lafayette (the hub of Acadiana, from which it derives its nickname, "Hub City"), followed by Houma-Thibodaux, and then Lake Charles. All three of these metropolitan areas are among the six largest metropolitan areas in Louisiana. Other large cities and towns within Acadiana are Abbeville, Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Carencro, Crowley, Donaldsonville, Eunice, Franklin, Gonzales, Jeanerette, Jennings, Kaplan, Marksville, New Roads, Morgan City, New Iberia, Opelousas, Patterson, Plaquemine, Port Allen, Rayne, Scott, St. Gabriel, St. Martinville, Sulphur, Ville Platte, and Youngsville.

Transportation

The traditional industries of the area: tourism, agriculture, and petroleum initially drove the need for transportation development. In recent years, hurricane evacuation plans for the area's growing towns and cities have hastened the planning and construction of better roadways. The abundance of swamps and marshes previously made Acadiana difficult to access, a major reason for the near isolation of the early Cajun people, until oil was found in the area in the early 1900s.

Land
High capacity, modern highways are the lifeline of the region. US Highways 90, 190, and 167 (now partially replaced by I-49) were the main connectors through south Louisiana until the 1950s. Interstates 10, 210, 55, and 49 now play the major role in transportation. US and state highways also cross the region.
Rail transport through the area is limited by the difficult terrain and the sheer number of bridges required to build over every little stream and bayou. A robust railroad system was being built at the time of the American Civil War, but much of it was destroyed during the conflict. By the end of the war, river transport via paddlewheeler had taken over as the preferred mode of travel. The major railway in operation through the region is the Southern Pacific Railroad, now part of the Union Pacific Railroad.
Water
Waterways are vital to the commercial and recreational activities of the region. Seaports, rivers, lakes, bayous, canals, and spillways dot the landscape, and served as the primary source of shipping and travel through the early 1930s. The Mississippi River is important to the eastern section, the Atchafalaya River to the middle, with Calcasieu River flowing through Lake Charles, and the Sabine river enabling shipping traffic to the western portion. Fresh and saltwater lakes, along with almost the entire Louisiana portion of the Intracoastal Waterway, enable the flow of people and materials.
Air
The area's larger airports in Houma, Lafayette, and Lake Charles provide regional leisure travel. Most air travel in the area, not counting the extreme amount of flyover traffic from hubs like New Orleans and Houston, is local in nature and provided by small planes and helicopters. Many hours of flight time is logged by helicopter pilots servicing the oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico. Small planes are used for short trips and agricultural needs. There are small regional airports seving communities throughout the area.

Natural disasters

Tree blown down during Hurricane Lili

The eastern Acadiana region was among those affected by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 (although not severely like areas from Greater New Orleans eastward). The western Acadiana region and eastern Texas were most affected by Hurricane Rita on September 26, 2005.

On October 3, 2002, central Acadiana region suffered a direct hit from category one Hurricane Lili. The hurricane caused most of Lafayette to lose power. In addition, some high-rise buildings in downtown had windows broken and many homes had roof damage.

See also

Sources

Footnotes

  1. ^ "The Cajun Kingdom Of the Bayou," The New York Times. January 27, 1991
  2. ^ Shane K. Bernard, The Cajuns: Americanization of a People (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003), p. 79.
  3. ^ Lafayette History. Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. Retrieved on 6 December 2006.
  4. ^ Shane K. Bernard, The Cajuns: Americanization of a People (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003), p. 80.
  5. ^ The Acadiana Flag.
  6. ^ Shane K. Bernard, The Cajuns: Americanization of a People (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi), p. 167.
  7. ^ Acadiana Flag. CRW Flags.com. Retrieved on 6 December 2006.
  8. ^ http://www.acadian-cajun.com/germanc.htm History of the Cajuns: The German Coast of Louisiana


External links


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Categories: Acadiana | Cajun

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