A little bit south of Shreveport Louisiana and a little bit east of Beaumont Texas, an area of this country that is one of the most mysterious and exotic places to explore exists and that is the home of the Cajuns in southern Louisiana.
When one thinks of “Cajun Country”, you naturally start to think about New Orleans. And to be sure, that great city, despite the devastating damage done by the hurricane last year, is home to some of the richest Cajun culture of the area.
But New Orleans is not the only location you can become lost in the charms of this fascinating subset of American culture. The Cajun world is indeed a culture all its own. As you listen to the way the natives of this world talk, you will start to realize that somehow right here within the borders of the good old USA, a virtual other world has grown up and thrived for these many decades and centuries.
The history of the arrival of the Cajuns to southern Louisiana is a great American story that is seldom told or understood. But it all started in far away Canada when an influx of the French culture encountered discrimination and hostility in that northern part of the world. When the Canadian “hosts” proved to be most ungracious, these French immigrants were “deported” and their ships finally came to rest in the wild regions of southern Louisiana long before this area was civilized and organized into a state.
Over the decades the combination of French, Creole, Spanish, and Indian and African culture resulted in this rich amalgam that we now know as “Cajun”.
The Cajun people will seem strange and peculiar to those of us used to what is normal to American standards. But let yourself be swept away to this exotic world right here in America and you too will find yourself slowly adapting to the Cajun lifestyle and point of view.
You will find that the Cajun and Creole cultures are profoundly friendly and there is no day that is not a good day for a party in Cajun Country. In fact, Cajuns celebrate everything that is worth celebrating including funerals as they send off their dearly departed with a rousing jazz band and relatives laughing and making joy to the tune of When the Saints Go Marching In.
No review of the great things of the Cajun culture is complete without a mention of the great food. Get your tummy ready for some of the most exotic and stimulating foods you are ever likely to enjoy as you settle into a local diner in the heart of southern Louisiana. The Gumbo and other uniquely Cajun dishes will sizzle the mouth and set your tummy to tingling as well.
But don’t panic when it seems your digestive system is on fire. When those potent spices take hold in your blood, you will enjoy the best night of sleep that you can remember.
You should come out of your sightseeing trip to Cajun country with a new sound in your ears as well because the Cajun beats are unlike anything you have ever heard before. It isn’t country, it isn’t blues, it isn’t completely jazz and it isn’t bluegrass. It is all of those things and so much more. So if you are pushing back from the table after a big helping of fried crawdad and alligator tail, if the locals ask you if you want to stay for the party, tell them yes so you can become immersed in the great Cajun music that can only be had here in Cajun country.
One of the great things about sightseeing in America is that every area of the country has its own unique flavor and culture for all of us to enjoy. And Louisiana certainly has one of the richest and most diverse cultures that has grown up in the swamps around Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Giving yourself to the chance to experience these rich cultures is just as broadening as travel to Europe, Asia or Africa. And it’s a whole lot closer.