THE CAJUNS: From Acadia to Louisiana by William Faulkner Rushton

THE CAJUNS: From Acadia to Louisiana

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the Thirties, a narrow-minded Federal Writers' Project researcher judged the Cajuns a troublesome minority: ""uncultured,"" ""ardent,"" intent on ""rustic beatitude."" Today, however, Cajun culture--a rich, distinctive one--is thriving, as journalist Rushton ably reveals in this savory gumbo of history and contemporary custom. Most probably, Cajun ancestors left France for the New World's better fishing waters some time after 1504. Settling in Acadia (the Bay of Fundy region), they prospered by continuing their pre-industrial agrarian tradition of self-sufficiency and by continuing to resist the steadily encroaching English. When, after a 40-year fuss over a loyalty oath, they were expelled in 1755 (Lc Grand Derangement), they dispersed, then moved in successive migrations to Louisiana where, for a time, French and Spanish honchos welcomed them. A second, less dramatic relocation followed the Louisiana Purchase, but the Cajuns (probably a corruption of Acadians) remained in the area, and today many of their staunchly unassimilated descendants cherish their patois, enjoy unique communal gatherings, and pursue traditional arts and crafts--weaving and accordion-playing especially. Rushton is a trustworthy, discerning guide, from Fundy settlement landmarks to Our Lady of the Butane Tank shrine. He gives both prominent figures and select disreputables their proper place (one exceptionally tough family found signs in bars reading ""No Fitches Allowed"") and explores historical tangents as different as the likely origins of Cajun house construction or the connection between colorful smuggler Jean Lafitte and Marx and Engels. Currently, oil interests (an ""oiligarchy"") pose a bigger threat than the English--they've already upset marsh ecology--so it's best to find this and the Cajuns while a Cajun governor still endorses cockfights, ""traiteurs"" (usually left-handed women) still practice folk medicine, and locals still cook their roux to ""a well-earned brown"" (recipes included). A nuanced, expansive appreciation.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1979
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux