Around Acadiana

Aug 13, 2014 3:45 PM by Warren Perrin

Warren Perrin on what it means to be a Ragin' Cajun

As we enjoy the academic and athletic successes of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, located in the center of the 22-parish area officially designated by the Louisiana legislature in 1971 as Acadiana, we should pause to consider why the athletic nickname of the university - Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns - is so unique and representative of our south Louisiana culture.

In 1604, French colonists settled an area then known as Acadie (today Nova Scotia, Canada) and over the next 150 years developed an exceptional Acadian culture. Historians agree that the Acadians developed a cohesiveness similar to a nationalistic identity which even included the ideas of republicanism, independence and self-rule.

All of these ideals became the focus of the American Revolution which took place not too long thereafter. In 1713, the Acadians fell under British control and these farmers had to adapt to survive in a new governmental environment.

In 1755, the British conducted forced deportations of the Acadians, rendering thousands homeless. Over one-third perished in their diaspora. For the next 60 years, these exiles migrated to seaports along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, eventually settling in new lands.

The British sought to have them assimilated into British colonial society, but the Acadians sternly resisted such efforts and they maintained their unique cultural identity - the first Europeans to do so in North America.

This tragic upheaval did not succeed in extinguishing the Acadians, but instead planted the seeds of many new Acadies in over 40 localities in three countries. After arriving in Louisiana in 1765, the post-dispersal Acadians' identity has evolved into the iconic Cajun culture, a complex mélange of historical and social traditions affected by the experiences of the diaspora and also by the many other cultures - African, Anglo-American, German, Italian, Scots-Irish, Polish, Jewish, Hispanic, Slovak, Lebanese - found in Acadiana. In 1881, August 15th was designated as National Day of the Acadians.

In 1974, when the nickname "Ragin' Cajuns" became official as a nod to being located in an area populated by over half a million Cajuns living in south central Louisiana, it was in part a recognition of the survival of a proud people who overcame terrific obstacles.

For several decades, the university has also been called the Université des Acadiens. Presently, the university is the higher education centerpiece for Acadiana with over 17,000 students in attendance. There is a distinct feeling of optimism in the air, and the people of the region embrace the name Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns for the university's athletic brand - a true identifier of their culture.

Today, we are proud to be known both nationally and world-wide as the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns. Geaux Cajuns!

 

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