Anyone who’s spent time in Louisiana knows that our diverse cultures go much deeper than delicious seasonings and unusual words. (If you’re visiting for the first time, you’ll get what we mean the first time you turn onto Tchoupitoulas Street.)
Cajun culture is one of the many unique features of Louisiana life that you can’t find anywhere else in the country. Cajun food, lifestyle, and traditions are well-loved by so many Louisiana natives and visitors alike. It’s one of the many reasons we’ve incorporated information about Cajun history and lifestyle into our popular swamp tours.
If our swamp tour has sparked your interest in Cajun culture, here’s just a little background on what it means to be Cajun.
What does it mean to be Cajun?
Originally called “Acadians,” Cajuns were French immigrants who first made their home in the Canadian provinces called “Acadia.”
Many of these Acadians eventually found their way to New Orleans, where their native French language was spoken. Most Cajuns have since spread to the more rural areas of South Louisiana.
No culture can be defined in just a few bullet points. But there are some basic features of Cajun culture that still enrich Louisiana life today:
- French roots: Cajuns originally emigrated to Louisiana from France. Until the 20th Century, Cajuns typically spoke Cajun French, and did their part to try to keep the French language alive in rural Louisiana.
- Community festivals: Festivities and communal gatherings are a hallmark of the culture. If you’re lucky enough to attend a Cajun-style gathering, you’ll probably enjoy delicious food and live music, with roots stemming from blues, soul, Creole zydeco, or traditional Cajun beats.
- Hunting and fishing: When Cajuns first arrived in Louisiana, they adapted to the many ingredients readily available. Some Cajun families still keep this tradition alive, harvesting fish, crawfish and other shellfish for their own families, and to sell.
- Cajun Cuisine: The Cajun style of cooking stems from a combination of Creole and Native American cuisine. There are some key ingredients, like okra, onions, and pecans, that are native to the area and have formed the basis of many Cajun dishes. Seafood and shellfish (including Louisiana’s famed crawfish) are frequently front and center in Cajun dishes.
Cajuns traditionally enjoyed their food in big, communal groups. We can thank Cajuns for bringing us the pig roasts and crawfish boils that, even today, Louisiana residents typically enjoy in the company of (many) others.
If you’re curious about Cajun culture, go beyond the spicy food: take a tour that delves into Cajun history and cultural influences.