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Acadiana, or The Heart of Acadiana, ( ) is the official name given to the French Louisiana region that is home to a large Francophone population. Of the 64 parishes that make up Louisianamarker, 22 named parishes and other parishes of similar cultural environment, make up the intrastate region.

Etymology

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

However, KATCmarker 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.

In 1971 the Louisiana state legislature officially recognized 22 named Louisiana parishes and "other parishes of similar cultural environment" for their "strong French Acadian cultural aspects" (House Concurrent Resolution No. 496, June 6, 1971), and made The Heart of Acadiana the official name of the region. The official name, however, has never been embraced by the public, which instead has used merely the one-word place name Acadiana in reference to the region.

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

Flag



In 1965, Thomas J. Arceneaux designed a flag for Acadiana. Arceneaux was a professor at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and had derived the flag from the University seal. In 1974, the Louisiana legislature officially adopted Arceneaux's design as the official Acadiana flag, (House Concurrent Resolution 143, passed 5 July 1974). The three silver fleurs-de-lis on the blue field represent the French heritage of Acadiana, the gold star on the white field symbolizes Saint Mary, 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 when the Acadians arrived.

People

Cajuns are the descendants of Acadian exiles from what are now Canada's Maritime Provinces, particularly Nova Scotiamarker. 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 mixed-race Louisiana Creole people.

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

Geography

Despite the frequent association of Cajuns with swamplands and bayous, Acadiana 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. The wetlands increase in frequency in and around the Atchafalaya and Mississippi basins. The area also is cultivated with fields of rice and sugarcane.

Acadiana, as defined by the Louisiana legislature, refers to the area that stretches from just west of New Orleansmarker to the Texasmarker border along the Gulf of Mexicomarker coast, and about 100 miles inland to Marksvillemarker. This includes the 22 parishes of Acadia, Ascensionmarker, Assumptionmarker, Avoyellesmarker, Calcasieumarker, Cameronmarker, Evangelinemarker, Iberiamarker, Ibervillemarker, Jeff Davismarker, Lafayettemarker, Lafourchemarker, Pointe Coupeemarker, St. Charlesmarker, St. Jamesmarker, St. John The Baptistmarker, St. Landrymarker, St. Martinmarker, St. Marymarker, Terrebonnemarker, Vermilionmarker, and West Baton Rougemarker. 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.

Three of the parishes, St. Charles, St. James, St. John the Baptist, are considered the River Parishes. Ascension Parish is occasionally included with them. Present-day St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes also made up an area formerly known as the German Coast (les côtes des Allemands) because of settlement by German immigrants of the 18th century. St. James and Ascension Parish were originally known as the Comté d'Acadie (Acadia County) because of the initial settlement of 18th century exiled Acadians. St. James Parish was known as the First Acadian Coast and Ascension Parish was known as the Second Acadian Coast. Collectively they were known as les côtes des Acadiens.

Most populous areas

The largest metropolitan area in Acadiana is Lafayette, followed by Houma-Thibodaux, and Lake Charles. Other large cities and towns within Acadiana are Abbevillemarker, Breaux Bridgemarker, Broussardmarker, Carencromarker, Crowleymarker, Donaldsonvillemarker, Eunicemarker, Franklinmarker, Gonzalesmarker, Jeanerettemarker, Jenningsmarker, Kaplanmarker, Marksvillemarker, New Roadsmarker, Morgan Citymarker, New Iberiamarker, Opelousasmarker, Pattersonmarker, Plaqueminemarker, Port Allenmarker, Raynemarker, Scottmarker, St. Gabrielmarker, St. Martinvillemarker, Sulphurmarker, Ville Plattemarker, and Youngsvillemarker.

Transportation

The traditional industries of the area, agriculture, petroleum, and tourism, 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 lifelines 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 numerous streams and bayous. 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 Charlesmarker, 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 Houstonmarker, is local in nature and provided by small planes and helicopters. Helicopter pilots service the oilfields in the Gulf of Mexicomarker. Small planes are used for short trips and agricultural needs. Small regional airports serve 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 so severely as areas from Greater New Orleans eastward). The western Acadiana region and east Texas were most affected by Hurricane Rita on September 24, 2005.

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

On Labor Day 2008, Hurricane Gustav severely affected the entire Acadiana region. Many cities and towns from Baton Rouge to Houma, Lafayette, and westward suffered roof damage, flooding, and downed trees. Many thousands of residents were without power for from two days to two weeks or more.

See also

Notes

  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. Shane K. Bernard, The Cajuns: Americanization of a People (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2003), p. 80.
  4. Shane K. Bernard, The Cajuns: Americanization of a People (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi), p. 167.
  5. http://www.acadian-cajun.com/germanc.htm History of the Cajuns: The German Coast of Louisiana


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