The backwaters of Louisiana might seem an unlikely place to put down roots, but to the religious exiles that traveled from Acadia (now Nova Scotia) in Canada, it was the difficult-to-traverse watery habitat that made this feel like a safe place to call home. These first Acadians were specifically looking for a remote home that they wouldn't easily be forced out of. Even today, some of the southernmost parishes of Acadiana remain inaccessible by road.
Forget Katherine Heigl and her endless rom-coms. If you want a true love story, read "Evangeline" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This epic poem tells the story of a young Acadian woman separated from her lover during the chaos of the forced emigration. Although the character is fictional, Evangeline has become such a cultural icon that you can visit both her former home and gravesite in Acadiana, LA. An oak tree in St. Martinsville also bears her name.
Some like it hot. And those who do can thank Acadiana. After all, Avery Island, part of Acadiana's Iberia Parish, is the only place in the world where Tabasco sauce is produced. The McIlhenny family has been crafting the sauce from a special type of red pepper since the 1860s. It was originally named "Petite Anse Island Sauce," after the island's former title, but apparently "Tabasco" rolls off the tongue a little easier.
New Orleans might have a corner on the Mardi Gras market, but plenty of celebrating takes place in Acadiana, as well. In fact, the Cajun-run Mardi Gras celebration held every year in Mamou (within the Evangeline Parish) is said to date back to the 1800s. Men dress up in costumes, dance, ride on horseback, and chase down a live chicken to add the gumbo (DealChicken respects tradition, but does cannot advocate the Chicken Run).
While Mamou was busy chasing chickens, Lafayette developed a few Mardi Gras traditions of their own. The first formal Lafayette Mardi Gras ball and parade dates back to 1869. Shortly thereafter, the tradition of throwing trinkets to the crowd was started by Twelfth Night Revelers. Today, the family-friendly event draws spectators from both near and far.
Before Tarzan met Jane, he became acquainted with Acadiana. Or, at least the first actor to tackle the role did, because the original installment of the Tarzan franchise was filmed in Acadiana's Morgan City in 1917. Three decades later, Morgan City saw another first, when the nation's first offshore oil well was drilled off its shores in the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1938, Pope Pius XI designated Our Lady of the Assumption as the patron saint of the Acadians, both in Louisiana and Canada. Today, the Virgin Mary makes herself known throughout the region, both in statuary and on the official Acadiana flag. The gold star on the white portion of the region's flag is said to symbolize the patron saint, as well as the Cajuns' participation in the American Revolution.
"Francophone" may sound like the failed merger of actor James Franco and Apple's iPhone, but this term in fact refers to a native French language speaker. And, according to the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, it can be applied to more Louisianans than residents of any other state in the Union. The University of Southwestern Louisiana, located in Acadiana, is home to the country's first Francophone Studies Ph.D. program, which was founded in 1994.
If you live in Acadiana, you've likely heard of New Iberia native George Rodrigue and his Blue Dog paintings. But did you know that Rodrigue used the image of his deceased dog, Tiffany, as his muse? The series, which is considered iconic of Cajun culture and identity, has grown to include more than 100 paintings. The settings change, but the Blue Dog and her haunting eyes always stay the same.
The Roman Catholic religion is very important within the Cajun culture, and evidence of this can be seen throughout Acadiana. However, at the Jungle Gardens and Bird Sanctuary on Avery Island, it's another religion that's represented. Here, among the tropical plants and waterfowl, sits a Buddha that dates all the way back to A.D. 100.
Did you already know these facts about Acadiana LA? Check out DealChicken’s fun facts about Monroe.