Gumbo.

Pirogue.

Chère (pronounced “shah.”)

Fais-do-do.

These are all words and concepts that I grew up with, the child of parents who were raised in Louisiana, in Cajun country. It wasn’t until I was much older that I came to understand that the average child didn’t eat crawfish or listen to “chanky chank” music when they visited family as part of a cultural experience.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out I don’t look like most white Americans. My dark hair, dark eyes, and olive complexion were, I discovered, indicative of my Cajun — and even further back, French — culture.

It wasn’t until I was grown that I realized how special this world was.

Acadiana, a tiny sliver of Louisiana, is its own country, with its own language (French Cajun, which, after studying Parisian French for decades, even I can’t understand much of), food, and culture. It’s one that permeated my life growing up, though I feel separate from it, having only experienced it from a distance.

Visiting Vermilionville with my mother this spring, I reignited my love of my family history and culture.

I even took a DNA test out of curiosity but was told everything I already knew: I am a proud Cajun whose family came from France and through Canada to settle in Louisiana.

dna test