The word Creole

            What is a Creole? The word Creole means many things to many people. It derives from the Latin word "Creare,” meaning "to beget” or "create.” The Webster dictionary says a Creole is a "white person descended from the French or Spanish settlers of Louisiana and the Gulf States and preserving their characteristic speech and culture.” .

             Creoles, a term first used in the 16th century in Latin America to distinguish the offspring of European settlers from Native Americans, blacks, and later immigrant groups. In colonial America the designally originally applied to the American-born descendants of European-born settlers. The term has since acquired varying meanings in different regions.

             In the United States, the state of Louisiana has a diverse Creole population. White Creoles are the French-speaking descendants of early French or Spanish settlers. Black Creoles are generally the French-speaking Louisianians of mixed race, once constituted a separate group, but have now largely assimilated into the black Creole population. These people have their own culture and customs and even a compostite language derived from the French. In Latin America the term may refer to people of direct Spanish extraction or just to members of families whose ancestory goes back to the colonial period. In the West Indies the word Creole is used to identify descendants of any European settlers. (Encarta Encyclopedia 226).

             The Spanish introduced the word as Criollo, and during Louisiana's colonial period (1699-1803) the evolving word Creole generally referred to persons of African or European heritage born in the New World. Creoles can mean anything from individuals born in the New Orleans with French and Spanish ancestry to those who descended from African, Caribbean, French, and Spanish combinations. The Creoles have played an important part in the heritage of New Orleans.(HERRIN,29).

             Strictly speaking, a New Orleans Creole is a descendent of an early French or Spanish settler, "born in the colony,” not in Europe.

Related Essays: