Nicholas R. Spitzer
The varied folk traditions of South Louisiana, from Cajun music and Creole zydeco to cooking of gumbo and building Lafitte skiffs, reflect the great diversity of the region's natural and cultural environments. To describe French southern Louisiana as a diverse "folk region," however, is difficult, for such areas are generally defined as culturally homogenous, with relatively stable populations.
To be sure, there are regional unifying features in South Louisiana: the French language (Cajun dialects and Creole), Catholicism (over 50%), festivals, folk foodways (gumbo, jambalaya, boudin sausage, andouille, etc.) and traditional material culture (Creole cottages and folk boats). Each of these features also has a great deal of regional variation and many are not strictly of French origin. For example, Creole, the Afro-French language of the plantation areas, is spoken largely in a sub-region west of the Atchafalaya Basin (see map), while Cajun French is spoken on the prairies. The latter dialect is decidedly nasal with flat vowels when compared to that spoken in the town of French Settlement east of the Mississippi or older New Orleans French, both of which sound a bit more Continental. Similarly, Catholicism varies from the grand tradition evoked by Cathedrals in Lafayette and New Orleans to folk practices such as shrimp fleet and cane field blessings, home altars, yard virgins, traiteurs (folk medicine treaters) and, among some black jurer (Afro-French praise chanting).