Tuesday, February 20, 2018

May 2013 Message from the Guildmaster

Hello all:

Here in Virginia, spring has taken a turn backward. After a couple of weeks of warm weather, we are experiencing a week of much cooler temperatures, unending rain, and thunderstorms. May is traditionally much warmer here, but the month is still young, and we shall see what it brings for the next several weeks.

All if this is quite a contrast to the eighty degree weather that Jan and I recently experienced in southwest Louisiana. We journeyed there for the 27th annual Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette. Many thousands of folks descend on  the heart of Cajun country for this event each year. Downtown Lafayette is cordoned off for foot traffic, six or more performance stages are erected, local food vendors provide the best in Cajun and international cuisine, hundreds of artists from across the country show and sell an incredible array of artwork, and EVERYONE has a great time.

During the festival, all of the performers are introduced in French, and many of the songs are performed in French, and other languages. English is spoken as needed, but the focus is truly centered on the multinational flavor of the event.  African drummers sing in their native languages, Celtic bands perform in Gaelic, The Soul Express Brass Band belts out lyrics in English, and the Cajun and Zydeco bands perform their traditional songs in French.

The entire festival highlights the proud individualistic spirit of the Louisiana French culture. The Cajun people (originally known as Acadians) were forced to leave their settlements in Canada by the British in the mid 1700’s.  Thousands moved toward the south, and landed on the southwestern Louisiana bayous and prairies in the mid 1760’s. They settled into a somewhat isolated existence that allowed them to preserve their culture for hundreds of years. Threatened by the expansion of our homogenized world in the 20th. Century, they won the right to continue teaching French in their schools in the 1960’s.

This unique culture harkens to a time long ago. Many traditional Creole and Cajun customs are still practiced in this area of Louisiana, almost set apart from the rest of our country. The homogenized modern world makes this area stand in stark contrast to the rest of our nation. On Interstate 10, one sees restaurant signs for local eateries, not usually found on major highway markers. Hospitality is the rule of the day everywhere one goes. The local people welcome outsiders with an enthusiasm and politeness seldom seen in other regions.

In our modern time of mass media, electronic alienation, and selfish personal absorption, this pocket of culture seems refreshing in a sense that is difficult to describe. The people of this region have not lost their sense of pride, or the ability to communicate and share with others. These days, every marketing campaign tells us that we are not as good as our neighbors unless we have more money, sex, prescription drugs, and possessions than they do. The southwestern Louisiana culture reminds us of personal values, strong individualistic pride in their heritage, and times long past.

In many areas of our country, these values are quickly disappearing, if not already gone. We have become a nation of sheep, blindly following the consumerism and selfishness that is dictated by our society at large, while ignoring the values of our earlier times. Maybe we should take a long look at more simple lives that provide some true meaning to our existence.

As always, your comments, suggestions, criticisms and other insights are welcomed.

Thank you,

Jeff Bibb


Guildmaster Jeff Bibb and wife Jan (in hats) enjoy Lafayette, LA.

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