The term Creole and its cognates in other languages — such as crioulo, criollo, creolo, créole, kriolu, criol, kreyol, kreol, kriulo, kriol, krio, etc. — have been applied to people in different countries and epochs, with rather different meanings. Those terms are almost always used in the general area of present or former colonies in other continents, and originally referred to locally born people with foreign ancestry.
Typically they are persons of European descent born in the Spanish colonies.
People of mixed Alaska Native American and Russian ancestry are Creole. The intermingling of promyshlenniki men with Aleut and Alutiiq women in the late 18th century gave rise to a people who assumed a prominent position in the economy of Russian Alaska and the north Pacific rim.
During the early settlement of the colonies, children born of immigrants in the colonies were often referred to as "Creole". This is found more often in the Chesapeake Colonies.
In the United States, the word "Creole" refers to people of any race or mixture thereof who are descended from settlers in colonial French Louisiana before it became part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Some writers from other parts of the country have mistakenly assumed the term to refer only to people of mixed racial descent, but this is not the traditional Louisiana usage. Originally it referred to people of French and then Spanish descent who were born in Louisiana, to distinguish them from immigrants. Later Creole was sometimes used as well to refer to people of African descent born in Louisiana. Later the terms were differentiated by French Creole (European ancestry) and Louisiana Creole (meaning someone of mixed racial ancestry).
Contemporary usage has broadened the meaning of Louisiana Creoles to describe a broad cultural group of people of all races who share a French or Spanish background. Louisianans who identify themselves as "Creole" are most commonly from historically Francophone communities. Some of their ancestors came to Louisiana directly from France and others came via the French colonies in the Caribbean. Many Louisiana Creole families arrived in Louisiana from Hispaniola, during the Colonial Period following the Slave Uprising led by Toussaint Breda (later called L'Overture) in 1791. They were protesting French Colonial rule and winning the fight (with the assistance, in part, of the mosquito), as the French plantation owners, most holding land grants from Louis XVI (farming, primarily sugar), were succumbing to yellow fever. The slave army of L'Overture, originally in alliance with the French to exile Spanish and English, eventually helped evict them too, creating a free Haiti. L'Overture wound up being imprisoned by Napoleon in a remote mountain jail, dying of starvation and neglect, while his army continued in liberating Saint Domingue, concurrently with Napoleon's Louisiana Purchase for his French King. With the French Revolution (1789) and Napoleon Bonaparte's deceiving L'Overture (despite his full cooperation with the French, beginning with the Jacobian, Robespierre, and anti-slavery minded French a few years earlier), the French Colonist regime was then forced into exile with most being shipped first to Cuba. From Cuba, the exiles and other settlers from Cuba finally arrived in the French governed and purchased Louisiana Colony where their descendants can be traced to date.
New Orleans and the surrounding river parishes are the mainstays of Creole culture. The language, however, is a dying form. Spoken Creole is dying with the dissolution of Creole families and continued 'Americanization' in the area. Most remaining Creole lexemes have drifted into popular culture. Traditional French Creole is spoken among those families determined to keep the language alive or in regions below New Orleans around St. James and St. John Parishes where German immigres originally settled (also known as 'the German Coast', or Les Cote Des Allemandes) and cultivated the land, keeping the ill-equipped French Colonists from starvation during the Colonial Period and adopting commonly spoken French and Creole French (arriving with the exiles) as a language of trade.
Creoles are largely Roman Catholic and influenced by traditional French and Spanish culture left from the first Colonial Period, officially beginning in 1722 with the arrival of the Ursuline Nuns, who were preceded by another order, the sisters of the Sacred Heart, with whom they lived until their first convent could be built with monies from the French Crown. (Both orders still educate girls in 2010). The "fiery Latin temperament" described by early scholars on New Orleans culture made sweeping generalizations to accommodate Creoles of Spanish heritage as well as the original French. The mixed race creoles, descendants of mixing of European colonists, slaves and Native Americans or sometimes 'Gens du Colour' (free men and women of colour), began during the colonial periods with the arrival of slave populations. Their collective cultures are known as "Creole", though many non-Louisianans do not distinguish between the two groups, or do not recognize the distinctions made in the New Orleans area between the original white colonists whose offspring were the original first born in Louisiana and Creoles that were a mixture of people of European ancestry and slave populations (or free men and women of color).
They were also referred to as 'criollos', a word from the Spanish language meaning "mixed" and used in the post-French governance period to distinguish the two groups of New Orleans area and down river Creoles. Both mixed race and European Creole groups share many traditions and language, but their socio-economic roots differed in the original period of Louisiana history.
The term is also often used to mean simply "pertaining to the New Orleans area".
Louisianans descended from the French Acadians of Canada are not creoles in the strictest sense but are referred to as, and identify as, 'Cajuns' - a derivation of the word Acadian, indicating French Canadian settlers as ancestors. Cajun French dialect and culture is distinct from French Creole. Though the land areas overlap around New Orleans and down river, Cajun culture and language extend westward all along the southern coast of Louisiana, concentrating in areas southwest of New Orleans around Lafayette, Marksville, and as far as Crowley, Abbeville and into the rice belt of Louisiana nearer Lake Charles and the Texas border.
The English word creole derives from the French créole, which in turn came from Portuguese crioulo. This word, a derivative of the verb criar ("to raise"), was coined in the 15th century, in the trading and military outposts established by Portugal in West Africa and Cape Verde. It originally referred to descendants of the Portuguese settlers who were born and "raised" locally. The word then spread to other languages, probably adopted from Portuguese slave traders who supplied most of the slaves to South America through the 16th century.
While the Portuguese may have originally reserved the term crioulo for people of strictly European descent, the crioulo population came to be dominated by numerous people of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry. This mixing happened relatively quickly in most Portuguese colonies of the time. The growth of a mixed population was due to both the scarcity of Portuguese-born women in the settlements, and to the Portuguese Crown policy of encouraging mixed marriages in the colonies to create more stable populations.
The crioulos of mixed Portuguese and African descent eventually gave rise to several major ethnic groups in Africa, especially in Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé e Príncipe, Ziguinchor (Casamance), Angola, Mozambique. Only a few of these groups have retained the name crioulo or variations of it:
- the dominant ethnic group, called Kriolus or Kriols in the local language; the language itself is also called "Creole";
- Crioulos by Alessandro Okoro
In Brazil, the word crioulo initially denoted persons of Portuguese parentage born in Brazil (as distinct from colonists that migrated from Portugal), like in Portuguese-speaking Africa. It eventually came to denote a person of predominantly African ancestry. In colonial Brazil, it was common to refer to a Brazilian-born slave as a crioulo, whereas slaves from Africa were known as "Africans". Thus crioulo came to refer to slaves born and raised in Brazil. Later, crioulos was used to refer, derogatorily, to all people of African ancestry.
Former Spanish Colonies
In regions that were formerly colonies of Spain, the Spanish word criollo (literally, "native," "local") historically referred to class in the colonial caste system, comprising people born in the colonies of largely or totally Spanish descent. The word came to mean those things native to the region, as it is used today, in words such as "comida criolla" ("country" food from the area).
In the period of initial settlement of Latin America, the Spanish crown often passed over Criollos for the top military, administrative, and religious offices in the colonies in favor of the Spanish-born Peninsulares (literally "born in the Iberian Peninsula").
The word Criollo is the origin and cognate of the French word "Creole".
The racially based caste system was in force throughout the Spanish colonies in the Americas, since the 16th century. By the 19th century, this discrimination and the example of the American Revolution and the ideals of the Enlightenment eventually led the Spanish American Criollo elite to rebel against the Spanish rule. With the support of the lower classes, they engaged Spain in the Spanish American wars of independence (1810–1826), which ended with the break-up of former Spanish Empire in America into a number of independent republics.
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In many parts of the Southern Caribbean, Creole people are referred to as being the decedents of slaves from different parts of Africa who eventually formed a common culture based on their experience living together in islands colonized by the French and English.
Antillean creole speaking islands are: St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Haiti, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Saint-Barthélemy, French guiana, Belize,& Trinidad & Tobago
The usage of 'creole' in the islands of the southwest of the Indian Ocean varies according to the island. In Réunion and the Seychelles, the term 'creole' includes people born there of all ethnic groups. In Mauritius, on the other hand, the term describe people of African descent with often some Indian, Chinese, French and/or British backgrounds. In all three, 'creole' also refers to languages derived from French.
- Atlantic Creole
- Creole elites
- Creole language
- Haitian Creole people
- Indo people
- Kristang people
- McGill family (Monrovia)
- Made for the Creole Experience, news website aimed at multiracial readers
- AllCaboVerde.com, about the Crioulos of Cape Verde
- Frenchcreoles.com, about the Louisiana Creoles
- Creole Magazine Discover the Creole culture around the world
- Creole Heritage Center, also about the Louisiana Creoles
- Creole island, also about the Reunionese Creoles
- kiskeyAcity blog entry: What exactly is a Creole?
- Avoyelles Parish Creoles
- Photos of Belize Creoles
- The History of Creoles and the French Language
-  - Islands of Créolité
-  - Créole (Not a term of race but of national origin and culture "C'est vrai")