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The term Creole and its cognates in other languages — such as crioulo, criollo, creolo, créole, kriolu, criol, kreyol, kreol, kriol, krio,kriyoyo, etc. — have been applied to people in different countries and epochs, with rather different meanings. Typically they are partially or fully descended from Caucasian European colonial settlers. Their language, culture and racial origin represents the creolization resulting from the interaction and adaptation of colonial-era emigrants from Europe with non-European peoples, climates, and cuisines.
Etymology and overview
The English word creole derives from the French créole, which in turn came from Portuguese crioulo. The Spanish cognate criollo also derives 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. According to Leite de Vasconcelos, it derives from criadouro (a Portuguese word still in existence meaning a place where something is raised, also spoken as criadoiro) and it soon changed through African influence to criaoiro - criooiro - crioilo - crioulo. It later came even to refer to slaves born in the Americas, according to Baltazar Lopes (1984). Originally, though, it meant descendants of Portuguese settlers who were born and raised overseas. Miscegenation, however, happened relatively quickly, as can be seen in the settlement of Cape Verde islands. While the early settlers were white Portuguese, the viability of the settlement could only be kept up by the agency of a mixed population, given the scarcity of Portuguese women in these new towns and the need of workers for the maintenance of the settlement. Portuguese Crown policy also encouraged mixed marriages in the colonies to create loyal colonial populations; this was done by bringing in house slaves, which the settlers got through trade with West Africa, namely in Mauritania's slave market. Later settlements in the islands were established by already mixed-race Portuguese settlers, who became known as "crioulos".
The following ethnic groups have been historically characterized as "creole" peoples:
- Afro-Brazilian Crioulos
- Aku Krio people
- Atlantic Creoles
- Belizean Kriol people
- Cape Verdeans (Crioulos)
- Criollo people (European diaspora born in Spanish Colonial Americas)
- Fernandino Creole peoples
- Haitian Creole people
- Afro-Honduran Creoles
- Liberian Creole people
- Louisiana Creole people
- Mauritian Creole people
- Nigerian Creole people
- Seychellois Creole people
- Sierra Leone Creole people
- Surinamese Creole people
People of mixed Alaska Native American and Russian ancestry are Creole, sometimes colloquially spelled "Kriol". 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 La Louisiane and colonial Louisiana (New Spain) 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. In Louisiana, originally Creole was only used to describe people of French and then Spanish descent who were born in Louisiana and used the term to distinguish themselves from newly arrived immigrants. Later, the terms were differentiated further after the emergence of a newly mixed-race group that began to share the usage of the identity, as well as newly arriving Anglo-Americans lumping whites, mixed and blacks into a general francophone "Creole" cultural group. The later distinctions were French Creole (European ancestry), Creole of Color (someone of mixed racial ancestry), and sometimes slaves were referred to as Black Creole (meaning someone of primarily African descendant). There were also Spanish Creoles, but most in the city of New Orleans were assimilated into the French Creole group as time went on. However, Spanish Creoles survive today in Louisiana just outside of the city of New Orleans as the Isleños and Malagueños, both found in southern Louisiana. These distinctions were of the various groups in the Creole culture of Louisiana, especially that of New Orleans. The majority of the time in early New Orleans, whites of French or Spanish descent were defined as the Creoles and mixed were described as free people of color and slaves were described as Creole slaves, meaning a possession of the Creoles (full European descent). It was then later that the mixed races began to refer to themselves as Creole as well, as they were fathered by French Creole men.
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 and Hispanic communities. Some of their ancestors came to Louisiana directly from France, Spain and others came via the French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and Canada. Many Louisiana Creole families arrived in Louisiana from Saint-Domingue as refugees from the Haitian Revolution. They had settled first in Cuba before moving on to New Orleans, the center of Creole culture in Louisiana.
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 immigrants originally settled (also known as 'the German Coast', or La Côte des Allemands) 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 de Couleur' (free men and women of colour), began during the colonial periods with the arrival of slave populations. All Creoles, regardless of race, are a group of collective cultures known as "Creole", though many non-Louisianans do not distinguish between the two groups Creole groups, those of full European descent and those of mixed race. They do not recognize the distinctions made in the New Orleans area between the original white colonists whose offspring were the original first born Creoles in Louisiana and those 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 "created" 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. Actually the French word Creole is derived from the Portuguese word Crioulo, which described Spaniards born in the Americas as opposed to Spain.
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 Creole French dialects and Creole cultures of New Orleans. However, the Creole culture of Southwest Louisiana is more like Cajun culture than Creole culture of New Orleans. 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, and as far as Crowley, Abbeville and into the rice belt of Louisiana nearer Lake Charles and the Texas border.
The parishes of Pointe Coupee, Evangeline and Avoyelles are largely still Creole. Today, the Parish of Avoyelles probably has one of the largest percentages of French Creole descendants in its population, according to www.avoyelles.com
East Texas and the Gulf Coastal Plains regions near the Louisiana border have a Cajun/Creole influence. Southwestern Louisiana Creole language is mostly spoken in Southeastern Texas (Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange).
The Ottoman colonization of most of North Africa starting from the 1500s and intermarriage between the colonizing Turkish men and North African women led to the creation of a distinct ethnicity in Ottoman Algeria, Ottoman Tunisia, Ottoman Libya, and Ottoman Egypt. Although never originally referred to specifically as creole due to the difference in language, this group was known as the Kouloughlis (from Turkish kul "slave" or "subject" + oğlu "son of"). In modern Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, people of mixed Turkish and native descent make up a large percentage of the population. Because of assimilation, however, very little of the modern population speaks Turkish or identifies as of Turkish descent:
- Kouloughlis (~34% of population in Algeria)
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, Equatorial Guinea (especially Annobon Province), 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";
The island of Mauritius also speaks Creole.
In Brazil, the word crioulo initially denoted persons of Portuguese parentage who were born in Brazil (as distinct from colonists who were born in Portugal), as was the case in Portuguese-speaking Africa. During the slavery years, it eventually came to denote a person of primarily African ancestry born in Brazil. In colonial Brazil, it was common to refer to a Brazilian-born slave as a crioulo, whereas slaves from Africa were known as "Africans". Crioulo was used to refer to slaves born and raised in Brazil. Later, crioulos was used to refer to all people of African ancestry in Brazil, where many people were of mixed ethnicity.
Former Spanish colonies
In regions that were formerly colonies of Spain, the Spanish word criollo (implying "native" or "local") historically denoted a class in the colonial caste system, comprising people born in the colonies but of totally or at least largely Spanish descent. The word came to refer to things distinctive of the region, as it is used today, in expressions 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.
Racial mixture in the Spanish Philippines occurred mostly during the Spanish colonial period from the 16th to 19th century. The same Spanish racial caste system imposed in Latin America extended also to the Philippines, with a few major differences.
Persons of pure Spanish descent born in the Spanish Philippines were those to whom the term Filipinos originally applied, though they were also called Insulares ("islanders", i.e. Spaniard born in the Philippine islands) or Criollos ("Creoles", i.e. [Philippine-born Spaniard] "Locals"). Persons of pure Spanish descent, along with many mestizos and castizos, living in the Philippines but born in Spanish America were classified as 'Américanos'. The Philippine-born children of 'Américanos' were classified as 'Filipinos'. During this era, the term "Filipinos" had not yet extended to include the majority indigenous Austronesian population of the Philippines to whom Filipinos has now shifted to imply.
The social stratification based on class that continues to this day in the Philippines has its beginnings in the Spanish colonial era with this caste system. Officially, however, the Spanish colonial caste system based on race was abolished after the Philippines' independence from Spain in 1898, and the word 'Filipino' expanded to include the entire population of the Philippines regardless of racial ancestry.
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In many parts of the Southern Caribbean, the term Creole people is used to refer to the mixed-race descendents of Europeans and African slaves born in the islands. Over time, there was intermarriage with residents from Asia as well. They eventually formed a common culture based on their experience of living together in islands colonized by the French, Spanish and English.
People speak Antillean Creole on the following islands: St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Saint-Barthélemy, French Guiana, Belize, and Trinidad & Tobago.
A typical creole person from the Caribbean has French or Spanish ancestry, mixed with African and Native American. As workers from Asia entered the islands, Creole people of color intermarried with Tamil, Lebanese, Indian and Chinese. The latter combinations were especially common in Guadeloupe. The foods and cultures are the result of a creolization of these influences.
The usage of creole in the islands of the southwest of the Indian Ocean varies according to the island. In Mauritius, the term Creole refers to colored people which have the ancestry of African, British, Chinese, French and Indian. The term also indicates the same to the people of Réunion and Seychelles.
In all three societies, creole also refers to the new languages derived from French and incorporating other languages.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
- Carol Berkin. First Generations: Women in Colonial America. Books.google.com. p. 9. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
- "French Creole Heritage". Laheritage.org. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
- Daumas, Eugène (1943), Women of North Africa: or "The Arab Woman", Indiana University Press, p. 54, ASIN B0007ETDSY
- Stone, Martin (1997), The Agony of Algeria, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, p. 29, ISBN 1-85065-177-9
- Lorcin, Patricia M. E. (1999), Imperial Identities: Stereotyping, Prejudice and Race in Colonial Algeria, Indiana University Press, p. 2, ISBN 0253217822
- Robert Chaudenson (2001). Creolization of Language and Culture. CRC press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-203-44029-2.
- International Organization of Creole Peoples
- 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
- News Creole, also about the Mauritian Creole
- kiskeyAcity blog entry: What exactly is a Creole?
- Avoyelles Parish 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")