Mary Tutwiler

Acadian Journal, part 1

by Mary Tutwiler

Gerald Breaux, executive director of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission, has just returned from a nine-day jaunt in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to visit the towns that will host the 2009 Congres Mondial Acadien and to drum up support for bringing the 2014 congres to Louisiana. "When anyone found out my name is Breaux, they'd hand me their cards, with their name, Breau, without the x," he says. "They'd ask me, 'How did you wind up with that x on your name?'" That's about the only difference despite the distance from Lafayette to twin city Moncton. "You can tell they are our ancestors," he adds. "They look just like us."

I am on my way to Moncton today, traveling with a second wave of Louisiana Cajuns, mostly journalists, exploring the Acadian Peninsula during a week-long festival celebrating all things Acadian.

We arrive at Moncton at 11 p.m. It's raining and cool. Our guides, a passel of them, meet us at the airport, and they are so warm and friendly and make us feel welcome in spite of the late hour. Their accents sound like ours, English mouthed with the soft consonants of French. Some of us tail off for another adventure, but it's after midnight and I need to get to the computer before I forget everything, and we need to be up early.

Michel Fernand Despres, his name literally means "from the field." This is what he tells me. There are 900,000 people in New Brunswick. Last year they spent $120 million on beer. "We do not abuse our alcohol," he says. I think he means we don't spill beer on the floor. "Every house has a guitar. Every second house has a fiddle. Every forth house has a piano. Everybody knows how to sing. In the middle of winter, there's nothing else to do, next thing you know, there's 100 people at your house, you're having a party and there are 3 live bands."

"There are only two family lines here in New Brunswick." Despres adds. He's from Rogersville. "But I've got a gazillion cousins in Louisiana."