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The term Creole and its cognates in other languages — such as crioulo, criollo, créole, kriolu, criol, kreyol, kriulo, kriol, krio, kreol, etc. — have been applied to people in different countries and epochs, with different meanings. Those terms are always used in the general area of present or former colonies in other continents, and originally referred to locally-born people with foreign ancestry. Creoles are known as a people mixed French, African, Spanish, Caribbean, Acadians (Nova Scotia, Cajuns), South American, Native American ancestry and on a smaller degree to include Chinese, Russian, German, Italian, Asian Islands, Asian Indian and Australian.
Historian Lyle Saxon writes that many German families changed their names to become Creoles. For an example he says the Zweig (which is German for twig) family became the LaBranche family. Florida ranks number one in the US with people speaking Creole language. Florida Creoles are mostly immigrants from the Caribbean including Haiti, Martinique and Guadaloupe, who were at one time under French rule. In Alaska, until the late 1960s, creole meant a native of Russian and Indian blood.
Creoles and the United States
- In the United States, the word "Creole" usually refers to people of any race or mixture descended from settlers in colonial French Louisiana before it became part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Louisiana's Creole People are of mostly mixed French, Spanish, African-American, and Native American heritage. Louisianans who identify themselves as "Creole" are most commonly from historically Francophone communities with some ancestors who came to Louisiana either directly from France or via the French colonies in the Caribbean. Louisiana was known as "The Creole State" until the 1880s, when it abandon the name because of its association with referring to someone who is black. Creoles have a strong bond with one another and had to create their own world and culture. Because of rejections creoles were self-sufficient and relied on each other. Creoles were landowners, artists, teachers, and business people. Even today this bond among Creoles is strong through out America. They take tremendous pride in knowing where they come from and The Creole Heritage Center is committed to the challenge of correcting the wrongs and misconceptions associated with this culture and will represent the Creoles in a true light. The culture and heritage is deserving of attention and preservation, because without it would mean losing an important part of America past and present. Note: Creole of Color is a south Louisiana native of mixed-race ancestry (black-white, black-Indian, black-white-Indian), usually of French-speaking heritage. Numerous terms throughout history have been invented to describe the members of this ethnic group, including Gen de couleur libre (Free Person of Color); Mulatto (1/2 black-1/2 white); Grif (1/2 black-1/2 Indian); and Quadroon / Quarteron (1/4 black). Although a distinct ethnic group, the Creoles of Color exerted a profound influence on Cajun culture, and vice versa.
Creoles Portuguese & Africa
- 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 was originally applied to descendants of the Portuguese settlers who were born and "raised" locally. The word then spread by the 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 to people of strictly European descent, the crioulo population eventually came to be dominated by people of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry. These 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. However, only a few of these groups have retained the name crioulo or variations of it: Cape Verde: the dominant ethnic group, called Kriolus or Kriols in the local language; the language itself is also called "Creole".
Ethnic groups in Africa of African American descent
- In Sierra Leone there is the Krio ethnic group whose ancestors were freed slaves from the United States, Canada, the British West Indies and various parts of West Africa. Their offspring (born in the Freetown colony) came to be known as Creoles or its cognate Krio. Some of these Krios or creoles were also of mixed ancestry. Many Krio immigrated into other African countries, like Equatorial Guinea where they are known as Kriollos or in Nigeria where they were known as Saros. It's also purported that a new wave of Creole immigrant descendants of freed slaves of Sierra Leone and Liberia are known as Fernandinos.
Other African Creoles
- Equatorial Guinea: Arguably Los Fernandinos, also known as Emancipados, were those of native Bubi and Spanish ancestry. It wasn't uncommon for offspring of such unions to be accepted into the indigenous tribe; however, Los Fernandinos were later encouraged to collectively settle in Annobón as well as the Canary Islands, forming their own societies. It's also purported that a new wave of Creole immigrant descendants of freed slaves of Sierra Leone and Liberia are known as Fernandinos.
- In Brazil, the word crioulo came to mean "dark skinned person", that is, a person of predominantly African ancestry. In the Colony it was common to refer to a slave born in Brazil as a crioulo and to a slave from Africa as an "African". Thus the word crioulo was no longer used for people of European descent born and raised there, but instead for slaves born and raised in Brazil. Later, crioulo would refer to all people of African ancestry. African slaves were imported into the country from the 17th century until the first half of the 19th century. Due to their multiple ethnic roots and to the extension of the country, the Brazilian slaves and their descendants did not constitute a cohesive ethnic group. On the other hand, as in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, people of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry soon came to constitute a large segment of the population, in which there were no sharp class divisions based on degrees of "Africanness". As a consequence, the term crioulo never became the name of an ethnic group. Instead it is simply a racial label, now highly offensive.
- In Spanish-speaking Latin America, the word criollo (cognate and closest equivalent of English Creole) generally refers to people of unmixed European (typically Spanish) descent born in the New World. According to the Spanish American caste system, people with European and indigenous origin who possessed 1/8th or less of Amerindian ancestry, were also considered criollos (unlike people with mainly European and some black African ancestry, who were deemed to be mulatto or mixed-raced). In any case, the expression Spanish American criollo is only applicable to people born in the New World. Throughout the colonial period, a caste system was effectively in force, where the local-born criollos ranked strictly lower than governing peninsulares ("born in the Iberian Peninsula"), despite both being of European ancestry. By the 19th century, this discrimination and the example of the American Revolution and the Enlightenment eventually led the criollo elite to rebel against the Spanish rule. Enlisting in many cases the support of the even lower classes — castizos, mestizos, cholos, mulattos, amerindians, zambos, and ultimately blacks — they engaged Spain in the Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821) and the South American Wars of Independence (1810–1826), which ended with the break-up of former Spanish Empire in America into a number of independent republics.
- During the colonial era of Filipinas (the Philippines), the same Spanish caste system based on racial ancestry was enforced on the islands, and the Spanish term criollo (insular) was used with the same sense as Spanish America, namely, in reference to a person born in the Philippines with wholly Spanish ancestry. However, the term was not widely used, and they instead were more commonly called filipinos ("from the islands of las Filipinas") or insulares ("from the islands"), to contrast them with the higher-ranking peninsulares born in Spain on the Iberian Peninsula, the mestizos and castizos of mixed Austronesian-Spanish descent, and the Christianized native Austronesian peoples. The meaning of Filipino changed drastically during the Philippine Revolution for Independence against Spain in 1896. It was adopted by nationalist movements and transformed into a national designation that encompassed the entire population of the Philippines, especially the descendants of the native Austronesian peoples. In fact, the meaning of Filipino today is the opposite of its colonial meaning, since it tends to refer only to the predominantly native Austronesian population and excludes the mestizos of mixed Spanish descent, as well as the non-mixed criollos, who are seen as foreigners despite the fact that they are Filipino like everybody else. This has to do with the American colonization of the Philippines after the Spanish-American war, as racial labels were applied to non-white peoples, and the term "Filipino" was mistakenly used by Americans in U.S. newspapers and magazines as a racial label (instead of as a nationality) to refer to those in the islands of pre-dominantly Austronesian descent - a definition that is the complete opposite of its original definition, and continues to this day.
- In the Caribbean region, the term Creole is sometimes used to describe anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, who was born and raised in the region. It is sometimes used to refer to persons of European, African, or mixed Afro-European descent such as mixed race people of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, Jamaica and Barbados, or in contradistinction to other ethnicities such as East Indians in Trinidad and Guyana, or Mestizos & Creoles (African & European Decent) in Belize. It also refers to the syncretism of the various cultures (African, French, British, Spanish and Portuguese among others) which influenced the area. This is also referred to as the creolization of society "due to its ability to suggest some of the complex sociocultural issues also involved in the process" (Manuel, p. 14). Creole, 'Kreyol' or 'Kweyol' also refers to languages in the Caribbean that are derived from a fusion of African and European languages, dialects and syntax. In parts of the Southern Caribbean the term "Creolean" is used to refer to a French-speaking person of Caucasian ethnicity. Especially if they are from the smaller islands belonging to Saint Vincent.
- In Mauritius, in the Indian ocean, the term denotes anyone with African/Malagasy and French origin, but is also a language, a modified form of French. In the Seychelles, the term includes all ethnic groups, regardless of background. In Réunion, creole is a more inclusive term that denotes all those born on the island. However, those of African/Malagasy and French origin are the ones usually classified as being ethnically Creole.