Introduction to Lafayette, Louisiana
Lafayette is located in the southern central part of Louisiana, at the intersection of Highways 10 and 49. It is the fourth largest city in Louisiana and is the only major city in Louisiana that has grown in population since the year 2000. Lafayette resides in an area called Acadiana, which is known as the Cajun Heartland, and is the unofficial Cajun Capitol of the south. Lafayette lies 15 miles west of the Atchafalaya Basin and 35 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico and is surrounded by bayous, swamps and marshes along with forests and prairies. The city got its name in 1844 when it was named after the French Marquis de Lafayette.
Lafayette has a history almost as colorful as the history of the state of Louisiana, which actually was governed by 10 different flags from the period of time beginning 1541 until 1803 when it became a possession of the United States. The rich French heritage of Lafayette was mainly due to "Le Grand Derangement" in 1755. That year, thousands of French Canadians were forced from their homes because they refused to renounce their Catholic religion for the Anglican Church and pledge allegiance to the British flag. More than half of the Acadians lost their lives as their homes and crops were burned by the British and they floundered at sea. Most of the survivors ended up in Louisiana after the King of Spain allowed them to settle in South Louisiana. They eventually ended up in the areas around Lafayette, where they could raise their own crops and fish and trap according to their traditions. Thus, the Cajun culture was born. Interestingly, the word Cajun originated when the French of noble ancestry would call the Acadians "le Cadiens", dropping the "A". Later, the Americans who could not pronounce "Cadien" shortened the term and just called them "Cajuns". These Cajun people were known for their unique culture. They are deeply religious, hard working but enthusiastic and fun people. Their food, spicy and flavorful, became famous throughout the country and still is a favorite among the visitors of the "Bayou Country".
In 1803, Louisiana had become a part of the United States. President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon because of the region's importance to the trade and security of the American mid-west. Much of the produce of the mid-west traveled down the Mississippi River so this area became vital for America. The fertility of the land in this region gave rise to important crops such as sugar and cotton, making the planters of Lafayette some of the richest in America. After the Civil War, sulfur was discovered in 1869 and oil was discovered in 1901. Now Louisiana has become one of the leading producers of oil and natural gas in the country.
Lafayette Points of Interest
Lafayette has a strong tourism industry, attracted by the wonderful Cajun food of this region. It has more restaurants per capita of any city in the entire area. The city has a thriving arts community, consisting of theatre, visual arts, and especially music. Cajun music is a combination of bluegrass and French with a little European folk music thrown in. Almost every weekend, there is a music, dance or street festival and the city is known for its great Mardi Gras celebrations when Lafayette explodes with color and wild costumes.
Because of its year-long warm climate, Lafayette is known as "The Sportsman's Paradise". The bayous and swamps are great places for canoe rides and the fishing is very popular. In addition, there are championship golf courses nearby and lots of hiking and biking trails to explore. The Louisiana Ragin Cajuns is the team name of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In 1960, the name referred only to the football team which was formerly called the Bulldogs, but now the name refers to all the sports of the university, including basketball and baseball. And, since 2003, Lafayette is home to the Lafayette Bayou Bulls, its semi pro football team.
Lafayette has a diversified and interesting college life. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is the largest campus within the eight-campus University of the Louisiana System and the second largest university in Louisiana. It is recognized mostly for its excellence in computer science and its graduate courses in environmental biology. In addition, Lafayette is home to the South Louisiana Community College and the Louisiana Technical College at Lafayette.
Located only 135 miles from New Orleans, Lafayette is a popular destination for tourists looking for the flavor of New Orleans; the food, music and festivals rival its famous neighbor and the warm climate is perfect for a relaxing southern vacation. As the Cajuns say, ""Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez", or "Let the Good Times Roll!"