Tuesday, February 17, 2015
For the past 28 years, Iota becomes the little town that could every Mardi Gras day. The dust mote-sized town has a population (1458) smaller than that of your standard sized office tower. A good chunk of them are here along with tourists, dance vagabonds, and residents of nearby towns. The a 300 yard stretch of the main street, Duson Avenue, is turned into a street fair with a raised dance floor being the jewel in the setting.
All the better to listen and dance to the bands playing Cajun music. More importantly, it’s the spot where men and boys sing the Mardi Gras song after returning from the countryside begging for food and making good-hearted mischief since a bit after daybreak.
At mid afternoon, Mardi Gras wagons carry revelers in tattered wildly colored clothing, screen masks and conical capuchins (hats) that hide their identity. The masks and hats were important since this was the one day in centuries past that common folk in Europe could mix anonymously with upper classes and make fun of the nobles and bishops who lorded it over them for the other 364 says of the year.
Similar festivities are happening in nearly every town and city within a fifty-mile radius of Lafayette, Louisiana, where the population is still predominantly connected by blood and history to the Acadian French who emigrated here after being expelled from Canada in 1755 for refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to the British monarch.
Mardi Gras is commercially oriented in some quarters but at heart, it’s Acadian heritage that’s being buffed up. There are few places in America that preserve cultural traditions as tenaciously and proudly as small towns and cities of southwest Louisiana.
Saluted like returning warriors, complete with chickens...
Young children get a taste of the "courir;" somehow a black baby pig has been commandeered during the day's begging for food.
but not before one more round of begging...and showing off prize roosters.
so a dad hoists his son up to put coins in the outstretched hand.
Photos and videos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.