What Is Creolization?

French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana.
French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Creoles are cultures that emerged as a result of contact that existed among indigenous Americans, Europeans, and West Africans. In most scenarios, the contact resulted from colonization and slavery in the 16th century. Since these groups of people dwelt together, culture mixing took place leading to the formation of new identities. Hence, creolization is the process in which creole cultures emerge in the New World. According to a social scientist known as Robin Cohen, creolization gives birth to new cultural identities and cultures that are entirely different from the original cultures of the various communities. Creolization has led to the enrichment of cultures. However, it has also led to the loss of cultural practices that uniquely identified people in the past.

History of Creolization

The concept of creolization emerged during the 16th century. At the time, the Afro-descendants were called Creoles since they were born in the New World. Consequently, two groups of people emerged, namely the Afro-descendants and the African-born slaves. As time went by, there was complete mixing of cultures resulting in new societies. Today, creolization has taken the form of transnational space that includes New Yorican and Miami Spanish. It is common to see the adoption of cultures in areas with mixed cultures. Across the globe, the root of new creolization is found in the English and French Caribbean.

Impact of Creolization

Food and Music

Creoles are defined by various aspects such as food, music, language, and religion. Regarding food, creolization affected the elements and traditions of food. For instance, in South America especially in the French Caribbean and Louisiana, creolization was seen in the blending of cooking methods. Consequently, a new style of cooking called creole cooking emerged. Creole cooking incorporated cuisines into the food culture. As a result, the cuisines improved the flavor of foods prepared and enjoyed within the Caribbean.

Creolization also influenced music. Jazz emerged as a combination of black music in the USA and urban New Orleans. The black music in the United States originated from the plantations and rural areas. Different kinds of music came into contact. For instance, the field hollers started listening to parlor music. On the other hand, the Spirituals could not resist the charm of opera music. Furthermore, those who played low-down blues met those who worshiped waltz, polka, mazurka, and quadrille. As new music evolved, testing grounds for the new music were the honky tonks, picnic grounds, brothels, streets of New Orleans, and parks.

Religion and Languages

Another area affected by creolization was religion. As a result of the mixing of African and European religions of Haiti, Brazil, and Cuba; new sets of religious beliefs emerged. Examples of these new religions were voodoo in Haiti, Shango in Trinidad, Santeria in Cuba, and Candomble in Brazil. On the other hand, Creole languages resulted from the acquisition of the languages of dominant groups by subordinate groups. The new language exhibited phonological changes and simplified grammar among other changes. Examples of creolization in languages are the varieties of French that emerged such as Haitian Creole, Mauritian Creole, and Louisiana Creole. The English language evolved into Gullah, Guyanese Creole, Jamaican Creole, and Hawaiian Creole.


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