|Take Me Back||
Above: Rocky parapets and numerous coves dot the coastline of the resort town of Ingonish, offering a scenic site for kayakers. Nova Scotia Department of Tourism & Culture photo
Below: Acadian dancers will be featured at various festivals during the Congrès mondial. Congrès mondial acadien photo
this summer for worldwide reunion.
B Y L Y N N G R I S A R D F U L L M A N
|eggy Matt of Lafayette, La., is looking forward to summer when she and a few thousand of her distant relatives will convene in Nova Scotia.
During Congrès mondial acadien, a worldwide reunion of Acadians, they will gather to remember their roots, to salute their heritage, to shake hands and share hugs and memories. For some, it will be a first meeting; for others, a renewal.
It is a real emotional thing, said Matt, who attended the previous reunion held in Lafayette in 1999.
Fairly disinterested in her roots until recent years, Matt regrets not having questioned her late parents more extensively about her heritage. She will, however, have the chance this summer to discover her ancestry during the international gathering that is expected to draw more than 250,000 participants who will meet throughout Nova Scotia from July 31 through Aug. 15.
Family reunions will be the basis of the third annual Congrès mondial acadien, which Matt describes as fascinating.
We will see the land of our ancestors, see long-lost descendants and take time to pray for our ancestors, Matt said of the upcoming reunion.
Planned this year
This years event coincides with the 400th anniversary of the French colonization of the Americas, as well as the founding of Acadia, making it even more significant.
Event organizers call Congrès mondial acadien the largest cultural event ever held in Nova Scotia. This summers reunion of Acadians is expected to pump $180 million (Canadian) into the Canadian provinces economy.
Music, local foods, amateur theater, fine arts, genealogical research and crafts exhibits are planned for the gathering, which will include some 2,000 activities that will be staged throughout Nova Scotia.
Although the Acadians will discover some differences in their preferences for food, music and language, they will experience a commonality.
Lest a legacy be lost
The reunions are vital lest the legacy of the Cajun people be lost, Matt observed.
All that many people know of the Cajun people, she said, is what they remember from Henry Wadsworth Longfellows epic poem, Evangeline.
The poem tells of a fictional character, Evangeline, who embodies the history and courage of the Acadians who were exiled from their homelands from about 1755 through 1763. Often, family members were separated from each other. For many, there would be no reunions.
In the poem, which intertwines history with legend, Evangeline is separated from her true love during the deportations and spends a lifetime searching for him. Years later, they find each other but, sadly, their reunion comes as he lay dying.
Meeting those with common ties is like youve found yourself again after years of separation, said Matt, whose family has helped to organize reunions of her family members scattered around the globe.
United we stand
Any family can put together a reunion, she said, explaining that dozens of reunions will take place. Generally, each reunion will draw from 200 to 7,000 people.
Months before the Congrès, some 100 families had plans under way for reunions, and others were being added. For an updated list, see the Web site www.cma2004.com. With ties to more than one family, some people will likely attend several reunions.
When the Acadians hold their closing show in Halifax, Matt, like countless others who share her lineage, plans to hold high a red, white and blue Acadian flag.
She will wave it across a summer sky as she remembers those who went before her, their sorrowful days and their strong and prevailing legacy.
To Matt, whats important is knowing our history, with deportations, families torn apart and the tragedies of so many who died.
Even though it is sad, there are no hard feelings.
By having the reunions, we are showing we still can get together; we are showing we survived and we're still here.
lans to draw Acadians together date to the end of the 19th century.
|Lynn Grisard Fullman is a contributor from Birmingham, Ala.|
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