The French in Texas: History, Migration, Culture

The French in Texas: History, Migration, Culture

The French in Texas: History, Migration, Culture

The French in Texas: History, Migration, Culture


The flag of France is one of the six flags that have flown over Texas, but all that many people know about the French presence in Texas is the ill-fated explorer Cavelier de La Salle, fabled pirate Jean Laffite, or Cajun music and food. Yet the French have made lasting contributions to Texas history and culture that deserve to be widely known and appreciated. In this book, François Lagarde and thirteen other experts present original articles that explore the French presence and influence on Texas history, arts, education, religion, and business from the arrival of La Salle in 1685 to 2002.Each article covers an important figure or event in the France-Texas story. The historical articles thoroughly investigate early French colonists and explorers, the French pirates and privateers, the Bonapartists of Champ-d'Asile, the French at the Alamo, Dubois de Saligny and French recognition of the Republic of Texas, the nineteenth-century utopists of Icaria and Reunion, and the French Catholic missions. Other articles deal with French immigration in Texas, including the founding of Castroville, Cajuns in Texas, and the French economic presence in Texas today (the first such study ever published). The remaining articles look at painters Théodore and Marie Gentilz, sculptor Raoul Josset, French architecture in Texas, French travelers from Théodore Pavie to Simone de Beauvoir who have written on Texas, and the French heritage in Texas education. More than seventy color and black-and-white illustrations complement the text.


François Lagarde

The French presence in Texas began more than three centuries ago, and that migration has continued ever since. But unlike German migration to the area, the French presence in Texas has been nearly invisible, so small that it takes a “Frog” to notice it. and except for Six Flags, the pirate Laffite, the Pig War, and perhaps Schlumberger or Alcatel, the history of French people in Texas is not well known today. This book tells that history.

The boundaries of Texas were not well defined before the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, and equally ill-defined is the notion of who and what is “French.” French may refer to nationality, nativity, ethnicity, education, language, culture, parentage, allegiance, ownership, naturalization, and ancestry. An eighteenth-century, first-generation French explorer from Quebec, a 1910 Cajun from Beaumont, Texas, a black French citizen from Martinique, or a Parisian engineer of the past decade can all be called French, or francophone, but with quite different meanings. Today, one can encounter French citizens born in Texas from French nationals who have never been to France and do not speak a word of French, as well as people who have spent most of their lives in France but who are not French citizens. To be scientific, or even nationalistic, would reduce the definition of “French” to those only born and raised in France, but such a restriction would eliminate those who are not French by birth but by parentage, language, or culture. and since one does not wish to argue about illusory degrees of Frenchness, this book employs a broad interpretation, to include the French from France as well as their North American counterparts from Quebec to Louisiana and Texas.

For the 1968 Hemisfair in San Antonio, the Institute of Texan Cultures published brochures on Texas “ethnic groups” (a somehow frightening expression), including a fine one entitled “The French Texans.” French Texan was better than Franco-Texan, considering that the institute had to match Hemisfair’s international flair with a multicultural, multi-ethnic history of Texas. the book included some individuals who were nativeborn first or second generation and therefore culturally American or Canadian and not French, as well as some French-born historical figures who had lived in Texas for only a few weeks. Some French Texans were rediscovered later, such as sculptors Raoul Josset and Emile Bourdelle or . . .

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