During one sleepless night in Shreveport this summer, I was browsing my dad’s bookshelf when I ran across Bayou Farewell by Post journalist Mike Tidwell. Tidwell wrote about the devastation of Louisiana’s coastline that was taking place long before Katrina and Rita and which continues to suck a football field off of LA’s coastline every twenty minutes.
One of the saddest parts of Bayou Farewell deals not with coastal erosion but cultural erosion. In his book, Tidwell points out that along with its coast, much of Louisiana’s cultural heritage is washing away: young people are moving out. Those that stay have little incentive to learn Cajun French. Once those linguistic roots that bind together a culture get washed out, all else – music, art, food – follows quickly.
But this kind of cultural erosion is not restricted to south Louisiana. All over the world, local cultures are losing ground as regions and countries become more interconnected (“globalized”) than since before the First World War. In Ecuador, and specifically in the neighborhoods where MPI Ecuador works, community leaders do not speak anymore about preserving local indigenous culture. They speak of rescuing it. Soon, as we Louisianans have to do with our own culture and coast, they will only be able to speak of somehow rebuilding what has been lost.