Videos and photos capture amazing scenes in Port Arthur as Cajun celebration embraced
Published 12:20 am Friday, September 22, 2023
Loretta Petteway’s parents are from Louisiana and she, like many Cajuns, grew up in Port Arthur.
“We always say Port Arthur is the capital of Louisiana, I grew up saying that and that’s it,” Petteway said.
Petteway is in full agreement of the city being named the Cajun capital of Texas.
The legislative designation was announced in June but on Thursday Cajuns and honorary Cajuns packed the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur to celebrate with music, dance and food.
“It is the only morally right thing to do because my family used Port Arthur as a port of entry,” local author Jim LaBove said of naming Port Arthur the Cajun Capitol of Texas. “My mother’s family was chased out of the Atchafalaya Basin during the flood of 1927 straight to Port Arthur, where they worked in the refinery and crabbed.”
His grandfather, he said, was a bootlegger and came to Sabine Pass, and his dad has been a shrimper in Sabine Pass.
“Port Arthur is the only Cajun capitol of Texas,” he said.
The journey to the designation was lengthy and took the support of community leaders, the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, Port Arthur Visitors and Convention Bureau and efforts from State Rep. Christian Manuel and State Sen. Brandon Creighton.
Louisiana State Rep. Mike Huval and Manuel struck up a friendship through email over the topic, and Huval came to the celebration this week, as well. He opened his speech in Cajun French, then switched to English to thank Manuel for the invitation.
He and his wife traveled from Breaux Bridge to attend the event. Huval has his own ties to Port Arthur.
“Let me say something about what Port Arthur did for the Cajuns around my area of the world,” Huval said.
Huval’s father graduated from a small school with about 30 classmates. But some of the classmates needed more than work on a dairy farm, like Huval’s dad did.
“You could find a little job but you couldn’t find a good paying job where we were from,” he said.
His dad went east and found work there, but three of his classmates traveled to Port Arthur, because they wanted to find work.
“And not only did they find work, but they found a place to call home,” he said. “They found a place where they could still speak their language. They could also make friends with people that accepted them because they were Cajun because they spoke like me. They had an accent.”
Huval presented his “new found Cajun friend” Manuel with a Cajun license plate, making Manuel an honorary Cajun.
The event kicked off with music from David Varnado, Jude Moreau, Jonathan Bourque and Brandon Ledet and soon there was dancing in the aisles or pretty much any floor space available near the band.
The news of Port Arthur being named the Cajun Capital of Texas comes during the city’s 125th birthday celebration year.