Volume 9, Issue 1
2007 Distinguished Alumna: Brenda Comeaux-Trahan
For the past six years, Comeaux-Trahan has served as the curator/director of the Department of Tourism and Museums in St. Martinville. This former Communication instructor, greets her visitors with a captivating smile and a cup of “strong Cajun coffee.”
Her job might be best described as preserving the heritage of the Acadians, a culture that is not just close to her home, but is the real thing for this Vermilion Parish native.
“As if we weren't American because our culture was still so strong — we were just that little ethnic community of Cajuns,” she explained. “I learned French along with English — and boy am I proud that I have that! It has helped me and served me in many occasions in my life.”
Comeaux-Trahan found that conversing in French, along with communicating with lots of different people, was a key element of her job. ”My job means that I can do what I love; I can speak my first language, which was French, Cajun French; I can work with a group of people who are absolutely in love with their jobs.” But there is the painful side of the cultural heritage, which she explained is also part of her job.
“Our ancestors didn't like to talk about it — it was too hard, too painful to talk about what happened during the deportation. It was a hush thing, and the Acadian people always looked forward — still do. Looking back does no good. They look forward to continuing their identity and the only way to do that is to not focus on the bad but the good. So the mission for the Acadian memorial is to tell the story — not only to the tourists but to the community,” she explained.
Comeaux-Trahan's job also allows her to travel all over the world to share these stories with “pockets of Acadians,” who are scattered across the globe. Even though she enjoys traveling, she does not wish to live anywhere besides Louisiana because of its flavor and uniqueness.
“Our culture is, I guess I have to say, it's a giving thing. We give of ourselves. I know people love our music, they love what we have here, they love our foods, and they love the fact that our French influence is still so strong. Yes we're losing some of our people who speak the old Cajun French, but the fight that's going on right now to preserve it is wonderful.”
Comeaux-Trahan was originally hired at the Acadian Memorial to do something that had never been done before — promote the museum (which is the only one of its kind) and the cultural heritage it offers. She said that one of her joys is relating the story of the Acadians to children — who do not always learn about it in schools.
Comeaux-Trahan, along with colleagues constructed a curriculum for “save our history,” which can be found on the Acadian heritage website. Teachers in the local school district are free to choose whether they want to add this curriculum to social studies or Louisiana history courses.
Comeaux-Trahan explained that the Cajun dialect that is considered the “old French” is still being spoken by people her age and younger — even after 400 years, which gives her hope that it will continue on. ”It's going to be a struggle — as they say 'insert unrecognizable french phrase here' which means the fight continues!” she explained. “So my job, it's a labor of love and I appreciate the opportunity to be able to be in this position to promote what I love, which is my culture, my heritage and my traditions.”