The word Creole is perhaps the most mystifying racial and ethnic descriptor used in the Americas. Not only are the origins and precise meanings of the term unclear, but there are many variations in usage, spelling, and grammar. Should the word be capitalized or not? Is Creole a noun describing a certain type of person, or an adjective, as in creole flavor, creole culture, creole people, and creole music? If Creole does refer to certain groups of people, rather than certain kinds of things, does it identify those who have common physical characteristics such as skin color or is it a more ephemeral marker, gathering together people who share particular histories, migratory patterns and geographies, or linguistic, cultural, and ethnic identities? At different historical moments, the word could have been (and may still be) used in any or all of these ways. Indeed, the top three Google search results in the United States for the term at the time of the writing of this essay refer to the people of Louisiana and New Orleans in particular; to various languages called Creole in the regions of the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean; and to a plethora of foods and “Creole restaurants.”...

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