LAFAYETTE, LA (KPLC) - In 2000, only 44,000 people identified themselves as Cajuns, but thanks to new options on the 2010 Census, that number could increase drastically.
Question 8 on the Census asks respondents whether they are Hispanic, Latino or Spanish.
Nothing new about that—the question has been part of the Census since 1970, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But this year, boxes appear beneath the question, including one that allows people to check as belonging to "another Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin." Included along with that box is a blank, where respondents can specify what they mean.
Christophe Landry of the World Studies Institute in Lafayette is hoping Louisiana Cajuns and Creoles will write in "Cajun" or "Louisiana Creoles" in the blank. Landry says there is $400 billion, earmarked largely for education and cultural programs, which Louisiana is not receiving its fair share of because the federal government does not know how many Cajuns and Creoles are in the state.
In the past, some have written Cajun and Creole under the "Other" section in the race question. This year, race is a separate question altogether.
"For the first time in history, they have the opportunity to leave race out of the equation, but to identify their culture origins or background," said Landry.
Landry is spearheading a campaign to get more Louisiana Cajuns and Creoles to write their cultural background on Question 8. His Facebook group has more than 2,300 members.
Landry says everyone he talks to about his campaign is excited to help.
But some are still cautious.
University of Louisiana-Lafayette Francophone professor Barry Ancelet said getting more people to identify themselves as Cajun or Creole is a good thing, but he noted many, if not most, will not participate.
"It will probably give the illusion that there are fewer Cajuns and Creoles than there actually are if what we're dealing with is self-identification," said Ancelet.
Still, Landry hopes at the very least that the discussions about Question 8 will raise more awareness for the Census, especially since Louisiana has a historically low response rate.