We have discussed the very important and rather unknown community of Basques in Louisiana. The Basque presence there is rather logical, given that Louisiana was a colony of the Kingdom of France (and sometimes Spain) until 1803, and the Basques from north of the Pyrenees were magnificent seamen and, unfortunately, highly likely to immigrate. But, as happens elsewhere, the Basque presence is also hidden, whether the origins of the Basques is from north or south of the Pyrenees.
Today, we’re bringing you one of those stories we love. It came to us via a reader, Xabier Zatarain from San Sebastian, who sent us a link to an American commercial for Zatarain’s Seasoning, which is great for the shrimp caught in the Gulf of Mexico:
Popeyes Zatarain’s Butterfly Shrimp TV Spot
Versión en castellano
You don’t have to be a linguist to know that that surname is Basque, one of many that can be found on the American Gulf Coast. The Louisiana Basque-American Society and Cultural Organization (LABASCO) has compiled a list, both for those who are from Louisiana, and those who came from Acadia, the area around the Gulf of St. Lawrence that was French territory until the end of the 1700s.
So, we started digging. The first place, the most obvious one, was to go to the company’s website; it’s now a subsidiary of McCormick. On the page about Zatarain’s products, the story of this brand is overshadowed by the mother company’s, so we weren’t able to get much.
Our next stop was Wikipedia, where we were able to get some info. We know it was founded in 1889 by Emile A. Zatarain, Sr. which led us to believe that, given the name, we’d found a Zatarain from the north. The article also told us that his first product was a type of root beer, and that later on, the company went on to create a range of different products before focusing on Cajun cuisine, without forgetting the first product. That, of course, reminded us of the Basque history in Mexican beer production, Cervecería Modelo.
On the website WikiTree, we found a bit more info, as well as a picture of the founder, but no information about his parents or the family’s origins.
So, we dug a bit deeper, and found an article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a paper we’ve mentioned before. There, among a significant number of articles on the Basque history of Louisiana, we found one that recalled the year 1889 and the founding of the company Zatarain’s & Sons. And there, we found out that Emile Zatarain had been born in Louisiana, but that his parents had emigrated from south of the Pyrenees.
The Times Picayune
1889 Zatarain’s TRADEMARKED ITS FIRST PRODUCT