Today Tia Mirna sent an email out to the family reminding us that today is the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, which I’m sure led each of us to take a moment to think about his legacy.  This post, the first ancestral profile I’ve put together for this blog, is my own little way of honoring the only grandparent I never had the pleasure to meet. 

Name: Hilarion Vallee Cadignan

Date of birth: Oct 21, 1921

Place of birth: Panama City, Panama

Occupation: Carpenter

Date of death: May 18, 1959

A few random facts:

  • Hilarion had two nicknames: Achilo was his French/Martinican nickname, Julio was his Spanish nickname.  I don’t think anyone called him Hilarion.
  • He was a fluent speaker of French patios, the language of his Martinican parents.
  • He was a fluent speaker of English, the language of the larger West Indian community and the Americans who ran the Canal.
  • He was a fluent speaker of and was literate in Spanish, the national language of his birthplace.
  • He was born a twin.  Sadly, the other baby did not survive.
  • He was a looker, if I don’t say so myself! 

There’ll be much more to come about Hilarion in future posts.  For now I invite my family members to add any other interesting facts or stories the rest of us may not know about him. For the rest of you, I’d love to hear a favorite story about one of your grandfathers.


6 thoughts on “Hilarion

  1. This was very interesting! I didn’t know about how many languages he knew. I guess that just shows that love of learning comes from way back in our family. Thanks Granddaddy.

    • Yep, my mom told me both he and nana spoke all three of those languages. In his case, I even have a record that documents it. I’ll include it in a post sometime soon.

      Regarding your question about what is French patois, I’m going to address it here even though you sent it to me via email. I’m sure you’re not the only person that has that question. I’m not an expert, but I did I minor in linguistics and even took a class on pidgin and creole languages. Put simply, a creole or patois language is a language that is born of the contact of several languages. It’s more than just mixing languages (i.e. the idea of Spanglish) and it is not just “broken French.” Yes, a great deal of the words are taken from the input languages, usually a colonizing language (here, French) and the lesser esteemed languages of the colonized/enslaved (many African languages and possibly indigenous ones too). But this language has its own grammar rules (i.e. there is order and logic, it’s not just random hodge podge) and is not necessarily understood by speakers of any of the input languages. It does all of the things that linguists define a fully functioning/expressive human language to do, which distinguishes it form a pidgin (but some creoles are called “pidgin,” so don’t let that trip you up).

      The dialect vs. langauge dichotomy is a whole other issue, and outside of the linguistic community the difference and connection between the two is misconceived. I know I’m not explaining what these are assertions are based on, so I’m going to have to do a post about this so I can be more specific! The main point is that when you start to understand what linguists define as a language, you realize that creoles, “Ebonics,” and a whole host of other denigrated language varieties are not “wrong” or “improper” in any objective sense, but that they are subjectively devalued b/c of the political, historical, and social contexts from which they arose.

  2. Ton grand pere resssemble à notre famille cadignan c’ est frappant;ma famille est originaire du francois en martinique ; men grand pere etait également charpentier; c’est marrant bises

    • Hi Florence,
      Thank you so much for your response! My mom and I both loved to hear that you see a resemblance. I am sure the rest of our family will be excited to hear that too. Did the person that told you about this website give you my email address? Feel free to write me any time!

  3. For non-French speakers like me, I had a French friend (thanks again Sylvine!!!) translate the message from Florence C. above:

    “Your grandfather looks like our Cadignan family, it’s striking. My family is from “du francois” in Martinique. My grandfather was also a carpenter, it’s funny. kisses” (“bisous”, which means “kisses” is a common way to end a message in French.)

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