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Caldoche

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Caldoche


Cultural flag of the Caldoche community, showing the cagou.

Caldoche is the name given to European inhabitants of the French overseas collectivity of New Caledonia, mostly native-born French settlers. The formal name to refer to this particular population is Calédoniens, short for the very formal Néo-Calédoniens, but this self-appellation technically includes all inhabitants of the New Caledonian archipelago, not just the Caldoche. Another "white" demographic element (although they may well be French people of different ethnic backgrounds) in the territory is expatriates from metropolitan France who live there temporarily as civil servants. Caldoches are keen to differentiate themselves from these inhabitants, underlining their position as the permanent locals, referring to them as métros (short for métropolitains) or as Zoreilles (informally zozos) in local slang.

New Caledonia was used as a penal colony from 1854 to 1922 by France. From this period and on, many Europeans (particularly of French and, to some extent, German origin) settled in the territory and they intermingled with Asian and Polynesian settlers. Code de l'indigénat, introduced in 1887, provided the free settler population with an advantageous status over the indigenous Melanesian peoples, known collectively as Kanak. Caldoches settled and gained property on the dry west coast of the main island Grande Terre where the capital Nouméa is also located, pushing the Kanaks onto small reservations in the north and east. With the superior position, they constituted the ruling class of the colony and they were the ones who widened the usage of the word Canaque as a pejorative.

Caldoche culture is often compared to cultures of rural Australians and Afrikaners. They are, on the political level, typical loyalists (in the context of New Caledonia, they oppose independence from France). They were seen as supporters of the strongly Caldoche Rally for Caledonia in the Republic (Rally for Caledonia inside the Republic) until 2004, when their support shifted considerably towards Avenir ensemble ("Future Together"), which has the vision of a multiracial New Caledonia within the framework of the French Republic.

Origins of the term

There are many theories on the origin of the term "Caldoche". The most widespread story, as told by the collective lexicon 1001 Caledonian Words, attributes the term to local journalist and polemicist Jacqueline Schmidt, who participated actively towards the end of the 1960s in the debate concerning the Billotte laws (in particular the first law, which transferred mining responsibilities in New Caledonia to the state), and signed her articles with the pseudonym "Caldoche", a portmanteau of the prefix "Cald-", referring to her strong feeling of belonging to New Caledonia, where her family settled almost 100 years earlier, and the suffix "-oche", referring to the pejorative term "dirty Boche", having been called that by some of her schoolfriends' parents due to her German heritage (the Schmidts form part of an important German community from the Rhineland, having fled Germany to escape Prussian domination in the 1860s). The owner of the newspaper D1TO, Gerald Rousseau, found the name amusing, and popularised it.

See also

External links

  • Dictionnaire Franco-Calédonien A comprehensive list of idioms and phrases particular to New Caledonian French.
  • Brousse-en-folie A popular local comic strip series
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