This year, the city of Lafayette is celebrating 200 years since its founding. In observing its bicentennial, a special emphasis is being placed on the diversity of communities and cultures that helped to make Lafayette into what it is today.

The year-long celebration started on Jan. 17, the official bicentennial day, with a flag raising ceremony at City Hall. Following this were events like Festival International, the Lauren Daigle show, and a series of talks given by people representing the various communities throughout Lafayette.

Sami Parbhoo, the bicentennial coordinator, spoke about how the original grounds where Lafayette was built was a Native American trading post, and expressed the importance of Native Americans to Lafayette’s history.

“Without the Native American help and assistance, what we call Lafayette couldn’t have happened. Because they assisted the Europeans who had no idea how to get around,” Parbhoo said. “There were no roads for the most part, so it was all these little bayous and tributaries and getting to know all this was aided by the Native American people.

” Parbhoo shared that one bicentennial event gave residents the opportunity to ask various communities questions and learn more about them. “We had the Atakapa Ishak member, we had Coco Tribe of Canneci, which is an Apache tribe from here. Then we had Creole African American, the Acadian French Cajun part of it, the Spanish aspect of it, because a lot of people forget there’s a very big Spanish influence here. And then the Jewish and Lebanese communities,” Parbhoo said. “So we had them on stage and it was just questions so that people learn more about the people around here.” Recognizing Lafayette’s diversity from its beginnings to now, as well as all aspects of the history of the parish, was a big focus for Parbhoo in putting together the bicentennial celebration.

“This will be like taking a pause to look back at 200 years, the good, the bad and the ugly. A lot of beautiful things happened here, a lot of dark things happened here. But it’s a lot more diverse than people realize, it’s a lot more culturally diverse, and that’s what makes us special,” Parbhoo said.

A series of short videos were produced to be used throughout the year in middle schools and high schools to give students the chance to learn more about Lafayette Parish and the people in it, when typically not much of a focus is given to local history.

The Acadiana Advocate newspaper is also commemorating the bicentennial with its “200 for 200” project, in which 200 articles will be posted on their website throughout the year, celebrating the “people, places, history and heritage of Lafayette Parish.

” Other events celebrating Lafayette’s diversity included a group exhibition at the Acadiana Center for the Arts curated by French artists, a Celtic Bayou Festival, Holi Festival and more.

Though the year is halfway through, many events are still on the horizon throughout the rest of the year. One notable event is the upcoming Local Palooza Bicentennial Celebration on Sept. 29, featuring local food and music, as well as community tents for different cultures to set up and share their stories.

Also coming up is Little Amal’s visit to Lafayette on Oct. 18. Little Amal is an 11-foot tall puppet, modeled after a young Syrian refugee girl. The puppet travels around the globe, encouraging people to walk alongside her while bringing awareness to displaced child refugees throughout the world.

A full list of past and upcoming events, as well as various text, audio and video resources to learn more about the history of Lafayette, can be found on the official website for the Lafayette Bicentennial: