Al Pitts (left), a Hypolite Bordelon Society member, explains an old-style shed on the grounds of the Hypolite Bordelon Home Museum to French Consul General Vincent Sciama. Sciama, whose consulate is in New Orleans, visited the 200-year-old historic site Nov. 5.

French consul visits Hypolite Bordelon Home

It isn’t often that foreign diplomats visit Avoyelles Parish.

This past Monday (Nov. 5) the French consul general of New Orleans, Vincent Sciama, toured Avoyelles’ oldest structure, the Hypolite Bordelon Home Museum in Marksville.

Sciama is in the second year of a three-year assignment as France’s representative to Louisiana and the Deep South.

He, his press secretary and driver took a short detour on their way to appointments in Alexandria and Natchitoches.

“We try to get out of our bubble,” press secretary Bridget Stanga said. “

“This was just a taste,” Sciama added. “Our visit here in Marksville is both a tribute to the rich history  of Avoyelles Parish and the city, but also the opportunity to meet with some of the residents that have the heart to preserve it and to be part of an active community.

“We will be back soon to visit Avoyelles Public Charter School in Mansura, to support its French program,” he added.

Concerning the preservation of the historic home, he said the site is a fine example of early Louisiana architecture and accurately depicts early Louisiana Colonial life.

Beryl Barbin and Carol Campbell served as hostesses for the event. Campbell gave a tour of the interior of the home, speaking in French to the guest.

“He was very appreciative I spoke his native language,” she said.

Sciama was surprised at the hardships experienced by Louisiana’s first French settlers, which included fighting “animals, mosquitoes and Indians during their first years in a savage Louisiana,” Campbell said.

Barbin told Sciama the history of a small chapel donated by her uncle, Paul Borrel.

“The consul general is from Paris and was very impressed at how vast properties were in small towns here,” Barbin said. “He pointed out the ‘coat of arms’ type design over the door of the chapel, that once sat in St. Joseph Cemetery before it was moved here, and was impressed with the care we had given to the small chapel.”

The consul general’s primary responsibility is to represent France in this area and to take care of the needs of French citizens, whether they are permanent residents or visitors in his district.

There are 10 French consulates general in the United States. The oldest office is the one in New Orleans.

In addition to assisting French citizens, the consul general is also involved in promoting the French language and culture in Louisiana.

In the education part of his mission, he noted there are 36 French Immersion schools, in which children are taught in a French-only environment for at least part of the day as a way to learn the language.

France provides teachers through CODOFIL to teach French in Louisiana schools. There are also French exchange students between universities here and in France. Sciama also works to arrange cultural cooperation with artists from France -- including drama, dance, music and French film festivals.

The assignment also carries responsibility to protect the economic interests of French businesses operating within his consulate district.

A large part of the consul’s job is to attend cultural events, such as the Tricentennial Celebration of New Orleans and other events marking historic or cultural incidents of importance to Louisiana and France.

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