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A painting of a West Indian Creole woman and her black servant, circa 1780.

This painting by Agostino Brunias, created around 1780, demonstrates the diversity and history of Creole culture. The origins of the term “Creole” likely include Spanish and Portuguese words which referred to people of European descent born in the Americas. Different groups of people referred to as “Creole” lived in Latin American and Caribbean countries during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, establishing Creole cultures that remain influential today. During the colonial period, many Creole people owned plantations and served the colonial government. Creoles were white, black, or mixed-race, and some were enslaved while others owned slaves or employed servants, like the woman in the painting. In The Awakening, the Pontelliers employ a “quadroon” nurse. The term “quadroon” described a person with one-quarter African and three-quarters European ancestry.