Consul General of France Fabien Fieschi learned firsthand about Maine’s Franco-American culture and history during a whirlwind visit to the state in December.

His Dec. 7 visit brought him to a cultural event in Lewiston, and to meetings with civic and political leaders from the Franco-American community. Fieschi’s day in Maine began by meeting Gov. Paul LePage and ended it with a discussion hosted by the Task Force on Franco-Americans at the Augusta State House.

The consul general is based in Boston. Although the position is primarily responsible for providing support for French citizens in New England, the position is also a cultural connection between France and Franco-American culture and history.

Fieschi, 40, is newly appointed to the position of Consul General of France. He began his diplomatic position on August 13, 2012.  Prior to coming to Boston, between 2006-2009, he was with the French Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York as First Secretary in charge of human rights.

Severin Beliveau of Hallowell is Maine’s French consular agent for Maine and he escorted Fieschi during his visit.

“We met with the governor for more than an hour,” says Beliveau. “The governor is very supportive of expanding current economic ties between France and Maine. We discussed the potential for expanding trade opportunities.”

Following the Governor’s meeting, Beliveau and Fieschi attended a Christmas concert at the Franco American Heritage Center in Lewiston. They listened to 400 community Franco-Americans singing Christmas Carols in French and English, a program conducted in conjunction with the Center’s monthly La Rencontre gathering.

Rita Dube, the retiring Executive Director of the Franco-American Heritage Center, explained the Franco-American Christmas customs,  including eating pork pies called “tourtieres” after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Then, it was back to Augusta for a round table discussion with nine community spokespeople who represented the City of Augusta, the Club Calumet, the University of Maine and the Legislative Task Force on Franco-Americans. A bi-lingual conversation flowed easily between French and English throughout the hour-long discussion.  State Sen. Thomas Martin led the delegation of Task Force members who included Juliana L’Heureux of Tophsam and Yvon Labbe from the University of Maine Franco-American Studies Center, in Orono.

Beliveau spoke about census reports showing that Franco-Americans constitute 25 percent of Maine’s population and opportunities to build on Maine’s Franco-American heritage, including links to cultural tourism and businesses to serve the French Canadian tourists who enjoy visiting Maine’s coastal communities.

“Msr. Fieschi learned how Maine Franco-Americans have been in the state since the early 17th century, beginning in 1604 with the St. Croix Island settlement.  As a result of our history and culture, we share a great appreciation of our French heritage.  Msr. Fieschi left our visit with a greater appreciation of our Franco-American presence and our contribution to the state’s commerce and culture,” says Beliveau.

Fieschi said he looks forward to supporting economic opportunities and cultural events in Maine, Beliveau said. Moreover, Fieschi agreed to return for another meeting, one that will, hopefully, be coordinated with all of Maine’s diverse Franco organizations, according to Beliveau.

Fieschi holds a certificate in International Relations from the International Sciences Po University in Paris, where he participated in an exchange program with Keio University in Tokyo, Japan.  Between 1995-1997, he was at the Consulate General of France, in Tokyo. He’s a specialist on Asian affairs. He is married and has two children.

Information about Maine’s Legislative Task Force on Franco-Americans is available by contacting Chairman Rep. Kenneth Fredette at [email protected].