Aside from the lush and diverse natural history of our region, what perhaps makes it most intriguing is its cultural richness. On the border of France and Spain, the southern Roussillon half of Languedoc-Roussillon has been influenced by a long history of shifting borders. Once entangled with Catalan Counts, Kings of Aragon and Kings of Majorca, the treaty of 1659 settled it once and for all making Roussillon officially the southernmost region of France.
But the cultural traditions and identity of the people here seem to speak louder than official borders. Here the region is known as Northern Catalonia, or French Catalonia, and the Catalans who live here are proud of their heritage shared with Southern Catalonia in Spain.
La Sardane is the dance of Catalonia, danced hand in hand in large circles accompanied to traditional Catalan folk musique. In spring and summer sardane dancers can be seen in many villages for various festivals. The largest sardane festival takes place every year in Banyuls-sur-Mer the second week in August. There you’ll see both men and women sporting the famous Catalan espadrille shoes.
Espadrilles are the typical shoe of Catalonia made from brightly colored canvas fabric. This striped fabric can be spotted all over the region in many forms, from furniture upholstery and home décor to hand bags and belts. In the village of Céret you can purchase Catalan fabric made in the nearby village of St. Laurent-de-Cerdans at Les Toiles du Soleil factory in operation for over 150 years.
Calatan is the language of Catalonia, spoken by over 7.5 million people. Like French, Spanish, and Italian, Catalan is a romance language. It’s the 23rd most popular language used on the internet and is spoken by one quarter of the population in the Pyrenees-Orientales department of France.
Catalan history of the region can be found in Perpignan at the Catalan History Museum, Casa Pairal, located in the Castillet tower. Or you can get into current Catalan politics with Open Cat, a Catalan online news journal and think tank published in four languages.
- January 10, 2014