Northern Catalonia Part 1


When walking around the French city of Perpignan, you will notice a huge visual difference in comparison to other French cities. This region of France has close historical ties to the Spanish region of Catalonia. Perpignan is the capital of the controversially named “Occitanie” department in the south of France, but it has not always been this way. Historically, the Principality of Catalonia sat on the modern border between France and Spain. But after the French beat Spain at the Battle of Dunkirk in 1658, a treaty was signed meaning that the northern parts of Catalonia now belonged to the French crown, and the area has remained under the control of Paris ever since.


However, there is a large percentage of Catalans who still live across the region (an area which is still called ‘Northern Catalonia” to this day), and these locals have never forgotten their heritage even if the Catalan language was made illegal for a period of time. Perpignan is the second largest Catalan city after Barcelona.


Despite this, the region of France remains deprived in comparison to other areas in France. The youth unemployment rate is much higher here than it is just a few miles across the border in Spanish Catalonia. Barcelona is one of the richest cities in Spain, while Perpignan is in one of France’s poorest regions.

This is the reason why many Catalans in Southern France criticize the French government for being too centrist and seek more financial and social involvement with their fellow Catalans a few miles across the border. One positive for the French Catalans is that transport between Barcelona and Perpignan has become easier for the local communities, with the train now taking less than an hour. Although some Catalans in this area of France do seek autonomy from Paris, many here do not. These Catalans are a group who are proud of their historical identity but don’t necessarily want the political independence seen in Spain, instead, many just want a safer economy and their Catalan identity to be noticed.

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