Spain or France, they’re still Catalans

“People here are very proud of their [Catalan] identity; that’s why they don’t (invest) their money elsewhere,” said Olivier Montariol, a journalist with France3, the television station in Perpignan.

Perhaps Montariol was joking because he laughed after saying that. Or … maybe he wasn’t.

A lot of people I’ve met here in Perpignan have mentioned that they’re proud of their Catalan identity.

As I was trained to doubt everything in San Francisco State University’s department of journalism, I went around the city to discover whether a regional or national identity is stronger in Perpignan.

I discovered a lot of Catalan flags (the red and yellow striped flags) and merchandise featuring the Catalan donkey (the animal has been adopted as a symbol of Catalan identity in opposition to the Spanish bull). Even the lady who worked at the bakery across from ALFMED had a cute little donkey sticker on her cash register. I was surrounded by things that were related to Catalan culture the whole time and I just realized it!

It’s been interesting to learn the history of this region, that it used to be part of Spain and since the Treaty of the Pyrenées was signed, it has belonged to France. I wonder: What do the Catalan people think about that? Someone mentioned that at one point, some people would no longer called themselves Spanish or French. But instead, they introduced themselves as Catalan.

The Catalan people continue to use Catalan language and cultural traditions that are unique to the region. On a visit to France 3 Sud and France Bleu Roussillon, I learned that newscasters speak Catalan to broadcast important news in the region. It is really intriguing how a minority language is able to survive. Catalan was banned by the French government for some time after the Treaty of the Pyrenees and now, there is a modern threat: the omnipotent English.

In many parts of the world, linguists are trying hard to preserve minority languages but here, a minority language, Catalan, is thriving. Here, people will ask if you speak Catalan and not French.

Catalan isn’t just  spoken today, it is also studied by many people in this region. Several schools that offer Catalan classes. People who were born here may be Spanish in the past and French right now but at heart, they are hardcore Catalans.