La Franja

La Franja

The term La Franja ("The Strip", more properly "Franja de Aragón" or "Franja de Poniente" "Western Strip" in Spanish), "Franja d'Aragó" or "Franja de Ponent" in Catalan, and "Francha d'Aragón" or "Francha de Lebán" "Eastern Strip" in Aragonese) is a term that refers to the territory comprising the Catalan-speaking territories of Aragon bordering Catalonia (Spain). Usually "La Franja" is considered to be comprised by the municipalities of the following "comarcas": Ribagorza, La Litera, Bajo Cinca, Bajo Aragon-Caspe, Bajo Aragon and Matarraña.

The thin strip of land is very diverse geographically, ranging from valleys in the Pyrenees to the flat lands by the Ebro, all are included under this umbrella term. As such, "La Franja" does not have any official recognition nor historical entity by itself, but the term is mostly used in neighbouring Catalonia, especially within Catalan nationalism.

Origin of the names that refer to "La Franja"

The use of a term to refer to the eastern area of Aragon bordering Catalonia as based on linguistic criteria is recent. It was in 1929 —when he christened these as "Marques de Ponent", "Western Marches"— [cite journal | author = Vila, Pau | title = Les marques de Ponent. Els homes | year = 1929 | journal = La Publicitat] that Catalan geographer Pau Vila used for the first time a term designating jointly the Aragonese comarcas where Catalan is spoken.

This term was kept in the second half of the 20th centuries by Catalan philologists such as Joan Coromines, along with other terms such as "Marcas de Aragó" or "Marques d'Aragó" ("Marches of Aragon"), "Cataluña aragonesa" or "Catalunya aragonesa" ("Aragonese Catalonia") or "la raya de Aragón" or "la ratlla d'Aragó" ("the Aragonese Strip").

Whichever term is used, they all refer to the eastern Catalan-speaking area of Aragon, which borders Catalonia to the west. These terms all originated and remain chiefly used in Catalonia, they are therefore Catalonia-centered and hence the "Ponent" ("Western") reference in the term "La Franja del Ponent", because these "comarcas" lie to the west of Catalonia.

The term Franja de Ponent itself first appeared in the second half of the 1970s, during the Spanish transition to democracy:

At the Second International Congress of the Catalan Language ("Segon Congrés Internacional de la Llengua Catalana") held in 1985, the normative authority on the Catalan language, known as "Institut d'Estudis Catalans", adopted "Franja d'Aragó" ("Aragonese Strip") as the denomination for the Catalan-speaking territories of Aragon for academic and linguistic purposes, while the denomination "Franja de Ponent" ("Western Strip") is used mainly in the political arena by some associations, groups and political parties associated with pancatalanism.

Later on, alternative denominations such as "Aragón Oriental" ("Aragó Oriental"), "Franja Oriental" o "Franja de Levante" ("Franja de Llevant"), all meaning roughly "Eastern" Aragon or Eastern Strip were created in Aragon.

Diverse meanings

While the term originally refers to a linguistic area, it carries several connotations:

*The ecclesiastical sense
*The linguistic sense
*The political sense
*The socio-economic sense

The ecclesiastical sense


The Catholic church authorities, through the Papal Nuncio to Spain, informed on 15 June 1995 the president of the Spanish Bishops' Conference –Archbishop of Zaragoza, Elías Yanes– of the decision of the Holy See to align the diocesan boundaries with the political and historical reality. With the implementation of this decision 111 parishes were transferred from the Diocese of Lleida to the amended Diocese of Barbastro-Monzón. The notification was expressed in the following terms:

quote|1=In accordance with my remit, it is my pleasure to communicate to you that the Congregation of Bishops has thoroughly examined the issue of the redrawing of the borders of the dioceses of Lleida and Barbastro, based on the petition formulated by the Spanish Episcopal Conference that the territories of the Autonomous Community of Aragon belonging to the Diocese of Lleida come to form part of the Diocese of Barbastro. And, bearing in mind the reasons expressed in order to favour the spiritual well being of the faithful, it has decided to agree to it.

For the realisation of the aforementioned redrawing of the borders, the said Dicastery has taken the following decision:

1. to detach the parishes situated within the Autonomous Community of Aragon belonging to the deanery of Ribagorza Occidental, Ribagorza Oriental and Cinca Medio from the Diocese of Lleida and incorporate them into the Diocese of Barbastro, which will become known as Barbastro-Monzón:

2. the other deaneries of Litera and Bajo Cinca, with their respective parishes, will be joined to the Diocese of Barbastro-Monzón within three years, that is to say, by 15 June 1998, in such a way that the territory of the Diocese of Lleida may in the meantime be adequately defined. [cite web | url =$File/Boca179-3.pdf | title = Sobre la transferencia de diversas parroquias procedentes de la Diócesis de Lérida a la Diócesis de Barbastro-Monzón | author = Justicia de Aragón | date = 1998-04-22 | work = Boletín Oficial de las Cortes de Aragón, number 179]

The transfer of the parishes, specifically the ownership of the medieval artistic objects or sacred art comprised, resulted in an intricated series of lawsuits involving both dioceses (Barbastro-Monzón and Lleida), both autonomous governments (Aragón and Catalonia) and both legal systems canon and administrative law. It was decided by the ecclesiastic canon judges in 2005 that the 113 works of art belong to the Barbastro-Monzón diocese. The Lleida diocese released and statement accepting this decision but, at the same time, announced that then the administrative process would be opened [cite news | url = | title = El Obispado de Lleida no devolverá el arte sacro a Barbastro sin el permiso del Govern | work = El Mundo | author = M. J. SANGENIS | date = 2005-10-07 |accessdate = 2008-06-05 es icon] , later on it stated that talks should be opened to explore an agreement [cite news | url = | title = El Vaticano ordena a Lleida entregar las piezas de arte sacro a Aragón | author = sourced from EFE | work = La Vanguardia | date = 2008-05-13 | accessdate = 2008-06-05 es icon] , in the end effectively protracting the end of the dispute. In the meantime, the works of art located in the Diocese Museum of Lleida have been retained by the Bishop of Lleida, refusing to transfer them to the collection of the Diocese of Barbastro-Monzón. The lawsuit is popularly known as the "conflicto de los bienes/patrimonio eclesiástico de la Franja" (the conflict of the goods/ecclesiastical heritage of the Franja) or "del Aragón Oriental" (of Eastern Aragon), and though it began as a local debate, it has become in the last year a national press story, especially due to the confrontation between the political forces of Aragon and Catalonia.

On July 1st, 2008 an agreement between the two dioceses was announced stating that the art pieces would return to the Barbastro-Monzón diocese [ [ El obispado de Lleida devolverá al de Barbastro las obras de arte religioso reclamadas desde 1995 · ELPAÍ ] ] .

Territorial basis

This case emphasises how the conflict over the churches' treasures has brought a new dimension to the term "Franja"; the territoriality to which it refers does not follow linguistic criteria but lies in the ecclesiastic territorial area based on deaneries, indifferently including monolingual Spanish-speaking and bilingual municipalities, and all being confined to the province of Huesca.

The Deaneries that include the "Franja de Aragón" in its ecclesiastic sense are:
*The Deanery of Bajo Cinca
*The Deanery of Cinca Medio
*The Deanery of La Litera
*The Deanery of Ribagorza Occiental
*The Deanery of Ribagorza Oriental

The "Gran Geografía Comarcal" of the [ Grupo Enciclopedia Catalana (GREC)] classes the territorial area of the Franja de Aragon as larger than that defined by the Commission report although not as large as the GEA definition. All the municipalities which it adds to those of the Avant-project and of Ribagorza and therefore belong to the Province of Huesca. It adds a total of 8 municipalities and 3 population nuclei; Güell, Laguarres y Torres del Obispo, which form part of two municipalities; Graus in the case of the first and the third, and Capella the case of the second. The table to the right details the population nuclei and official area and population figures.

*(1) Population centres belonging to the municipality of Graus. Population figures according to [ Ayuntamiento] (no date given), area according to
*(2) Population centres belonging to the municipality of Capella. Population 2004, area according to
*(3) Population centres belonging to the municipality of Graus. Population according to [ Ayuntamiento] (no date given), area according to

Comparative table and map according to sources


There is no unitary policy on official toponymy in the Franja leading to great variations between the local "comarcalización" laws in comparrison with those proposed by the IEC. The following table details the translation of the toponymy in Spanish to the official version in the local vernacular and that proposed by the IEC. At the bottom are the municipalities which the GREC includes in its definition of the Franja and the poposed names which it offers opposed to the official names:

* (1) Sources of the official denominations in Spanish and local vernacular:

Boletín Oficial de Aragón (BOA): Ley 10/2002, de 03 de mayo, de creación de la comarca del Bajo Aragón / Ley 12/2003, de 24 de marzo, de creación de la comarca del Bajo Aragón-Caspe /Ley 20/2002, de 07 de octubre, de creación de la comarca del Bajo Cinca / Ley 25/2002, de 12 de noviembre, de creación de la comarca de La Litera / Ley 07/2002, de 15 de abril, de creación de la comarca del Matarraña / Ley 12/2002, de 28 de mayo, de creación de la comarca de la Ribagorza.

* (2) Source of the denominations in Catalan according to the Institut d'Estudis Catalans (IEC):

Lista de denominaciones en catalán aprobada por la Sección Filológica del IEC en reunión del día 15 de diciembre de de 1995, en la reunión de la Sección Filológica de 15 de enero de 1999 se decidió incluir en la lista el topónimo "Vensilló" al ser un municipio de nueva creación. En la primera reunión los municipios de Azanuy-Alins, Isábena, Lascuarre y San Esteban de Litera se excluyeron de la lista oficial de municipios de lengua catalana de la Franja de Aragón, listándose a parte como municipios pertenecientes a un área de transición lingüística.

* (3) Source of the denominations in Catalan according to the Grupo Enciclopedia Catalana: []

Political sense

The Political significance of the Franja goes hand in hand with the catalanist political movement, which has always considered this part of Aragon as historical Catalonia, which through history has ended up detached from its cultural community, a community which is fundamental to the pancatalanist Catalan nation.

This new interpretation as part of the political connotation ascribed to the Catalan Countries emerged throughout the 20th Century - and especially after the 1960s - encouraged in the main part by the Valencian Joan Fuster. Pancatalanism demands the creation of a nation-state for the Catalan Countries in which the cultural unity is based on the Catalan linguistic community.

There has never been a political movement from the Franja promoting union with Catalonia, and separation from Aragon, in order to form a new political entity. In the same way, catalanist political parties do not participate in municipal or regional elections.

Socioeconomic sense

The socioeconomic meaning of the Franja relates to the economic region surrounding the Catalan city of Lleida, which encompasses Catalan-speaking Huescan and Zaragozan municipalities and excludes those in the region of Teruel and includes Spanish-speaking municipalities such as Alcolea de Cinca, Binéfar, Monzón, etc... The area of influence of Lleida is especially reflected in editions of the local Lleida press for example [ La Mañana-Franja de Ponent] and also of Aragon as shown by the digital publication [ Franja Digital] .


External links

;Ecclesiastic meaning
* [ The ecclesiastical heritage in eastern Aragon] , special issue of "Heraldo de Aragón"
* [ The ecclesiastical heritage in La Franja] , special issue of "El Periódico de Aragón"
* [ The ecclesiastical heritage in La Franja] , Observatory of the Spanish Historical Heritage
* [ Image gallery and map with the dioceses borders]

;Cultural meaning
* [ ASCUMA Associació Cultural del Matarranya] . Promotes Catalan language and culture in Matarraña.
* [ CERIb Centro de Estudios Ribagorzanos] . Studies and promotes Catalan language in Ribagorza.
* [ Institut d'Estudis del Baix Cinca] Promotes Catalan culture in La Franja.
* [ Catalan in Aragon] - News and resources about Catalan in La Franja
* [ Map of Language distribution in Aragon, by Francho Nagore]
* [ The Western Strip Cultural Institution] . Promotes Catalan culture in La Franja.
* [ Acció Cultural del País Valencià] - Its "Casal Jaume I" promotes Catalan culture in Fraga. Delegations on Fraga and Castillonroy
* [ FACAO "Federación de Asociaciones Culturales del Aragón Oriental"] . Analogously to blaverists in Valencia, they affirm that no Catalan is spoken in La Franja, but "Eastern Aragonese".

* [ Cinca river as frontier in History] About the frontier changes between Aragon and Catalonia in "la Franja".
* [ Franja de Ponent] , entry on the Great Catalan Encyclopedia

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