Prior to the
Treaty of the Pyreneesin 1659, most of the present department was part of the former Principality of Catalonia, within the Crown of Aragon, so the majority of it has historically been Catalan-speaking, and it is still sometimes referred to (mainly by Catalans and the conseil général of the Department [See the Preamble of the [http://www.cg66.fr/culture/patrimoine_catalanite/catalanite/charte_catalan.pdf "Charter of the Catalan Language"] ] ) as Northern Catalonia.Pyrénées-Orientales also corresponds almost exactly to the pre-Revolutionary province of Roussillon. "See also": French Cerdagne.
Invaded by Spain in April 1793, the area was recaptured thirteen months later.
Pyrénées-Orientales is grouped with neighbouring
Audeand three other departments to the north-east in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon.
Pyrénées-Orientales has an area of 4,115 km². and a population of 422,000, of whom just over a quarter live in the capital,
Perpignan. Other towns include Argelès-sur-Mer, Thuir, Elne(the ancient "Illiberis") and Prades, each of 6-10,000 inhabitants.
Pyrénées-Orientales consists of three river valleys in the
Pyreneesmountain range –from north to south, those of the Agly, Têt and Tech– and the eastern Plain of Roussillon into which they converge. Most of the population and agricultural production are concentrated in the plain, with only 30% of the area.
The upper Tech valley comprises the departments westernmost third, with just over a tenth of the total population. To the south-east, the Têt valley and the
Côte Vermeillecontain nearly 100,000 inhabitants. The Agly basin in the north-east has much in common with neighboring areas of Aude.
Pyrénées-Orientales is a
wine-growing area and a tourist destination.
French is spoken by all the population. Minority languages in the region are Catalan and Occitan, which between them are estimated to be spoken by rather more than a quarter of the population and understood by more than 40%.
On 10 December 2007, the General Council of Pyrénées-Orientales officially recognized, along with French, Catalan as language of the Department. [See Article 1 of the [http://www.cg66.fr/culture/patrimoine_catalanite/catalanite/charte_catalan.pdf "Charter of the Catalan Language"] ]
The area is traditionally divided into comarques, of which five (
Alta Cerdanya, Capcir, Conflent, Rossellóand Vallespir) are Catalan speaking and one ( Fenolheda) is Occitan speaking. The five Catalan speaking comarques were historically part of the Kingdom of Majorcaand so of Catalonia.
Places of interest include:
*Prades (Catalan "
Prada de Conflent") - site of the Catalan Summer University ("Universitat Catalana d'Estiu").
Banyuls-sur-Mer(Catalan "Banyuls de la Marenda") famous for its Grenache-based Banyuls wine, birth place of Aristide Maillol.
*Prats de Molló - important defensive castle of the 17th century facing south to the Pyrenees.
Salses- important defensive castle of the 16th century, on the ancient frontier with Spain.
Cantons of the Pyrénées-Orientales department
Communes of the Pyrénées-Orientales department
Intercommunalities of the Pyrénées-Orientales department
Arrondissements of the Pyrénées-Orientales department
* [http://www.holiday66.com/html/about_the_area.html Description of the area and activities in Pyrénées-Orientales]
* [http://www.cg66.fr/ General Council of Pyrénées-Orientales]
* [http://www.pyrenees-orientales.pref.gouv.fr/ Prefecture website]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.