Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Argelès-sur-mer is near the Spanish border and if one makes the mistake of asking the older residents if they are French, the reaction will be a sneer. They are Catalan. Across the border, there is a movement among the Catalans to separate from Spain.

The region has gone back and forth between Spain and France and certain warring counts for centuries. The people however have always been Catalan, they say.

The area was not happy when Paris decided to combine three departments into one and even with voting the new name Occitania did not make the locals happy. Occitania had its own language and its own culture unlike Catalonia with its Catalan language.

Yesterday we noticed new street sign going up under the old ones in the village with the old names of the streets along with the Catalan flag. The legend is that the four red stripes represent the blood of an interloper who tried to take over from some count of other. After the count's son killed him, he dipped his fingers in the blood of the dead man and wiped them on his yellow flag.

True or not, it makes a good story and reinforces the local's cultural identity as much as the Sardane dance is, which is performed at the drop of a bagpipe note.
Maybe this may not be that different than the southerns who revel in their historic past. The blood of ancestors flow in their descendants.

To a certain degree, despite giving up my American nationality and becoming a proud Swiss, part of my identity comes from my New England Yankee roots, celebrated in baked beans and a sense of strength and honor instilled by my grandmother.

Outside our flat on rue de la Liberté we fly a Catalan flag and a Geneva Canton flag. Even if my husband is American, it would be hard to add that at the moment with any sense of pride for reasons that go beyond Trump. But proud or not, where we come from will be part of us, no matter how many other cultural layers we build.

I can eat baked beans, fondue, escalivada, listen to alpine horns and stumble thru the Sardane dance and it has all become part of my identity. It doesn't matter if I speak French or English with the R missing in many words.

Maybe our flags in front of the house are the same as the new street signs. A proclamation of who we are. Just lets not go to war over it.

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