Geographic context, introduction
The Val d’Aran, with its 600 square kilometres and 10,000 inhabitants, is located at the centre of the Pyrenees Mountains, where Occitania and Catalonia meet. The sentiments of Aran are weaved from both its Occitan soul and its Catalan spirit.
Aranese, the language of Aran, the name given to Occitan in Val d’Aran, was the language of the troubadours, that which in the Middle Ages magically enchanted all of society and for centuries served as a reference of civilization, culture, maturity, and intellect. Occitan has enjoyed the Nobel Prize winning work of Frederic Mistral and still today produces literature of the highest standard that is translated into all the languages of the world.
In 1313 a delegation from Aran travelled to Lleida to pledge allegiance to James II of Aragon. The King ratified the privileges of the Val d’Aran, which had been recorded since ancient times in the renowned document of Era Querimònia. In this document the King recognized in Aran a series of privileges in the use of public properties, social issues and its structure, while assuring it exclusive administration, separate from that of Aragon. Aran then initiated a process of accession to Catalonia. In 1328, Alfonso the Kind authorized Aran to use the currency of Barcelona. Later, in 1381, Peter IV of Aragon pledged to never again separate Aran from Catalonia and of the County of Barcelona. Aran found the conciliatory and consensual character of Catalan institutions strongly appealing.
In the War of the Spanish Succession, at the beginning of the 18th century, Aran fought on the side of Catalonia in favour of Charles III of Austria, for which it would later be severely punished. A minority group led by the Baron of Les, took the side of Phillip V, who when victorious, proclaimed the Baron governor of Aran, a title from which he could effectively carry out his vengeance.
Throughout its history, it is worth underlining the sentiment of autonomy and possession that has characterized the people of Aran. Its natural isolation in the mountains reinforces the necessity of Aran to sign and comply with agreements reached with their neighbours. It is worth remembering that the Treaties called de Lies e Patzeries, renewed throughout 500 years, were instated despite the policies of the state. The people of Aran reached agreements to share pasturing lands and to maintain peace with the neighbouring valleys.
The north-south relationship across the Pyrenees has been constant, eventually enduring a severe repression, which culminated in the 1213 Battle of Murèth (a town south of Toulouse), where the French troops, aided by the Croatians, defeated a Catalan-Occitan coalition. The French troops, with the participation of the Church of Rome, initiated a process of repression against the Cathar heresy that took root in Occitania, which in reality ended up taking the form of a process of annexation and persecution.
The linguistic territory of Occitania occupies around 200,000 square kilometres, mostly in the French state, and contains approximately 16 million people. There is a part of Occitania, with approximately 180,000 inhabitants, in the alpine valleys of the Italian region of Piedmont.
Aranese is the lingua franca in all the schools of the Val d’Aran where all children become literate in Occitan without any trouble and there exists a serene consensus regarding language.
Aranese is also strongly present in the public administration, in city council meetings, in all the activities of the Conselh Generau d’Aran, on street signs (where it is the only language used to designate topography), and to a lesser extent it is also visible in the media with some radio and television programmes in the institutional media of the Catalan Corporation of Radio and Television, on the channel of the city of Barcelona BTV, and in the private channel Lleida-TV, where it is present every day for about half an hour.
Relations between Aran and Catalonia
The 1979 Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia recognized the need to propel promote the Aranese language and recuperate its historic institutions. In 1990, legislation of the Catalan Parliament re-established the Conselh Generau d’Aran as it had existed throughout the past. In the same legislation, Aranese, a variation of the Occitan language, was declared the official and native language of the Val d’Aran, and the regulation of this competence was granted to the Conselh Generau d’Aran. It is the first time in history that the Occitan language is declared official.
In 2006, during the reform of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, the Occitan language was declared an official language in all of Catalonia.
In the same process of declaring the official status of the Occitan language, the Parliament of Catalonia approved that Aran is an “Occitan national reality”. Catalonia again demonstrated a special sensibility to the small population of the people of Aran and their distinctive personality. Unfortunately this declaration did not pass the filter of the Spanish Congress of Deputies. Catalonia, once again, demonstrated to the world its social psychology regarding identity. Finally, in the Statute of Autonomy, there remained only a reference to “Occitan reality”. The “national” consideration was eliminated by the Spanish Congress.
With the aim of developing its official status as stipulated in the Statute of Autonomy, in 2010 the Catalan Parliament approved the Occitan law (or Aranese in Aran). This outlined the rights and duties, perceptions and interpretations regarding the native language of the people of Aran. As a consequence of the development of this legislation, in January 2014, the government of the Generalitat of Catalonia promoted a Decree establishing the Academy of the Occitan Language, in the Institute of Aranesi Studies, the sole institution of its kind with recognized linguistic authority over Occitan.
With these considerations, we can assure the existence of Occitania in Catalonia and its existence in Aran. Catalonia is the successful part of Occitania.
Conselh Generau d’Aran
The Conselh Generau d’Aran, a historic institution of Aran, with a documented existence going back to the Middle Ages, has recently been re-established to serve as a form of self-government that has as chief competence to foment and promote the native language of Aran. The Conselh Generau d’Aran, recuperating its historic tradition, is currently constituted by thirteen councillors, directly elected by each of the six Terçons, which are the historic administrative territorial units. The thirteen councillors then elect among themselves a president, the Sindic d’Aran.
Despite the defeat of Murèth, despite the difficulties in which the local language finds itself north of the Pyrenees, despite the displacement of Aranese by Spanish in common use, the natural relationship between Catalonia and Occitania has been constant.
The conscience of the Occitan language is, in these times, a value established throughout Catalonia.
Last updated: 26 November 2014