||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (December 2011)|
|— Department —|
|• President of the General Council||Hermeline Malherbe-Laurent|
|• Total||4,116 km2 (1,589 sq mi)|
|• Density||110/km2 ( 280/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|^1 French Land Register data, which exclude estuaries, and lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km2|
Pyrénées-Orientales (French pronunciation: [pi.ʁe.ne.ɔ.ʁjɑ̃.tal]; English: Eastern Pyrenees; Catalan: Pirineus Orientals; Occitan: Pirenèus Orientals) is a department of southern France adjacent to the northern Spanish frontier and the Mediterranean Sea. It also surrounds the tiny Spanish exclave of Llívia, and thus has two distinct borders with Spain.
Prior to the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, most of the present department was part of the former Principality of Catalonia, within the Kingdom of Spain, so the majority of it has historically been Catalan-speaking, and it is still sometimes referred to as Northern Catalonia.
The modern department was created early during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790, through the application of a law dated 22 December 1789. Pyrénées-Orientales corresponds almost exactly to the pre-Revolutionary province of Roussillon, but it also includes Fenolheda, a small piece of territory which had formerly been on the southern edge of Languedoc. See also: French Cerdagne.
Invaded by Spain in April 1793, the area was recaptured thirteen months later during the War of the Roussillon.
During the nineteenth century, Pyrénées-Orientales proved one of the most consistently republican departments in France. The intellectual and republican politician François Arago, who, during the early months of the short-lived Second Republic in 1848, was briefly de facto Head of state, came from Estagel in the east of the department.
The département is managed by the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales in Perpignan. The Pyrénées-Orientales is part of the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. The General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales is more and more involved with the European Union to create with the Generalitat of Catalonia, and Andorra, a Catalan Eurodistrict.
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 Pyrenees mountain 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. There is one water reservoir at Lac de Matemale.
The upper Têt valley comprises the departments westernmost third, with just over a tenth of the total population. To the south-east, the Tech valley and the Côte Vermeille contain nearly 100,000 inhabitants. The Agly basin in the north-east has much in common with neighboring areas of Aude. Llívia is a town of Cerdanya, province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain, that forms a Spanish exclave surrounded by French territory.
Pyrénées-Orientales is a wine-growing area and a tourist destination.
French is spoken by almost 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 the Pyrénées-Orientales recognized Catalan as a regional language of the department, though French is still the only official language in France, according to the Constitution.
The area is traditionally divided into comarques, of which five (French Cerdagne, Capcir, Conflent, Roussillon and Vallespir) are historically Catalan-speaking and one (Fenouillèdes) is historically Occitan-speaking. The five Catalan-speaking comarques were historically part of the Kingdom of Majorca.
The cuisine of Pyrénées-Orientales draws naturally from the historical Catalan presence in the area, so dishes like paella, cargols à la llauna and calcots are prevalent in the restaurants, especially at important dates such as the various saints feast days and cultural festivals. The French dishes have however become more popular in the area since the birth of tourism with many French and foreign people expecting French food when taking their holiday there. This is mixed with the everyday tourist fast-food with pizza and burger restaurant increasing in number every year.
The area is famous for its wine with the predominately red grape varieties grown all over the department, regional specialities such as muscat de Rivesaltes and Banyuls are sold everywhere in the department.
The geography of the area leads to a distinct divide in the cuisine of P-O, the mountainous areas to the south has dishes using ingredients that grow naturally there, products such as olives and goats cheese are produced.
Fish are also very popular in the region with Collioure being famous for its anchovies, although fishing has declined due to the overall reduction of the fish stock in the Mediterranean sea.
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, birthplace 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.
- See Article 1 of the "Charter of the Catalan Language"
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