Val d'Aran, a small valley (620.47 km2) is a comarca (county) in the northwestern part of Catalonia, which is an autonomous region of Spain. Most of the valley constitutes the only Catalan territory on the north face of the Pyrenees, hence the only part of Catalonia whose waters drain into the Atlantic Ocean. The region is characterized by an Atlantic climate, due to its peculiar orientation, which is different from other valleys in the area.
The Val d'Aran borders on the North with France, with Aragón on the west and with the Catalan comarques of Alta Ribagorça to the south and Pallars Sobirà to the east. The capital of the comarca is Vielha, with 3,692 inhabitants (1996). The entire population of the valley is about 7,130 (1996). The chief river is the Garona, which descends through Gascony to the Atlantic. The Noguera Pallaresa, with its head only a hundred meters from that of the Garona, flows the other way, toward the Mediterranean.
The valley used to be without direct communication with the south side of the mountains during winter, until the construction of a tunnel, opened in 1948. Spanish Republican guerrillas (supporters of the Second Spanish Republic, the losing side in the Spanish Civil War) controlled the area from the end of World War II until the opening of the tunnel.
The local language and the name "Val d'Aran"
The name Val d'Aran is Occitan, more precisely Gascon or, yet more precisely, Aranese. "Val d'Aran" itself is a pleonasm, as it means Valley of the Valley (val in Gascon and aran from Basque haran), a combination that reflects its uniqe geography.
"Val d'Aran" in Aranese, often appears written "era Val d'Aran" using the Aranese singular feminine article like a part of the name. In Catalan, it's "la Vall d'Aran" and in Spanish "el Valle de Arán".
Inhabitants speak a dialect of Gascon called "Aranès" (known in English as "Aranese"), strongly influenced by Aragonese and Catalan. Aranese has its own orthography. Most local Aranese speakers are also fluent in Spanish, Catalan and French. Aranese has been regularly taught at school since 1984. Like several other minority languages in Europe that, until recently, were on the decline and spoken only by the older members of a given society, Aranese is experiencing a renaissance.
Government and economy
The area is divided in six administrative divisions, called terçons (meaning "thirds", as the divisions were formerly three in number). The current arrangement of the divisions dates from the 15th century.
The main income is from ski resorts in the winter, and from tourism in the summer. Other primary sectors of the economy include forest products, cattle raising and apiculture, all of which have become less and less important since the opening of ski resorts.
These population figures are from an unspecified year, but should be from approximately 2001-2002.
- Arres pop. - 63
- Bausen pop. - 51
- Bossòst pop. - 1,011
- Bòrdes pop. - 218
- Canejan pop. - 105
- Les pop. - 676
- Naut Aran pop. - 1,543
- Vielha e Mijaran pop. - 4,547
- Vilamòs pop. - 159
Many native animals of the Vall d'Aran are in peril of extinction. There are programs of reintroduction and/or protection for:
Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)
Rock ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus)
- Aran rock lizard (Lacerta aranica)
- Bearded vulture (Gypaëtus barbatus)
- Page of the Aranese government (Conselh Generau d'Aran) http://aran.ddl.net/ - In catalan
- Information from the Generalitat de Catalunya http://www.municat.net:8000/omunicat/owa/mun_p12.lli_ens - In Catalan
Last updated: 02-07-2005 05:17:29