viernes, 31 de marzo de 2017

Lleida, our hometown

By Meritxell Aluja

Lleida is a small town located in the west of Catalonia and about 140.000 people live there. It is so close to the mountains, but sea is just an hour away.  The climate here is extreme; the minimum temperature this year has been -5ºC and the highest last summer was 40ºC.  Lleida’s winter has a clear trademark, the fog, this year, in December it was foggy for 26 days
This town has had different names throughout the history depending on the people that were living there in that moment. It was called Iltirta by the Iberians, Ilerda by the Romans, Lerita by the Visigoths, Larida by the Moors and finally in the Middle ages it was called Leyda which ended up in Lleida. As you can see, many different communities have lived in Lleida and because of this the city offers a big variety of archeological rests and places to visit.
The most important monument is a cathedral called "La seu vella" which can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. This historical landmark is on the top of a hill and it was built in the 13th century following the contemporary Romanesque architectural canons. Furthermore, in the cathedral, after the Moors had left the city, was celebrated the wedding of Ramon Berenguer IV and Petronella of Aragon who were the kings of the crown of Aragon, one of the most important in the Middle Ages.
In Lleida you can visit different museums, the Champs Elysees which is an urban park by the river Segre, the city hall, discover more about the Templars in the Templar castle and a lot more.
A typical dish of Lleida is “Snails with allioli” and some people, when it rains, go to hunt them.
The Catalan which is spoken in Lleida is a bit different from the rest and it's called North-Western Catalan because apart of pronunciation, there are some distinctive words that only inhabitants of Lleida use.

sábado, 18 de marzo de 2017

Symbols and festivities

By Laura Sánchez

La senyera (Our Flag)

Catalan flag wich consists of four red stripes on a golden background. The same flag with a blue triangle and white star which could be seen arround nowadays represents Catalan independence.

L’ase Català (The Catalan donkey)

The ‘national’ symbol of Catalonia is a donkey opossed to the Spanish bull. It’s origins lie on a breed of donkey unique in Catalonia and Catalan speaking areas. The donkey emblem has many interpretations as to what it means. Some say it represents Catalans as hard working people whilst others say it is there to make fun of the Spanish bull.
The Correfocs, in which "devils" play with fire close to the onlookers, is one of the most striking of the Catalan festive events. The devils are not considered the incarnation of evil; they are festive characters, dancing to the sound of drums and the traditional "gralla" (a wind instrument), while they set off their fireworks.


Differential X’Mas traditions

In Catalonia, there are a few local Christmas traditions; 
one of them is the popular figure of the “Tió de Nadal” or “Tronquet”. 
The Tió means abundance: an old trunk in her womb gives dry sweets and sweets. 
 There is also the party “cagatió”,which name refers to make the Tió poo which is acompained with a traditional song.

Another custom is to put up a "Pessebre" Nativity scenewhich often includes the “Caganer”, a figurine depicted in the act of defecation. 
Maybe in a future post I will tell you the story of this particular figurine.

La diada de Catalunya
The Catalan "Diada" or National Day of Catalonia is on September 11, after the defeat and surrender of Barcelona to the French-Castilian army of Philip V of Spain and his supporters during the War of Spanish Succession. Similarly November 7 is also remembered in Northern Catalonia after the Treaty of the Pyrenees.
Currently, this tradition has become quite famous all over the world, because since 2010 a massive popular demonstration for claiming the independence of Catalonia has been organized. This and other Catalan or popular traditions are broadcasted by various prestigious communication medias from different countries.

Sant Jordi

Another tradition during the spring festival day of Sant Jordi (St George's Day). Catalonia’s answer to Valentine’s Day. Instead of 14th February, it is held on 23rd April, Sant Jordi is considerably more traditional. In which men give roses (mostly in a deep red color) to women, and women give a book to men as a present. That day is also known as "Dia del Llibre" (Book Day), coinciding with the anniversaries of the deaths of William ShakespeareMiguel de Cervantes and Josep Pla, three world famous writers. The streets are full of people gathering around book and flower stands. Rumour has it that this is the day where Catalonia makes almost half of its total annual book sales!
Pyrenees Falles 
The Falles is a fire festival, that has been celebrated since the eleventh century. The festival is held before Saint John, when we light the famous “fogueres”.  

This event consists in bringing down fire torches from the mountains up to Saint John’s bonfires; this fire is brought by different participants called Fallers. They descent mountain with flaming torches, which go through different villages in the Pyrenees.  While the fire was brought down the views of the mountain are wonderful and people gather to watch the fallers bring down the fire.

The village receives the fire with music and a typical food. They give everyone coca and cava, they celebrate the light has come.  

The Falles was declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco. This recognition was received with great enthusiasm by people and now visitors from around Catalonia go there every summer.

La Patum
The Patum of Berga is a popular and traditional festival held in the city of Berga, the capital of the Berguedà, during the feast of Corpus Christi. This party represents that it is a struggle between Moors and Christians. It consists of various street performances and public participation, which is characteristic of the presence of fire and pyrotechnics.

The Patum of Berga is held once a year, the date of celebration varies due to coincide with the Christian festival of Corpus Christi, this makes the Patum is held between late May and late June. The main events of the festival take place during the week of Corpus, from Wednesday to Sunday. There are, however, some acts preliminary announcement of the holidays, which are the weeks preceding the feast of Corpus Christi.

martes, 14 de marzo de 2017

Dalí, our surrealist painter

By Núria Terés
Salvador Dalí i Domènech was born 11th May 1904  in Figueres, Girona. Salvador, along with his young sister Ana Maria and his parents, used to spent time at their summer home in Cadaques. That was the time where his artistic face started to grow up. Due to his immense talent, Dalí's parents sent him to different drawing schools but he wasn't a serious student at all.  By the 1919, the young artist had his first public exhibition, at the Municipal Theatre of his hometown.

The following years, the painter was influenced by several artistic styles and painters, including Metaphysics, Cubism, Impressionism and Futurism. He also met Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, apart from cheking the work from painters like Raphael, Bronzino and Diego Velázquez.

By 1930, Salvador Dalí had become a renowned figure of the Surrealist movement, he's paitings were associated with three general themes: man's universe, sexual symbolism and ideographic imagery. In 1931, the painter produced The Persistence of Memory, perhaps his best-known Surrealist work.

In 1980, Dalí was forced to retire from painting due to a motor disorder. Nine years later, on January 23rd, in his hometown, Salvador Dalí died of a heart failure. Nowadays if you want see the most outstanding representations of his work you can visit the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres.

Whatch the video for a virtual tour of the museum and to admire some of the artist's best-known works of art.

The Catalan language

By Alex Gatius
Catalan is the language of Catalonia. Catalan is not, as some believe, a dialect of Spanish, but a language that developed independently from the Latin spoken by the Romans who colonised the Tarragona area.
Catalan is also spoken in other regions such as Valencia region and Baleares Islands and even a part of Italian country, the region of Alguer. All of these are inside the European Union.
Catalan is spoken by thousands of people each day, in fact this language has recently reached than 10 million speakers that is exactly the 72.4% of all the Catalan community.
But this seems not to be enough to make it an official language, at least at European level and not as a dialect. 
Language is a great asset of each society, we must ensure his survival because it is part of us, is our heritatge to the next people that will come after us, if we let it die, we will lose forever an essential part of us. 
This is a video about some statistics of Catalan as a language and its important for our country as all the languages all over the world.

If you are interested in learning a few words you can visit the Cambridge online Dictionary.

Us hi esperem! 

jueves, 9 de marzo de 2017

Musicians: Pau Casals


Catalonia is one of the oldest countries in Europe which has a very long musical tradition. Back in the Middle Ages Catalonia was home of  the so called “trobadors”, a sort of composers and performers of lyric poetry. In the 18th century  operas were imported from Italy. This had a huge impact on the city of Barcelona where most musicians are from. Nowadays, Montserrat Caballé and Josep Carreras are two of our most famous singers (soprano and tenor) who have perfomed in concert halls around the world .  As for 20th century composers , we must  point out  Enric Granados, Isaac Albéniz, and Pau Casals as some of the greatest.

In Barcelona you can find the opera house: “Gran Teatre del Liceu” and also “El Palau de la Música”  famous for its art nouveau decoration or the more modern "Auditori de Barcelona", home to the OBC Symphonic orchestra of Barcelona and Catalonia .


Pau Casals, our most international composer of all times, was born in 1876 in a small village called Vendrell. He was one of the best musician, orchestra conductors and cellists. He was famous for introducing the cello in the symphonic orchestras that till the moment they only used the piano, violins and organs as string instruments.

One of Pau Casals' songs became an emblem of peace and freedom:  “El cant dels ocells” that translates as The song of the birds .

lunes, 27 de febrero de 2017

Joan Oro, effort and intelligence

By Dolors Marí
Joan (John, in English) Oró Florensa was born in Lleida, Catalonia, Spain, on October 26, 1923, the youngest of five children and the only male. 
He studied at the University of Barcelona, where he obtained his degree in Chemistry in 1947. He decided to take a risk and go to the United States. Four of the universities that answered his request offered him free tuition. He chose to enroll at the Rice Institute in Houston, Texas. 
Oró demonstrated that molecules essential for life can be synthesized from other very simple ones, as was the case of formate, which has only one carbon. Oró suggested that cometary collisions with the Earth might have contributed to increasing the amount of carbon compounds in the early planet. He also suggested that comets had brought water to Earth. 
In fact, even if the young planet Earth was assumed to have had water, it probably escaped to outer space along with some mass of the planet as a result of a collision with a body the size of Mars. 
Oró participated in the NASA Program of Organic Cosmochemistry until his retirement in 1994. Before his retirement, and even afterwards, Oró was committed to the world of research both in the United States and in Catalonia. In Lleida, his hometown, he set up his own foundation Center of Astrophysics in the Montsec (Fundació Joan Oró).

Ferran Adrià our catalan chef

Ferran Adrià our catalan chef
By Dolors Marí
When we think about Ferran Adrià, we wonder if he is a chef, an artist or even a researcher.
Ferran Adrià has revolutionized the culinary world with his food deconstruction techniques.
Ferran Adrià Acosta is a Catalan chef born on May 14, 1962 in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona, Catalonia). He was the head chef of the El Bulli restaurant in Roses on the Costa Brava and is considered one of the best chefs in the world.
Ferran Adrià began his culinary career in 1980 during his stint as a dishwasher at the Hotel Playafels, in the town of Castelldefels. At the age of 22, Adrià joined the kitchen staff of El Bulli as a line cook. Eighteen months later he became the head chef.
In 1994, Ferran Adrià and Juli Soler (his partner) sold 20% of their business. This event became a turning point for El Bulli, the money was used to finance an expansion of the kitchen with a creative experimentation.
Adrià has referred to his cooking as deconstructivist. He defines the term as 'Taking a dish that is well known and transforming all its ingredients, or part of them; then modifying the dish's texture, form and/or its temperature. Deconstructed, such a dish will preserve its essence... but its appearance will be radically different from the original's.' His stated goal is to "provide unexpected contrasts of flavour, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner."
El Bulli had 3 Michelin stars and was one of the best restaurants in the world.
Adrià is the author of several cookbooks, courses and all kind of projects related to art, creativity and cooking.
The criticism has split top chefs into pro- and anti-Adrià camps.
German food writer, Jörg Zipprick, accused Adrià of more or less poisoning his customers with the additives he uses in his cuisine and said that Adrià's menu should carry health warnings: "These colorants, gelling agents, emulsifiers, acidifiers and taste enhancers that Adrià has introduced massively into his dishes to obtain extraordinary textures, tastes and sensations do not have a neutral impact on health".

Ferran Adrià, and his brother Albert Adrià have a range of products called Texturas. The products include the Sferificación, Gelificación, Emulsificación, Espesantes and Surprises lines are the result of a rigorous process of selection and experimentation.
Who could resist a dinner invitation by such a famous chef?