Article du Magazine “Riviera Reporter” Octobre-Novembre 2013 / Article from the Magazine “Riviera Reporter” October-November 2013 / Artículo de la revista “Riviera Reporter Magazine” / Octubre-Noviembre 2013
COMO SE DITZ … EN OCCITAN?*
The Rue to France continues with a visit to Occitania, courtesy of David Price
By PJ Heslan
David’s knowledge of Occitan would be impressive for a French person, never mind the fact that he is a native-born Texan. He told me that Occitan pre-dates French and is one of the minority Romance languages.
For those at the back of the class
Once the Roman Empire crumbled in Western Europe, a regional dialect and culture spread from the Iberian Peninsula across the South of France to the border of northern Italy. Because of its geographical location, Occitania, or the Pais d’Òc as it’s sometimes referred to, became a trading powerhouse with Occitan as the language of business.
Troubadours, travelling poet-musicians, also originated from Occitania during the 11th century. They sang about courtly love and spread the Occitan language and concepts of Convivencia and Paratge (roughly translated meaning honour, chivalry and courtesy) as far as Italy, Spain and Greece. Without these Troubadours, we might not have the singer-songwriter of modern times. And where would the Seventies and Easy Listening radio stations be without singer-songwriters?
The Pope and other Catholic hierarchy felt threatened by the Troubadours’ influence on the northern courts and also by the Cathar movement which took hold in Occitania during the 12th and 13th centuries. Although Christians, Cathar beliefs were a direct challenge to the Catholic Church and at the beginning of the 13th century, the Pope organized a crusade against the Cathars. This religious war pitted northern French nobles against southern Occitania with the northerners coming up on top. Following this victory came the suppression of the Occitan language and culture.
Imagine all the Occitan people
As David’s fascination with the history and language grew, word of mouth spread of his regional knowledge and his impromptu tours generated more demand. He decided to put together a more formal organization that would benefit visitors and in 2004 he co-founded the Imagine Tours Association (imagine-tours.net) in Avignon. As an Association loi de 1901 – see our website for how to set one up – this not-for-profit organization is sponsored by the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) government with a specific goal to develop the language and culture of Provence and greater Occitania.
Imagine Tours goes about this in several ways, from offering private cultural tours to providing services and free advice to potential visitors to the region, including for French and Occitan language schools. Members benefit from a range of cultural activities while partners, such as Radio Coupo Santo, are part of the association’s many project initiatives.
But for this 39-year-old, helping others discover the region is truly a passion. “America’s biggest misconception is that the French are arrogant. Generally speaking, Parisians are more so than French from other regions. When Americans come to the South of France they are surprised to find the people much warmer.” He also enjoys smashing the myth of the fat and ignorant American through cultural exchanges via Imagine Tours. “Many French associate the policies of the American government with the American population and are surprised to find Americans interested in French culture, language and food;”
Recently David received his ten-year residence card. He has been asked to run for local office and so and is contemplating applying for French citizenship, which he would have to get involved in politics. Since first coming to France, he’s become alarmed by some of the changes that the country has gone through in the past fourteen years and would like to be able to do something about it through public office. Issues such as “security, litter, graffiti and a general lack of respect for the country” make him want to play a more active role in France’s future. “It’s a beautiful country and it’s unfortunate when people don’t respect it.”
He’s quick to add that despite some of the negative changes he’s witnessed in France he would never move back to America. “I’d be bored to death if I lived in the US. Living here, I can experience something completely different in a matter of hours. It’s intellectually energizing to live in a new country.
A Who’s Who of Occitania
* HOW DO YOU SAY … IN OCCITAN?
COMO SE DITZ … EN OCCITAN?
La Rue de France poursuit par une visite à l’Occitanie, grâce à David Price
Par PJ Heslan
* COMMENT DIT-ON … EN OCCITAN?
COMO SE DITZ … EN OCCITAN?
Calle de Francia continúa con una visita a Occitania, gracias a David Price