Through the SomVallBas project, we feature stories about place. These narratives illustrate how landscape soaks into personal identity.
In the Vall d’en Bas, the landscape is remarkably present. It is in the trails, waterfalls, beech groves, creeks, gorges, pastures, fields, hollows, mountain slopes, and peaks. As in most places, human activity responds to the environment with traditions like mushroom hunting, landscape painting, carving boxwood spoons, cultivating local varieties of peppers, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, bicycling, and hunting. Quite naturally, the community is steeped in this neck of the woods.
For locals, “this neck of the woods” isn’t the Vall d’en Bas, but rather one of the eight towns it encompasses. Within these towns, many residents identify with the specific farmhouses that bear traditional names and are in precise places: under the shadow of the Puigsacalm, or behind the Gurn creek, for example. It’s a system so ingrained that locals often do not recognize family names, only house names. A woman might be known as Maria de Cal Flequer, or Mary of the Baker’s Nook. Through the farmhouses, locals connect to landscape.
The home anchors its members to place. Likewise, houses and in some cases neighborhoods are known for specific commodities, such as produce from the garden, mushroom preserves, or boxwood ornaments. These products are not branded as “local” but rather “hyperlocal.” They originate not just from the Vall d’en Bas (the municipality), or from Joanetes (the town within the municipality), but from Rose’s of Cabin’s Pad (the house within the town within the municipality)! So, in the Vall d’en Bas, local is hyperlocalized.
We could also say the home fastens its members to the community. So when a member of a house commits to supporting St. Nick’s Fair (Fira de Sant Nicolau), there is a lot at stake. The behavior of one individual does not reflect on solely on them, but also on the house and the larger community. The home provides its members a heightened sense of accountability, adding to the sense of belonging.
In many ways, in the Vall d’en Bas, the landscape is self, home, and community.