Ferran Estruch i Torrents is one of the youngest politicians in Catalonia. He is 32 years old and is the mayor of Cardona for the eighth year. In an interview with all-andorra.com he spoke about plans for the development of the city and its main investment project – the construction of the largest spa center in Catalonia using salt therapy.
Interview : Irina Rybalchenko
What are the main highlights of your city in terms of tourism?
One of the main historical sights of the city is El Castell de Cardona. This is a cultural heritage monument. In the Middle Ages it was the residence of the Lords of Cardona. Inside the castle is the Romanesque church l’Església de Sant Vicen, the pearl of Catalan architecture.
In modern times, part of the castle was reconstructed and a four-star hotel appeared there.
Not far from the city center there is the Salins de Cardona Salt Mountain – one of the main natural monuments of the Pyrenees. Salt mining used to be the main occupation in the city. The lords of Cardona Castle were able to gain their wealth at the expense of the deposit and were consequently called “Lords of Salt”. The Salins de Cardona deposit, due to the quantity and quality of white gold(or salt?), became the most famous in Catalonia. In general, only two salt deposits are well-known in Europe: in Cardona and in Romania.
The development of the salt industry caused a wave of immigration. The population of Cardona reached 9 thousand people. Basically, they came here from the south of Spain to earn money.
In 1990 the mine was closed and 1,500 workers lost their jobs. This caused a serious protracted economic and social crisis in Cardona. The quality of life greatly deteriorated and the inhabitants began to leave. Today, about 5,000 people live in the city.
Today we organize excursions to the salt cave. To attract more tourists, concerts and cultural events are also organized there.
The old town of Cardona also deserves attention. It consists of about 12 km of stone-paved streets, which is worth walking along to feel the town’s history.
In addition, there is an auditorium in our city, the Valentí Fuster auditorium, which is named after the cardiologist Valenti Fuster, an American-Spaniard who was married to a resident of Cardona.
The goal of the auditorium is to promote a healthy lifestyle. Here, lectures and seminar are regularly held in the field of cardiovascular medicine. The auditorium is part of the city’s infrastructure development project, which focuses in particular, on business tourism.
Does Cardona have any joint projects with Andorra?
No. Andorra is the center of commerce and winter sports. We have neither one nor the other.
How many tourists visit Cardona every year?
About 540 thousand people. These are mainly Spaniards and French. Tourists from other countries – only 2%. Our goal for the near future is to bring this figure up to 10%.
What is the city’s budget?
The budget of the city hall is 4.8 million euros. Plus, the budget of Fundació Cardona Històrica, a fund that deals with the development of Cardona tourism, is about 1 million euros.
What investment projects would you, as the mayor of Cardona, like to implement?
The main investment project is the construction of a spa and wellness center using salt therapy. Salt is one of the main components of blood. It is important for our body, especially for processes such as kidney functioning, cardiac activity and metabolism. The approximate cost of the project is about 3 million euros. The project includes the construction of a hotel of 4-5 stars.
In addition, we want to build a campsite – this kind of tourism is very popular in Catalonia.
What is the real estate market in Cardona?
In the center of the city there are many houses from the XI-XII centuries but no one lives in them. These houses need to be renovated and this is also one of the city’s investment projects.
The problem is that we cannot build new houses in the center. The main area of development today is in the la Colonia quarter.
What are the main cultural events of the city that may be interesting for tourists?
The main cultural events are the Medieval Fair (held during the first week of June), the City Day (Festa major, held in September) and the Mushroom Fair – Fira de la llenega (held in October). At Christmas, we have a Pastorets theater show (Christmas stories about the life of Christ). We also celebrate all the holidays of Catalonia – San Juan (festival of fire), Castañada, Carnival.
Are you a professional politician?
Yes, I studied at the University of Pompeu Fabra (UPF, la Universitat Pompeu Fabra). I have a diploma in political science and management. After graduating from UPF, I continued my studies in the master’s program at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB, la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and I have a master’s degree in politics.
I started my political career at the age of 18, when I joined the party of Catalonia, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC).
The city has a lot of symbolism in support of the independence of Catalonia. Hence can we conclude that you are a supporter of the creation of a separate republic?
Yes, and a very big supporter. However, now the political situation remains difficult, our leaders are in prison … Besides, our city is not the only one affected by this issue. About 60% of local residents support independence, the remaining 40% are against.