Miquel Pueyo Paris has been the mayor of Lleida (from Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) since June 15, 2019. He is also a writer, professor at the University of Lérida and politician. We talked to Miquel about the biggest projects of the city of Lleida.
Interview: Irina Rybalchenko for El Periòdic News
Can you present your city, Lleida? What is the history of the origin of the city and its development? How many people live there?
The origins of Lleida are lost in time. It was an Iberian city, then Roman, Visigoth, Muslim, Christian. Its strategic location as a crossroads, around a hill and with an important river Segre, has given it a very personal special. We are a resilient city, now that there is so much talk about this concept, to the point of turning it into a space for coexistence, as it is now. With a population of 140,000, we are an average city, an ideal place to live, strategically located in the interior of Catalonia, just one hour by train from the capital of Catalonia.
What can you tell us about the economy of Lleida?
Lleida is in a rural, agricultural and livestock environment, which means that the main companies in the city are linked to the agri-food sector. This is a powerful and growing industry that, at the same time, generates many jobs. This circumstance also means that unemployment levels are generally among the lowest in the state as a whole.
The city’s tourism sector is a driving force linked to the enormous potential of the Pyrenees and the Ara Lleida brand, which depends on the Provincial Council.
I also want to emphasize that we have a Science Park, the second most important in Catalonia. We are committed to technology as a creator of wealth and a source of talent.
If you had to promote Lleida in terms of tourism, what would you recommend to tourists first?
Few cities can boast of having an icon like the Seu Vella cathedral. This cathedral of Lleida is the most emblematic monument of the city. It was built in Romanesque style. It stands on the hill known as Turó de Lleida, which dominates the city and the Segriá region.
Visible from anywhere, it is a symbol for tourists and all the people of Lleida and has been recognized on several occasions as the Favorite Monument of Catalonia. We are immensely proud of it and will be even more so when we complete the process for it to be recognized as a World Heritage Site.
What are the dynamics of tourism in the city, including international tourists?
Tourism is growing everywhere and, of course, in Lleida. We have gone from being a city of passage between Barcelona and Madrid to being a stopping point. A lot of work has been done to promote the local events we treasure. The most well-known and most popular event, both national and international, is the Snail Gathering. This year, after two years without a pandemic, it is back even stronger than ever. We are talking about 200,000 visitors in one weekend, a spectacular figure.
I would also mention the festival Animac (International Animated Film Festival of Catalonia). This is an animated film festival that takes place the last week of February in the town of Lérida and brings together the best international animation productions. It was born in 1996 to promote and publicize audiovisual animation and being a meeting point for professionals in the sector.
Moreover, in May Lleida hosts the Puppet Fair, which is organized by the Lleida Puppet Center and the City Council. The fantastic world of puppets floods the streets, squares and theaters of the city. The fair brings together an average of twenty companies and more than 300 professionals.
The tourism promotion policy is not limited to the department of economic development. Other departments, such as the department of sport and department of culture, are also involved, with the promotion and organization of top-level events, which also help to strengthen the name of Lleida by consolidating it more and more on the tourist map. The cooperation between the different departments is part of our government roadmap. Altogether, we are making the brand of our city so that more tourists come to visit us and discover us.
Do you have any joint projects with neighboring Andorra and France, as well as other cities of Catalonia?
Lleida is the capital of the hinterland of Catalonia and this leadership means that collaboration with the various territories is not only possible but necessary for the progress of Lleida and Catalonia. We would like to become a reference area for the agri-food sector and the capital of agri-biotechnology in Southern Europe.
If we talk about recent dates, I want to highlight our relationship with Tarragona and Barcelona. With both cities, we recently shared the Torre Blanca-Quatre Pilans project, a cargo station that should become an important dry port and improve the export and import of products in Lleida.
As for Andorra, we are neighboring territories of the Pyrenees and a common tourist attraction of the plain. We have always had excellent relations – in the economy, in culture, and politics. A good example is the ex-mayor of Lleida, D. Ángel Ros Domingo, is the Ambassador of Spain in the Principality of Andorra for the last four years.
Finally, the University of Lleida is very popular among young Andorrans.
What do you think about smart city technologies? Does Lleida want to be part of this trend?
Technology is inseparable from progress. We are the second technological node in Catalonia with a Science and Technology Park, bringing together more than 160 companies and 2,000 professionals and the vocation of being a smart city and putting the green economy at the forefront. We are already working on it. The refurbishment projects for the old convent of Les Josefines, the Casino and Espai 3 of the old Convent of Santa Teresa include energy monitoring with smart buildings.
What are the big future projects of the city of Lleida?
One of the most important projects is the construction of the new Bus Station. A new building that will be located next to the current railway station will exponentially improve the quality of service and the intermodality of communications in the city. The new station will have 28 platforms. The budget of the project is about 40 million euros. It will be one of the best bus stations in Catalonia.
In terms of culture, the new Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Lleida is going to be an important element of the city’s artistic and cultural attraction.
As I mentioned, we have presented the project to rehabilitate the old convent of Les Josefines, the Casino building and Espai 3 of the old Convent of Santa Teresa through the Program to Promote the Rehabilitation of Public Buildings of ‘Local Entities (PIREP) of the NextGeneration EU funds.
The budget of these projects (the first one will be built to hold the homeless) adds up to an investment of 13.2 million euros, of which 8.9 would correspond to EU funds.
We are working to make Lleida fairer, healthier and more entrepreneurial, in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. We want a friendly, diverse, competitive, supportive and feminist Lleida.
My project is to create a global city.