The mayor of Puigcerdà, Albert Piñeira i Brosel, Vice-President of the legislative Assembly of Girona (la Diputació de Girona) and the party member Partit Europeu Demòcrata Català (Catalan liberal Pro-European nationalist party that supports the secession of Catalonia from Spain), told all-andorra.com about the city’s history, plans and major developments that are not related to his political life.
Interview: Irina Rybalchenko
What is the city’s history and how has it developed? How many people live here permanently?
Puigcerda is a city with a population of 9,100 people. The city has its own media stations: two radio stations (the state-run “Radio Puigcerda“ and private “Radio Pyrenees”), a TV channel, a newspaper, and a free monthly magazine.
The city was founded in 1177 by the king of Spain, Alfonso. The city has been famous for its fairs since 1182, in particular, its horse fairs which are famous throughout Spain (this year the fair will be held on 10 and 11 November).
Our city is near the French border. If we talk about history, it is worth recalling that since the days of Napoleon in France, the division of territories into departments, and in Spain – in the province. So, from 1813 Puigcerdà was one of the four provincial capitals of Catalonia (along with Barcelona, Girona and Lleida).
In 1833, Spain was divided into two warring parties. One supported don Carlos and his heirs, the Carlist party. The other stood on the side of Isabella and her mother, Mary Christina, she was called the party of Christinos. Political strife has triggered three wars, called the Carlist wars.
These wars had a significant impact on the development of Puigcerdà. The city ceased to be the capital (Tarragona became the fourth capital), but this did not prevent it from developing dynamically – mainly due to agriculture, and later, from the beginning of the XX century, due to tourism.
What attracts tourists to your small border town?
Puigcerdà is located on the banks of the river Segre, at an altitude of 1215 metres. Translated from the Catalan “puig” means “hill”. From the hill you can see the beautiful Cerdanya valley – the largest in the Pyrenees. On its territory there is a nature park Cadí-Moixeró, where you can come across rare species of animals and birds.
Tourism in our city forms the main income of the budget, which currently stands at 13.5 million euros.
Lovers of active leisure and tourism in the mountains are our main tourists. After the Spanish Civil war (1936-1939) the first ski resorts appeared here. The closest to us are La Molina and Masella, there are also ski resorts from France-Pyrénées 2000, Les Angles, etc.
A distinctive feature of the ski resorts of the Cerdanya plateau (Baixa Cerdanya – Spain, Alta Cerdanya – France) is the meteorological conditions. There is often good sunny weather and a lot of snow. It is also important that the ski slopes are on the sunny side of the Pyrenees. Here you can engage in all winter sports: Alpine and cross-country skiing (in the mountains), hockey, curling, figure skating (in a sports complex located in the city, which also has a large stadium, climatic pool, football pitch and tennis court).
The sports complex belongs to the city. The price for a subscription and a single visit is the cheapest in Catalonia.
In summer, mountain sports are also available in our region (mountaineering, climbing, hiking of different levels of difficulty, mountain and road biking).
There are also three Golf clubs near the town.
The city often hosts international sports competitions. Including Marxa Cicloturista Ruta de Tres Nacions (a cycling race in the territory of Spain, Andorra and France, which begins and ends in Puigcerda), GAES Catalunya Bike Race – an individual three-day mountain bike race with the support of the International Cycling Union (UCI), half-marathon. Local competitions are held almost every weekend.
Participation in sports events is a great reason to visit our city.
According to statistics – who are your main clients?
Our main tourists are residents of Barcelona and Catalonia, as well as neighboring France. In second place – the inhabitants of the rest of Spain. There are also tourists from Germany, Great Britain…
Is there any night entertainment and club life in the city?
We have a casino. There are several nightclubs both in the center and on the outskirts of the city. Since March 2019, it was decided to move all the clubs to the so-called “industrial zone” – in order not to limit opening hours and to reduce noise caused affecting the other residents of the city.
Can you name any joint projects that you have with Andorra?
Unfortunately not. The only joint project, if you can call it that, is the transportation and recycling of garbage.
In the field of tourism – Andorra promotes the brand “Andorra” and, accordingly, is not interested in the promotion of neighboring regions.
And neighboring France?
We are actively cooperating with France. We have a border hospital, which is controlled by Catalonia together with France (60% to 40%).
Catalonia or Spain?
In France, the topic of health is within the competence of the state, namely, the Ministry of Health. In Spain, health facilities are controlled by the provinces, so the hospital is managed by the administration of Catalonia.
The hospital opened in September 2014. This is the first example of a border hospital in Europe. It employs French and Catalan doctors and speaks three languages: Catalan, French and Spanish. The hospital’s clients are French and Spanish.
We also have many projects in common with France in the fields of tourism and education.
What else can you tell us about the city’s economy? Are there examples other than tourism, for example, in production or high technology?
We here on the Cerdanya plateau grow and produce products under the brand “km zero”. Gastronomic festivals are regularly held here. We have developed shopping tourism: there are more than 200 shops in the city.
Promotion of tourism and businesses engaged in so-called conglomerates, which includes local trade associations, the restaurant association, the builders association, the association of hotels, etc. This conglomerate is part of the conglomerate of Cerdanya.
As mayor, are there any projects in particular you would like to implement?
I have been the mayor of the city since 2011. The mandate expires in 2019. As mayor, I would like to build more housing for the city’s permanent residents (rather than as a second residence). I would also like to see more tourists in the city not only on weekends but also from Monday to Friday.
Is the city attractive to investors? Is there any land for sale? Is there a need for new hotels or restaurants?
Yes, we have land for sale. These are two large areas – near the hospital and near the French border. The city has a sufficient number of hotels, campsites and tourist apartments. But if one puts on the table an interesting commercial proposal for the construction of new facilities in the tourism sector – I will be happy to consider it.
We are not interested in the development of the industry. We may be interested in small production-for the production of sportswear, for example. Or companies working in the field of high technology.