Situated on the Mediterranean coast of France, Perpignan is a convention city, university town, business center, and has close contacts with the richest regions of Spain. Like Sarasota, it is a cultural mecca, and offers numerous monuments, churches, castles and manors, all of which are elegant witnesses to the brilliant history of this sunny coastal town. It became a sister city to Sarasota in the fall of 1994.
Perpignan is the capital of the département of Pyrénées- Orientales. It is located on the Têt River, 8 miles west of the Mediterranean and 19 miles north of the modern Spanish border. Catalonia stradles the border, so Catalan culture is dominant in the language and cuisine. Perpignan was the capital of the old Catalan province of Roussillon, under the Counts of Roussillon.
In 1172 it became the possession of Jaime (James) I, King of Aragon. When he died, his realm was divided between his sons. His younger son, also called Jaime, inherited the Kingdom of Majorca which included the Roussillon, Majorca and other Mediterannean possessions. Jaime was the first of three hereditary kings of Majorca. They made the city their capital between 1276 and 1344. Perpignan was a stronghold town throughout the middle ages.
In 1659 Perpignan became French as result of the Treaty of the Pyrenees. Sadly, the town walls were dismantled towards the end of the 19th Century. During and after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) the city received Spanish Republic refugees. After the Algerian independence was conceded in 1960, it became a refuge again, this time of French settlers from North Africa. In 1971, the University of Perpignan was established.
The city has long been a flourishing market Center for the wines, fruit, and vegetables. Most of the produce comes from the rich plain on which the city is located. These plains are alluvial, with plenty of sunshine and water from the Pyrenees. They are also the furthest south in all of France, so historically Perpignan provided the rest of France with the earliest fruit and vegetables each year.