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Landscape: Identity and Memory

Josep M. Corominas i Barnadas
Mayor of Olot

As the Mayor of Olot I am highly pleased to have been invited to be the ‘observer' in this issue – and for two main reasons: firstly because this edition coincides with the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia and secondly because, since its creation, this observatory has maintained its headquarters in our city, and has been run by the geographer Joan Nogué, who himself is from the region of La Garrotxa.

Olot and its county make up a unique landscape as a large percentage of the area is within the Volcanic Area of La Garrotxa, with all that this entails with respect to its protection. However I will leave that well-known matter aside and focus on two impressions that landscape has for me as a citizen, and which are associated with identity and memory.

The landscape forms part of our identity. It surrounds us and it influences us from the day we are born. And even though we do not realize it, it constitutes a certain way of being. Even to the point of having a decisive influence over another landscape: the human landscape. Both, in my opinion are inseparable. And beyond shaping our personal identities, the landscape reinforces a collective identity of belonging. We are from a place and we recognise this. This single fact strengthens our links and from our appreciation towards that which we feel to be our own, we defend it and we defend ourselves.

Landscape is also memory. To the point that generations go by, but the landscape remains. Not always as it would have been desirable, by the action or omission of Man. Numerous graphic testimonies show us the changes that the landscape has endured over time. In Olot we are lucky enough to find the landscape in the works of our numerous artists and painters, or in the texts and verses of distinguished writers and poets. A subjective reproduction, made in diverse languages, but eloquent enough to show how the landscape influences and how it is perceived in its artistic or literary reproduction.

There is another aspect of memory that I cannot ignore: it is the memory that has to help us in order to pass on the legacy of the landscape that we have found to the generation that succeeds us. And not just on having preserved it, but having improved it.

Allow me, from this privileged rostrum to wish a long life to the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia. I am convinced that aspects as important as our identity and our memory depend on this observatory.

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