The Dropt people

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Contents of the page :  the "locals" - living conditions - activities - birth of an identity ?  

Population :

    The drift from the land that took place in between the two world wars was compensated by the arrival of immigrants, mainly Italians, who took over the vacant land with tenant farming contracts or metayage systems. The exodus started again in the 50’s, following the radical transformation due to the mechanization of agriculture, and the country was depopulated.

      Nowadays, the region is attractive for its climate, for the reasonable prices of real estate and for a relatively low cost of life. The abandoned farms and houses interest young couples who work in the nearby towns, and also English (mainly) and Dutch people, in sufficient numbers to find most of their usual home press at the local newsagents all year round (and for the English, “THE NEWS, for residents and lovers of France” !). In the summer, English and Dutch are as much spoken on the markets as the local “patois” (dialect).

    The integration of these “foreigners” is difficult ; there is no antagonism with the locals, but rather an inability to adjust to the “peasant” way of life.
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The locals :

    …”The Lot-et-Garonne people do not have excessive features, which doesn’t mean they lack character. They are jovial without being Rabelaisian, men of measure without quite being phlegmatic, they like to talk without giving into tall stories. They have a very rich past but they don’t show too marked a taste for their heritage. They are proud of being what they are, but without chauvinism. 
Pierre Sansot – Confluent – dec 96

      The local people have an “old fashioned” way of life, especially in rural environments : art of compromise between work and play (“palombe” [woodpigeon] hunting, boletus picking are absolute priorities), art (and nowadays privilege) of taking the time to enjoy life, art of conviviality and solidarity.

      The weekly markets, opportunity to exchange news, gather most of the district’s inhabitants. One must mix into these meetings to discover “the locals”.

s :
     monday : Duras et Miramont    tuesday : Castillonnès    wednesday : Lauzun    thursday : Eymet et Monpazier
friday : Monségur    saturday : Villeréal    sunday : Issigeac
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Living conditions :

    Rural housing is scattered : home and farm buildings (generally separate) are established within the estate. Originally, these estates were of modes size (a few dozens of hectares). As a consequence, the countryside is covered in very many farms and under-populated towns (often reduced to a few dwellings).  
The “bastides”, in their centre, have preserved their Middle Ages structure.
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Activities :  

    The region has always had a strong agricultural inclination.
In the past, on these small estates, multi-culture was the rule and each farm practically lived in autarky : wine, salt meat, poultry, vegetables, fruit, milk, food for the animals, everything was produced on the spot ; bread was bartered for wheat in grains.
It was a “peasant society” : family cell attached to the farm, autarky, closed world of the farm, solidarity (in particular for collective work such as transplantation and grape picking). Peasantry was considered as a state of being.

      This situation has greatly changed in the past fifty years ; the young generations seldom take over, leading to a smaller number of farms and hence greater surfaces cultivated by each remaining farmer (by way of land buying or tenant farming). At the same time, cultures have become more extensive : large surface areas of wheat, corn, sunflower, soya, etc…
Here as elsewhere, agriculture is now recognized as a profession, but is considered as a compelling necessity and the “peasant spirit” is kept up more than anywhere else.

      The traditional cultures (d’ente plums, tobacco) resist fairly well and the vineyard is important : on the north fringe of the upper basin the “Bergerac Wines”, in the Duras region the “Côtes de Duras”, in the Monségur and Sauveterre area the “Entre deux mers”.

    The industry, not very important, is related to the rural economy (for example, the Eymet canning industry). One exception, Miramont : in 1848, Isidore Soussial creates in Miramont the “ "basane"” slipper. From this a very important shoe industry was developed. It has had some difficulties recently, as everywhere in France, . Since, the industrial activity has been trying to diversify (example : the Carretier-Robin firm, which makes building locks).

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Birth of an identity ?

    A geographical unity (river basin) and a common history (cities of similar constitution) seem to favour an identity awareness. There are real obstacles : administration scattered over three counties, and also the fact that the Dropt is too ordinary a river to have a federative power. Caudrot looks toward the Bordelais, Capdrot toward the Périgord and the Quercy, all centrifugal centres of attraction.

      There are however a few signs of an effort to develop an identity : existence of a very modest Dropt newspaper, the “Canard du Dropt” ; an outlandish and mysterious "Valley of the Dropt Liberation Front" which has made itself known (its only action !) by means of a large banner on the backscreen window of a car.

      More seriously, one must point out in 1999  the first “Montgolfiades de la Vallée du Dropt”, hot air balloon meetings at Villeréal, Castillonnès, Allemans-du-Dropt and Duras, organized around the theme of the Dropt valley. In 2000, an extension of this event to the Dordogne and Gironde “bastides” was unfortunately abandoned as well as the event itself.

      To finish with, the creation of the “Association mixte Vallée du Dropt, Vallée des Bastides” (based in the Issigeac town hall) must be referred to. An extensively illustrated “Guide des animations 2000” (events guide) was published. Other “bastides” situated near the Dropt basin have joined the association : Villefranche-du-Périgord, Beaumont-du-Périgord, Monflanquin and Pellegrue. “Our objective is to develop a common identity to all members so as to recognize ourselves and make ourselves known to the public. The federative theme is the Middle Ages” (extract of the newspaper “Le Républicain”, 01/12/2000). As from 2001, the association is organizing the “Journées médiévales de la Vallée du Dropt” in Monflanquin, Eymet, Duras, Saint-Macaire, Saint-Félix-de-Moncaude and is planning for august 2002 a “Great Itinerant Medieval Festival”.

      Maybe the internet, abolishing distances, will contribute to unite “virtually” the Dropt people in the love of their region.

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