The shameful camps, over crowded, in-humane, crammed to overflowing with desperate Republicans escaping Franco’s Spain seem an unlikely place for art to flourish. But artists were there as can be seen in the Museum in La Jonquera. And they did not go un-noticed in Perpignan either.

In late January/early February 1939 nearly half a million Spanish civilians and soldiers fled to France. The word Retirada (Spanish for Retreat) was adopted by historians to signify this exodus, which was the biggest single influx of refugees ever known in France.

1939 was a difficult year for France. Not only did it experience the indignity of an invasion on its North East border from Hitler’s hordes late in the year, the country suffered a very different incursion in its far South-West in the early months of the year.

The end of the Spanish civil war led to an influx of Spanish refugees into the Pyrénées Orientales.  Known as the Retirada (retreat in Spanish), this was a fairly ignominous chapter in the local history complete with concentration camps

A day out in the High Vallespir is always a pleasure. Today, we are heading up the D915 through Arles sur Tech, (worth a day out in its own right) to St Laurent de Cerdans, pretty cluster of old village houses wrapped around the church with its tall steeple.