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For history to 1790, see Roussillon.
Invaded by Spain in April 1793, the area was recaptured thirteen months later.
Pyrénées-Orientales has an area of 4115 sq. km. and a population of 400,000, of whom just over a quarter live in the capital, Perpignan (Catalan Perpinyà). Other towns include Argelès-sur-Mer , Thuir , Elne (the ancient Illiberis) and Prades (Catalan Prada de Conflent ), each of 6-10,000 inhabitants.
Pyrénées-Orientales consists of three river valleys in the Pyrenees mountain range - from north to south, those of the Agly , Têt and Tech - and the eastern Plain of Roussillon into which they converge. Most of the population and agricultural production are concentrated in the plain, with only 30% of the area.
The upper Tech valley comprises the département's westernmost third, with just over a tenth of the total population. To the south-east, the Têt valley and the Côte Vermeille contain nearly 100,000 inhabitants. The Agly basin in the north-east has much in common with neighboring areas of Aude.
Pyrénées-Orientales is a wine-growing area and a tourist destination.
The Catalan language is estimated to be spoken by rather more than a quarter of the population and understood by more than 40%.
Places of interest include:
- Prades (Catalan Prada de Conflent) - site of the Catalan Summer University (Universitat Catalana d'Estiu).
- Banyuls-sur-Mer (Catalan Banyuls de la Marenda) famous for its Muscat wine, birth place of Aristide Maillol.
- Prats de Molló - important defensive castle of the 17th century facing south to the Pyrenees.
- Salses - important defensive castle of the 16th century, on the ancient frontier with Spain.
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