Ripess Intercontinental returns from Sort with a heart full of admiration and desire after having travelled last Saturday to the Pallars Sobirá, an area in the Pyrenees watered by the Noguera Pallaresa River in Catalonia. In Sort, theXES (Xarxa d’Economía Solidària de Catalunya), together with the local SSE networks XES Pirineu i Aran, XES Garrotxa, XES Ripollès, XES Empordà and XES Vegueria Penedès; they have organised the annual Feria de Economía Social Solidaria (FESS) rural (rural fair of social solidarity Economy). 

This fair has been held in rural areas of Catalonia every year since 2019 (2020 was cancelled due to a pandemic) and it is the region that organises and plans the themes and ways in each one. The territories, in this case those mentioned above, get involved and unite for this event, which reinforces the presence, synergies and communication in each area; strongly structuring the network outside the best communicated and most accessible areas such as the urban ones. Previous editions have been held in Empordà (2022), Garrotxa (2021) and Ripollès (2019).

This year, more than 1000 people from the region came to Sort to take part in the fantastic activities on offer and to eat at the Ecosocial Market, where a multitude of local products and local projects were on display at some forty stands.

These included artisan, agri-food, textile, artistic and cultural products, as well as projects dedicated to services such as connectivity, ethical finance and the promotion of cooperatives. There were plenty of local food and drink stalls to refresh ourselves during the festival.

Among the talks that watered the day with different topics, taking advantage of the fair as a place for meeting, discussion and collective reflection on the threats and strategies that transformative economies have to face in rural territories.

There were open-air meetings on Food Sovereignty due to the critical point of mountain agro-ecology in the area; on mountain livestock farming, which has been affected by recent legislative changes. An initiative for the dissemination of culture in rural areas was also proposed, with the presentation of a young project called La Traça Cultural on the revitalisation of the environment; rural depopulation, presented by some young people who carried out research at their school, and ended with a round table on communal management and history and debate on the past, present and future of the commons and the way of organising from the SSE in rural areas.

Throughout the day and in a transversal way, attention was also paid to the future of rural areas, with a space full of activities for children, and to feminist commitment, a pillar of the SSE, with a fixed table with a purple dot against male violence.

As a final climax to this full day, the town of Sort celebrated its fallas, a local event that consists of a multitude of villagers descending the mountain after dark carrying large torches, creating a river of fire until they reach the great falla, which burns in the town as a pagan celebration of the arrival of summer. The rain could not dampen the fire of the locals, and the festivities went on despite the expected rain. Ripess was present in Catalonia, joining ties, learning about local issues, which can be compared to other high mountain areas around the world, and putting faces to people with whom we look forward to continue collaborating and networking. Thank you FESS Rural!