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PATRIMONIO MUNDIAL PYRÉNÉES-MONT PERDU

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«Pirineos-Monte Perdido»

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The Broto Valley General Board

In the past, the local economy was based on animal husbandry. Conflicts would often arise between individuals, towns, villages and valleys, and these disputes needed to be resolved for the system to continue to operate smoothly.

The general boards were responsible for defending each valley's interests and gradually developed into more than just an institution of a socioeconomic nature.

The Broto Valley General Board was founded in the opening 30 years or so of the 13th century following the granting of a privilege by Jaime I.

The charter that detailed this privilege recognised that the residents of the valley owned the pastureland that had traditionally been a part of their municipalities and gave them the right to use these pastures as they saw fit.

This charter has since been lost, though others dating from later on confirm the existence of the privilege, such as the charter signed by Jaime II of Aragon in Monte Blanco on 1 July 1323 and confirmed by royal grants issued by Pedro IV of Aragon in 1334, Juan I in 1399, Alfonso V in 1327 and Felipe II of Spain in 1564.

As these were royal lands, the monarch appointed the justice of the valley, who was chosen from among the local minor nobility. The justice represented royal authority in the valley and was responsible for convening meetings and presiding over them, even though he played no part in the decision-making.

In his capacity as the monarch's representative and as the president of the Valley Board, he was expected to settle lawsuits and disputes and was empowered to mete out justice on civil and criminal matters and to determine fines and prison sentences.

In the 16th century, the Valley Board established its headquarters in the Casa del Valle in Broto. The adjoining tower, now declared a Monument of Cultural Interest, was converted into the prison. Images of a popular nature inscribed into its blackened walls by prisoners can still be seen today and have become a source of fascination for tourists.

The Broto Valley Federation, which rules on communal property, is still active today.

As recorded in the statutes of its Board of Directors, the towns and villages of Broto and Torla, Asín de Broto, Ayerbe de Broto, Escartín, Buesa, Fragen, Linás de Broto, Sarvisé, Oto and Yosa are all members of the federation.

The federation has succeeded in retaining ownership of its lands ever since, including at the time when Spain and France drew the border between the two countries, which runs from the far east of Navarra to the Andorra Valley.

The properties belonging to the federation are recorded in the treaty signed in Bayonne on 14 April 1862, ratified by the French emperor on 3 May that same year and by the king of Spain on 12 June 1863, and included in issue number 99 of the Official Gazette of the Province of Huesca, published on 14 July 1863.

Extracts from the Broto Valley Federation statutes are given below. The full statutes can be downloaded here:

  • "The seven plots of pastureland on the mountain of Usona, known by the names of Puyasper, Especierres, Puirrabin, Secras, Plana la Coma, Puimorons and La Cuasta, which extend from the Crest of the Pyrenees, between Villamala and the Brecha de Roland gap, to Gavarnie common, from which they are separated by a border [...], are jointly owned by the Spanish valley of Broto and the French valley of Barèges."
  • "The livestock from these two valleys may jointly enjoy the seven plots of pastureland on the mountain of Usona until 11 June each year, after which day the pastureland shall be closed to all kinds of livestock until 22 July, from which date only the tenants and subtenants shall have the right to graze on the plots which pertain to them."
  • "All the residents in the towns and villages that are joint owners shall have the right to enjoy the property of the Federation, subject to the terms and conditions of this statute and to the provisions laid down in forestry legislation and such other legislation as may be applicable."