This is the interview with Gener Aymamí i Domingo (Reus 1951), a versatile man but apparently he has always been attached to various ways of knowing the Catalan territory. He holds a degree in Hispanic Archeology from the UB (Barcelona University) and has been responsible for the journal Excursionisme of the Unió Excursionista de Catalunya for twenty-five years, an entity he also chaired. He was also vice-president of the Catalan Speleological Federation from 2004 to 2016. He is the author of numerous books on hiking in Catalonia and this February 2021, he published his latest work, with Cossetània Publisher, about depopulated villages in Tarragona Region.
BTO – You have recently published “Rutes pels despoblats del Camp de Tarragona: 15 itineraris per la Conca del Barberà, l’Alt Camp, el Baix Camp i el Tarragonès” with Cossetània, could you summarize the heritage value of these abandoned villages in Tarragona Region?
Gener Aymamí – Aside from the material remains that still stand belonging to the houses, the church, the cemetery or the streets, among others, in these nuclei, today invaded by vegetation, before there was human touch, people with their jobs, their lives and their dreams that they had to give up because the impossibility of continuing to live in that place. So there is a tangible and an intangible heritage.
BTO – Your career as an author is closely linked to hiking. Do you think this is the best way to approach the natural and architectural heritage you describe in your work?
Gener Aymamí – Although in most depopulated villages you can get by car, walking is a highly recommended way. First because of walking itself and doing sports and then because we are slowly approaching the village, crossing the forests, fields or mountain ranges that surrounded the town.
BTO – Do you think hiking is an asset to local identity?
Gener Aymam í-I think so and even more in the case of the most abandoned villages, because when we get there the first thing we say is: What a pity! And knowing also means respecting, as we have seen too many times how unscrupulous they can break down doors, windows and rip off what they can. When something is dying, it doesn’t have to end necessarly.
BTO – To appreciate the value of this kind of heritage that we discover hiking, could be an engine of economic development?
Gener Aymamí – Undoubtedly, although the hiker’s field of action is at the mountains, he also passes through villages, usually very small, and uses the inns to go for a snack in the morning, a stop at noon or to go for lunch.
However, many routes are far from home and hostels are also used for their stay and these small towns are grateful.
BTO – Do we have foreign tourism that is committed to hiking in our country or is it a very residual fact?
Gener Aymamí – Where we find more foreign hikers is in the Pyrenees, and not only French but of various nationalities.
In some mountain ranges near the coast there are also some that take advantage of the stay on the beach to get to know the interior a little more, but they are very few.
BTO – COVID-19 also had a strong impact on the world of hiking. Can you assess whether there will be effects of the pandemic that will last over time?
Gener Aymamí – The lockdowns have impacted the hiking world due to not being able to go out and everyone has had to settle for making itineraries within the municipality, those ones who live in a large municipality were lucky… then within the region and recently within the autonomous community which opens the doors wider.
I imagine the immediate future going out hicking, without problems, especially within each autonomous community but reluctant to look for a place to sleep, especially in mountain refuges. And always with the mask around your neck, ready to cover us when we cross paths with someone.
BTO – Could you highlight one of your favorite places to discover? One of the least known in Tarragona Region.
Gener Aymamí – The best known and most picturesque place is La Mussara. A very beautiful mountain route that goes up to a thousand meters is to reach the Cogullons and Selmella. This is a little known place, very interesting and surrounded by exceptional panoramic views.