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Photos of the French Mountain Town That's All About Mexico

Sombreros, horse shows, mole and mariachi bands in an Alpine village.

av Johanna Himmelsbach, words: Maxime Brousse
2016 09 06, 7:09am

This article originally appeared on VICE France

For over a century, people from the Ubaye Valley in the French Alps have emigrated to Mexico. Especially during the presidency of Porfirio Diaz – which lasted from 1876 to 1911 – a great number of members from well-to-do families from the valley's largest town, Barcelonnette, left for the largest cities in Mexico to found factories, banks and department stores – some of which are still in business.

The area still honours its historically strong ties with Mexico. When you drive into the town – home to around 3,000 residents today – a sign will tell you it's twinned with Valle de Bravo, a town west of Mexico City. One of the main roads in Barcelonnette is called Avenue Porfirio Diaz, and when you're staying for a night you can book a room in Hotel Azteca or a spot on the Tampico camping site. You can have a mole at Adélita, see a show at the El Zocalo theatre or buy Latin American crafts at Baïta, a shop in the main square. The roughly 80 so-called "Mexican villas" don't look Mexican at all, but they're proof of the success of local residents who went to Mexico, got rich and returned to build badly insulated villas that architecturally don't seem to belong in the landscape at all.

But the most visible and festive manifestation the area's history with Mexico is Barcelonnette's Mexican festival, which has been held every year around the 15th of August for over 30 years. Shopkeepers put sombreros and Mexican flags in their windows, mariachi bands roam the streets and there are horse shows on a field outside the town. Photographer Johanna Himmelsbach documented this year's festivities.

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