Title: Le Soleil Camarguais
Location: Saintes Maries de la Mer,
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“Le Soleil Camarguais.” Perhaps its a personal mantra; perhaps it represents the spirit of an entire community. We found those words emblazoned on the side of a home in the little town of Saintes Maries de la Mer, a French town with a Spanish soul. Legend has it that after the Crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Salome, Mary Jacobe, and Mary Magdalene set sail in a little boat to escape their persecutors and washed ashore here. I can imagine this place as they must have seen it — gentle waters bordering wild grassy plains bordering marshland where flamingos shaped like pink treble clefs furled and unfurled their long necks — and I can see why they stayed. Today the town's claim to fame is as the outback of France. Yearly, “Le Festival du Cheval” celebrates the importance of horses in the Camarguais imagination. Cowboys, or “les manadiers”, parade through the streets on their horses, while flamenco dancers coiffed in ruffles twirl and open like helicopter seeds. The inhabitants of this region are not French, not Spanish; they are Camarguais. Maybe that is why they deserve their own individual sun.