• The Ubaye Valley and Mexico

The Ubaye Valley and Mexico

"Merchants, pedlars, migrants or travellers, the Ubayen people have always travelled the world to practice their skills or their curiosity. They are found in the 19th century on Mexican soil, in the textile industry and trade and on the banks of the Mississippi, Louisiana where they have become "traders and planters" in sugar, coffee… in 2015, Jausiers and the Ubaye celebrate 20 years of twinning with Arnaudville (Louisiana) and welcome her Cousins of America, always more numerous, to discover the land of their ancestors.

Jacques Arnaud (1781-1828), founder, with his two brothers Marc-Antoine and Dominique, of the migratory movement of ubayens to the Americas, settled in 1805 in Louisiana north of Lafayette, at the junction of Bayou Teche and Fuselier. This place called "the Arnauds" took the name of Arnaudville in 1863.

The visit to the Ubaye valley of descendants of Jacques Arnaud, Arnaud Alfred in 1990 and Seola Arnaud-Edwards in 1992, reveals the fate of this man and the link of the valley with Louisiana. The twinning of Jausiers and Arnaudville is formalized in Jausiers in 1995 and in 1997 in Arnaudville.

In Barcelonnette and Jausiers, an architectural style more associated with spa towns unites a large number of plush and extravagant villas that to this day bears witness to the success on Mexican soil of the luckiest emigrants. Three villas have been classified as "Patrimoine du XXe siècle". But it is, above all, in the cemeteries of the Ubaye valley, from the largest to the most modest, where the children of the valley who left to seek their fortunes have shown their attachment to their homeland. The monumental tombs, bearing the mark of stonemasons and sculptors from Piedmont, make up a veritable "open-air lapidary museum"

Discovering the Americas

Always open to trade and commerce, economics Valley has long relied on the textile industry involving manufacture of wool and silk mills.

The people Ubaye formed very early "art dealer to be" left the valley to go and sell their production of linen and silk in Provence, Dauphine, in Piedmont, in Flanders ...

The mid-nineteenth century, permanent emigration replaces the seasonal migration and leads entrepreneurs Valley to the Americas, first in Louisiana to French souvenir, then to Mexico, where Jacques Arnaud (1781 - 1828) moved to 1818 - 1820 a fabric store associated with his brothers Dominique and Marc-Antoine, paving the way for silky Mexico.

Preferred destination from the Second Empire, Mexico will concentrate the largest community of emigrants from Ubaye called Barcelonnettes, giving birth to several generations of industrialists, merchants and bankers, who will be the "preferred partners" (John Meyer) of the young republic United States of Mexico between 1870 and 1910.

Arrival in Mexico, installation (1840 - 1870)

This is the heart of the capital of the young Federal Republic states of Mexico (1824) that choose to implement the first shops tissue cajones ropa, aligned with each other. Number 46 in 1846 (including 20 stores for one federal district of Mexico), they represent more than 110 institutions 40 years later, in 1886, located in major urban centers in Puebla and Morelia, Guadalajara, Durango, Tampico...

Trade industry (1870 - 1910)

Under the presidency of Porfirio Diaz Long (1830 - 1915), the barcelonnetttes entrepreneurs become "preferential interlocutor Mexican government" (John Meyer), and take an active part in the industrialization and modernization of the country.

Designed by French architects, new institutions copied Parisian models Bon Marché and the Samaritan all adopt "a writing can no longer post-Haussmann domes and large curved roof which enhances the majesty of the protuberance volumes, silhouetted at every crossroads "(François Loyer). The master glassmaker from Nancy Jacques Gruber sign towering windows of department stores Palacion El Hierro (1891) and the Centro Mercantil (1896), now a grand hotel.

Conscious also control production, traders based Barcelonnettes major industrial companies (Compagnie industrielle de Orizaba Veracruz and Industrial Company), at the head of many spinning mills, weaving and printing cotton, the most important are in the valley of Rio Blanco (Veracruz State). The bank attracts Barcelonnettes entrepreneurs who take large stakes in all the country's banks and monopolize the issuance of tickets ... (Patrice Gouy).

Under the presidency of Porfirio Diaz Long (1876-1911), who has a keen interest in France, the Barcelonnettes now also conscious control production, engage in the industry. Stock company they founded in 1889 Orizaba Industrial Company, located in the valley of the Rio Blanco in the state of Veracruz.

The company was soon in possession of four factories spinning, weaving and printing cotton and large model Rio Blanco factory, known as "the Manchester of Mexico," who founded the first industrial town of Mexico. The process of industrialization and equipment began in the Porfiriato (1876-1911), led to a modernization and specialization of architectural language strongly influenced by the "French style", ubiquitous in the Mexican capital.

New commercial establishments built by Barcelonnettes traders between 1890 and 1910 replace the cajones modest houses ropa the first time. El Palacio de Hierro, the Iron Palace, the first department store in Mexico barcelonnette built for merchant Henri Tron, inaugurates a series of commercial buildings of prestige, copied Parisian models Bon Marché or the Samaritan woman.

All major factories located in Mexico between 1890 and 1910, employing more than 30,000 workers and are 133 factories have Barcelonnettes of their Board of Directors. Thus, the main manufacture of woolen fabrics, the Sociedad de San Ildefonso (1895), founded by Ernest Pugibet Gascon, the only major paper mill, the Compania de San Rafael (1894); the first cigarette factory in the world, El Buen Tono (1889), founded by Ernest Pugibet; the iron foundry and steel Monterrey (1900); factory beers Moctezuma de Orizaba (1896) and Jacques Clément home in Mexico, specializing in canning and food.

El Palacio de Hierro - El Zocalo Mexico DF

From Revolution to integration (1911 - 1950)

This amazing economic success can not mask the harsh daily reality of much of emigrants, employees and workers. The very first protests broke out in January 1907 inside the factory founded by the Rio Blanco Barcelonnettes. Seven years later, on the eve of the First World War, the Barcelonnettes mobilize and volunteer. On their side of the Mexican also fall for France.

Years post-revolution marked a break and then change the rules favorable to foreign investors: laws restricting emigration, limitation of foreign personnel ... etc.. A recent wave of emigrants joined Mexico in the 1950s, they are no more than ten in the 1960s.'s Barcelonnettes are increasingly integrated and sustainable returns in the Valley are becoming increasingly rare.

Today, the number of descendants Barcelonnettes far exceeds the number of people in the Valley (7500). Each year, many Dutch, American and Mexican, all from Ubaye discover the land of their ancestors.

Now two museums dedicated to the history of entrepreneurs Barcelonnettes, reflect a common history to Ubaye and Mexico: Valley Museum Barcelonnette, opened in 1988, and the new Museo Comunitario in Ciudad Mendoza, inaugurated in April 2001.

Modernization and transformation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

Profound changes mark the medieval town and its periphery between 1880 and 1935 Intramuros, the historic center is undergoing major projects (new public buildings), extramural appearance of any new urban resort with the creation of a park villas.

At the heart of the city disappearance arcades, "portals" (1890 -1897), drainage and the appearance in 1897 of public lighting in the city, 18 years after Paris. New public facilities: construction of college Honnorat André (1919), fire (the most comfortable of France, 1919), reconstruction of the parish church dedicated to Saint Peter (1924-1928), War Memorial (1921) and statue Marshal Berwick by sculptor Paul Landowsky (1926), bank Barcelonnette (1925), reconstruction of the Town Hall and the covered market (1934 to 1936).

On the outskirts of the city: the birth of the park villas built back from Mexico (1870-1930) by ancient traders and industrial textiles originating in the Ubaye Valley. "This belt opulent villas gives it an air of water fashionable city or rather it begins to be, it will certainly become a charming summer resort" (François Arnaud).

Villa Morelia in Jausiers


Spread over half a century (1880-1930), the construction of villas and Barcelonnette Jausiers includes 80 buildings that have favored the creation of a new urbanism close to the water where contemporary cities, in the same way, parks and gardens outweigh the frame. The result is a mind and a way of resorts that will characterize the emergence of this new and familiar architecture of Mediterranean coastline and seaside resorts on the Atlantic coast.

Sponsors are all children of the country, returning after long years of emigration and have all been very successful in the textile industry and trading. Thus, after having long been at the forefront of taste and modernity, they attach themselves to the construction of a modern villa where they will spend the summer before joining the seafront at the first frost of winter. Alexandre Reynaud, father of Paul Reynaud (1878-1966), a French statesman, one of the first built an elegant villa with perfect symmetry and proportions are reminiscent of the great classical bourgeois homes of the historic center of Barcelonnette. Today, a museum (Museum of the Valley), the villa Pine Forest (1878-1910) keeps intact its rich marquetry floors, library lounge and elegant cabinet fully decorated earthenware Sarreguemines bathroom. This first generation, still date the villa Orchard (National Forestry Office) and the villa Mireio. Only the villa built by Chabrand Émile (1843-1893) is characterized by its picturesque language combining first brick, wood and ceramic products.

Rich years 1890-1910 set new architectural practices. Villas become ambitious models multiply, facades are decorated especially roofs are complicated, ever higher. Architects from major cities draw imposing "villas castles" and draw on all the resources of the end of the century eclecticism. The emphasis is on the silhouette effect. Grouped east of Barcelonnette, villas second generation reflect the diversity of architectural forms and decorative vocabulary.

Neo-Gothic castle followed by a Florentine palazzo with its pilasters. The castle villa is developed around a wing at right angles and wearing a symbol of triumph pepper among other models. Featuring a metal veranda enriched with stained glass, it is further distinguished by its slate roof Angers. At Jausiers, imposing buildings appear almost seaside writing, under the leadership of an original architect of Lugano, whose flagship is the castle of Magnans. Completed in 1913, it offers its towers crowned with merlons, its twin bays, its impressive base featuring a silhouette effect reminiscent of the spectacular castle of Prince Louis II of Bavaria. Since 1985 he is listed in the supplementary inventory of historical monuments.

The inter-war period marked the decline. Villas, fewer are more modest. Built in 1930, only the Blue villa develops an ambitious architectural program around a large central hall lit by a monumental stained glass whose iconography evokes the success of sponsor in the textile industry. It reveals looms, factories and large novelty shop which belongs to the sponsor. As the castle of Magnans, Villa Bleue is included in the supplementary inventory of historic monuments.

Any stylistic reference will be sought in vain in the neo-colonial architecture as the Mexican vernacular architecture. No loans to the exotic. Example, the neo-Moorish architecture widely present on the Côte d'Azur is totally absent from ubayens sites colder climate, the only reference to Mexico lies in the chosen name of several villas: villa Puebla, Villa Morelia, the Tapatia...

Private property, villas Barcelonnette can not be visited with the exception of Villa La Pine Forest which houses the Museum of the Valley.

Tournoux cemetery (Upper-Ubaye)

And tombs...

The construction of the villa in Ubaye is inconceivable without the construction of the tomb, last residence and last testimony due to the success of the former emigrant to Mexico, sometimes designed by the same architect. Villas and tombs are closely related and observe the same architectural and stylistic evolution.

Exclusively carved in white stone, the first chapels (1880 - 1890) are under the chisel of local tailor a set of classical buildings with their fluted engaged Ionic columns and triangular pediments. Of masons and sculptors Piedmont (company Rossetto-Rinaldi) sign most of the very rich production years 1900 to 1914 introducing new models, ambitious and eclectic, drawing on a variety of materials (stone Chapelue, Carrara marble , Serennes marble, stone Restefond), and even enriched with stained glass.
This rich funerary heritage to discover, this is the heart of every village in the valley of Ubaye.


Today, the Community after the Franco-Mexican migratory movement ubayen Mexico (1850 - 1950) brings thousands of descendants. Some of them are now gathered in the French association in Mexico Roots (Raices Francesas in Mexico).

The latter founded in Mexico City in November 2003, is recognized by the Embassy of France in Mexico. Its objectives are the identification and collection of all descendants of French immigrants in Mexico; identification and preservation of the memory and heritage of emigration.

Villa Bleue in Barcelonnette