Èric Viladrich is from Olius, Lleida. In 2004, he moved to Quebec and got a master in IT. In 2007, he created the Catalan Studies department at the Montreal University. He is also the president of the Casal Català del Quebec.
Why did you leave Catalonia, and why did you choose Quebec?
I arrived in 2004 with a grant from La Caixa to get an IT masters in Montreal. I loved Quebec from the very beginning and I found love here, too!. On the other hand, I oriented my studies to the teaching of foreign languages, so I offered to create a Catalan Studies programme at Montreal university. And, last but not least, I got involved in the reopening of the Catalan expat centre, the Casal Català del Quebec.
How long have you lived there?
It's been more than 10 years, and counting! I arrived in Montreal on August 16, 2004. In 2006, I became a permanent resident and, in 2011, I got Canadian citizenship. I see myself as a Catalan-Québéquois. It's funny that I'm a republican subject to two kings: a Bourbon and a Windsor!
Are you happy with the job opportunities you found in your adoptive country?
There are more and more students willing to learn Catalan at the university. Last year, we created the first Minor of Catalan Studies in the whole of North America, a 10-year academic programme. My job is very exiting and the environment at the department and the Language Centre is very comfortable. At Quebec you can find the best of the Old Continent and the New World. On one hand there is the refinement, the heritage and the open-mindness of the old Europe, and on the other there is the kindly face of the American Dream. Entrepreneurship and talent are highly appreciated and it is very difficult to find obstacles in your path when you want to start a new project.
What do you think is the best thing about living there?
The kindness, and the extraordinary hospitality of the people here. Also the cultural life and their never ending curiosity to explore and discover other cultures. It is the only explanation for the fact that the Catalan tradition of the Castellers took root here with the Castellers de Mont-real (www.castellersdemontreal.info). The founder and the team leader are two guys from Quebec!
What would you most like to change?
The weeks between autumn and winter, and between winter and spring. The city without snow or leaves on the trees is too grey. And the cold weather, of course. I've grown accustomed to it, but if I could make the winter shorter, I'd gladly do it!
What do you miss most from home?
Besides my family and friends, I miss the sea and the cooking of my granny Tresa! Every summer I spend as much time as I can with her at our holiday home in Cambrils, and I try to learn as much as I can from her about the kitchen arts. Let me add that she has another passion: the English language. She's been studying it for more than 20 years. She's 94 now, and is a happy subscriber of Catalonia Today! Im 'sure she'll love to read this article!
What do you take with you as a present from your new home when you go back to Catalonia?
On my first trips I always brought maple syrup for everyone, but I soon realised that nobody knows what to do with it! Now I try to select my presents to fit the likes of each friend or family member. My father loves smoked meat, and my mother, literature from Quebec. And Id also suggest giving the Quebec wines and ciders a try.
What characterises your neighbourhood?
I live in the Villeray neighbourhood, close to the magnificent Jean-Talon market. It worth a visit to discover and taste the local products every season: the snow crab, the lobster, the Matane shrimps, the sea lion, the blueberries, the Orleans Island strawberries, the corn, the apples.
What do you consider the highlights for any brief visit for the first time?
The Plateau and Mile-End neighbourhoods, the Mont-Royal park, the Old Harbour, the Olympic Stadium...
And if visitors have more time or make a return visit?
I'd say a bike trip outside the city. For instance, I always suggest visitors rent a bike and cross the Jacques Cartier bridge, to pay a visit to the Sainte-Helene and Notre-Dame islands, in the middle of the Saint Laurent river. You'll get an incredible view of the city skyline and you could visit the pavilions of the 1967 Universal Exhibition, and the Formula 1's Gilles Villeneuve track.
Are there any places to avoid at all costs?
The myth of the “subterranean city”. It's in every tourist guide and when European visitors go down there, they only find a few corridors with shops that connect metro stations. A big disappointment, in fact.
Do you plan to go back to Catalonia?
The million-dollar question! To be honest, I don't plan to, but I'm not closing the door to either. Now, I'm very happy in Montreal and I'm lucky enough to spend two months a year in Catalonia. Moreover, the job of promoting the Catalan language and culture in Quebec allows me keep in touch with my country on a daily basis. That said, I am very clear about one thing: if Catalonia becomes an independent state, the temptation to return would be irresistible.