Identification. In the broad sense of the word "Walloon" is the name given to the autochthons of Wallonia inhabiting the Belgian provinces of Hainaut, Namur, Luxembourg, Liège (except for the German cantons in the east), and the district of Nivelles in Brabant. A small percent of the population (centered on people over age 65) still speak Walloon regularly. French is the native language of the vast majority, though there is a particular accent that distinguishes it from the standard French of France. The term "Walha" was used by the ancient Germans to designate romanized Celtic tribes. From this word, "Walloon" was derived (walon in Walloon and waal in Flemish). "Belgian" refers to a citizen of Belgium, which includes both the Walloons and the Flemish.
Location. Belgium lies to the north of France, the west of Germany and the south of Holland. The provinces that comprise Wallonia (approximately 17,000 square kilometers) are roughly located in the southern half of Belgium. The Walloon landscape ranges from low plateaus to wooded hills in the southeast. To the north live the Flemish, who are separated by a linguistic, rather than a geographic border. Two major rivers cross Wallonia, the Escaut and the Meuse. The weather is cool and rainy year round. The higher elevations of the Ardennes (694 meters is the highest point) receive up to 50 days of snow in a year, as opposed to around five days of snow for the rest of the country.
Demography. The total population of Wallonia is 3,200,000, with 191 persons per square kilometer. Four hundred sixteen thousand, or 13 percent of this population, are foreigners. Most of these foreigners come from southern Europe, with increasing numbers from North Africa. The number of births per thousand stood at 15.5 in 1963, dropping to less than 11.7 by 1983. The death rate is 12.9 per thousand (1983). Age stratification in 1981 is: 0-14, 20 percent; 15-24, 16 percent; 24-64, 50 percent; 65+, 14 percent.
Linguistic Affiliation. Walloon is a Gallo-Romance dialect of the Indo-European Language Family. Being so close to the dialect border, Walloon shares certain sounds and Structures with Germanic dialects, but the base of the language is Romance. Walloon can be divided into Eastern Walloon (with Liège as its capital), Central Walloon (Namur), and Western Walloon (Charleroi, La Louvière, Nivelles). Other dialect areas in southern Wallonia, which still form part of the same general dialect region though they are not called "Walloon," are: Picard or Rouchi (Mons, Ath, Tournai, Mouscron), Gaumais (or Lorraine of Belgium), and Champenois.
History and Cultural Relations
Belgium has been aptly called "the crossroads of Europe." Its tribes, which were probably Celtic, were colonized by the Romans for the first three centuries of the first millennium. In the fourth and fifth centuries the Franks invaded from the north. Their settlement was sparse in Wallonia, which ensured the continuation of Romance dialects. The city of Liège, the largest city and cultural capital of Wallonia, was designated as a Catholic see in the seventh century. Under Carolingian suzerainty (a.d. 752-918), it became an international center of learning. It then became the seat of a large independent principality and evolved into an important city during the late Middle Ages and early modern period. Burgundian dukes annexed Wallonia and Flanders at the end of the fourteenth century, except for the principality of Liège. The Burgundian territories were passed on to Spain and then Austria. In 1789 the people of Liège drove out their leader, the Prince Bishop, and together with the rest of Belgium joined the Republic of France in 1795. In 1815 Belgium fell under the leadership of William I of Holland. This only lasted until 1830, when Belgium revolted and won her Independence. Since this time there has been conflict over linguistic rights within the state.
There are two major types of traditional farms in the countryside. In the central region structures are built in a quadrilateral. In the Ardennes and Gaumais, they are built along a single axis. Chateau-farms are scattered throughout the Region. The majority of the population is urbanized, and the predominant type of house is a brick row house of several stories. Whether in the village or the city, a Catholic church is never far away.
Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Sugar beets are a common cash crop in the countryside. What is not turned into sugar is used as animal fodder. Wheat and potatoes are other common crops. Belgium's holdings in central Africa led to the importation of cocoa, which was developed into the world-renowned Belgian chocolate. In 1982, Belgians consumed over 7 kilos of chocolate per capita. Many artisanal chocolate operations exist throughout Wallonia. Local breweries also used to be a common sight. Nowadays there is still an extremely wide choice of beers, but production is not so localized. Walloons drink a lot of Flemish beer, too, but they always know which ones are made in Wallonia. Straight gin, called pèkèt, is also a popular alcoholic drink. The milk has an especially high fat content, which translates into extremely rich butter, cream, and cheese. A simple local cheese, makèye, is eaten most often on slices of bread as tartines, a common breakfast and supper. The heavy meal of the day is eaten at noon, often including a pork dish, potatoes, and salad with mayonnaise. Soups are a common first course at the midday meal and supper. A four o'clock goûter often consists of a piece of pie and coffee.
Belgium has one of the highest daily per capita caloric consumption rates in the world. Coffee is widely drunk. Some families keep a thermos filled all day long. Pork is the cheapest and most widely consumed meat, and hams from the Ardennes are a delicacy known throughout Europe. Mussels imported from Flanders and Holland are a favorite dish along with french-fried potatoes. Fried potatoes can be bought at almost any time of the day on most every street corner, with a variety of sauces available. Several types of waffles can also be readily purchased, often hot out of the oven.
Industrial Arts. Owing to the presence of coal and good river transportation, Wallonia has been an important center of iron and steel production since the Middle Ages. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, coal-burning machines used for the pumping and draining of mines were installed in Liège, greatly increasing production. Wallonia was the first region on the European continent to undergo the Industrial Revolution. Many of the early industrialists came from England. Verviers became an important textile center while the coal mines around Liège, Charleroi, and the Borinage gave birth to the steel industry. As early as the fifteenth century, Wallonia was supplying firearms to the king of Spain. Nowadays the arms industry is centered in the National Arms Factory in Herstal. The crystal factory, Val St. Lambert, had a world reputation at one time, but it is now closed. In the past, women made lace in the home, but very few continue to do so.
Trade. Wallonia has long carried on trade with neighboring European countries. The excellent canal, river, and railway systems of Belgium facilitated the transport of both imports and exports. However, the Walloon coal mines are now shut down and the steel industry is in a critical decline. The food industry has begun exporting more, but on the whole, trade has decreased dramatically in the last twenty years. In 1980 the unemployment rate in Wallonia was 14.5 percent.
Division of Labor. Walloon women have been working outside the home since the Industrial Revolution, though they still earn less than men since they are concentrated in low-paying industries such as textiles and clothing and are not proportionately represented in upper management. Factories began running day-care centers for the children of their female employees in the nineteenth century. Today the state operates numerous day-care centers around the country. Women are still primarily responsible for keeping the home.
Land Tenure. As in England, the introduction of the capitalist order during the eighteenth century, in combination with several disastrous agricultural years, led to the impoverishment of the countryside and the beginning of the exodus into the cities to compete for factory jobs. Today only about 4 percent of the population makes its living from agriculture.
Kinship, Marriage, and Family
Kinship. Walloon kinship is bilateral. The nuclear family predominates as a household group.
Marriage. Wallonia has a rising divorce rate and a falling marriage rate. Monogamy or consecutive monogamy are the two acceptable marriage types. People are free to choose their own marriage partners. Average age of marriage is mid-to late twenties. (It has decreased over the last century.) Usually people marry within their own socioeconomic class. Upon marriage, most young people set up their own household. They may take children to their parents' house so that grandmothers can babysit.
Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is the norm. An elderly parent often moves in with the family of one of her (sometimes his) children, but it is very common for old people to live alone.
Socialization. Children undergo a different socialization process depending on whether their families are working-class, middle-class, or upper-class. For instance, working-class families value getting a job early more than they do the pursuit of higher education. The opposite is the case among the middle and upper classes. There are 54 nationally certified day-care centers throughout Wallonia, which charge a minimal amount along a sliding scale. A great emphasis is placed on equality in these centers. They even supply clothes so that children are not differentiated on this basis. Upper-class families make more use of hired private nannies. Ninety percent of the Belgians aged 2½ to 5 are in preschool. Education is compulsory for children between ages 6 and 14.
Belgium is a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. The king is the titular head of the state and the prime minister, who is chosen from among leaders of major political parties represented in parliament, is the head of Government. Elections are held at four-year intervals.
Social Organization. Belgium is a Western, industrial, class-based society. Clubs and associations, based on shared personal interests or backgrounds, proliferate. What political party one belongs to is almost always an important criterion when choosing an organization.
Political Organization. The Socialist party claims the most adherents in Wallonia (36.3 percent of the vote in 1981). Other political parties are the Christian Socialists, the Liberals, the Walloon Assembly, the Communists, and the Ecologiste. Trade unions are very important. The first three parties named run their own trade unions.
Social Control. The Belgian armed forces and police force (including national gendarmerie and municipal, rural, and criminal police) exercise control over the region.
Conflict. Belgium, throughout its history, has been used as a frequent battlefield in wars that originated outside its borders. Even though Belgium claimed neutrality in both world wars, its countryside was decimated. The two major conflicts in Wallonia today are between the leftist and conservative Political parties and between the Flemish and the Walloons.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. Wallonia is an area of dying Catholicism. Many parish churches have had to close owing to a lack of attendance. Communion, confession, baptism, and Religious marriages are all on the decline. Many older people may attend church only occasionally, but keep statues of the Virgin Mary in their windows. Lourdes in southwestern France is a popular place of pilgrimage. Beauraing and Banneaux are the two most popular places of pilgrimage in Wallonia. Several saints' processions have been revived in recent times, though often because of an interest in folkloric practices rather than renewed religious faith. Some of these even include religious reversals, such as a fake priest handing out slices of cucumber instead of hosts. The immigrants from southern Europe are usually more observant of Catholic Rituals than the Walloons. The immigrants from North Africa and Turkey are beginning to call for more support of the Islamic religion. Wallonia is also the home of small numbers of Protestants, Jews, Russian Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox.
Religious Practitioners. Wallonia used to have several monasteries that produced an important number of clergymen. Today, very few boys choose a religious career.
Ceremonies. Baptisms, first communions, and marriages are rites of passage marked by celebrations. Many nonreligious Walloons have begun celebrating laic communions for their children. Carnival has numerous faces around Wallonia. Generally, an entire village dons identical costumes. Most famous among these is the Carnival of Binche.
Arts. Belgium has been known for her painters since the late Middle Ages. While many of the most famous painters were Flemish, Walloons were represented as well. Wallonia is perhaps better known for its contributions to modern art by the surrealists René Magritte and Alfred Delvaux. There have been several internationally known Walloon writers. Probably the best-known in the United States is Georges Simenon, the mystery writer and creator of Maigret. Folk arts are alive and well in Wallonia, with numerous processions of giants, mock military marches, and a thriving rod-puppet theater.
Medicine. There are 2.1 doctors per thousand Wallonians, and 4.77 hospital beds. Medical care is subsidized by the state.
Death and Afterlife. The devil is a popular figure in Walloon folklore, and belief in an afterlife is probably still fairly strong. Funerals vary from open casket to cremation. Friends of the deceased usually give speeches honoring him or her at the funeral. All Saints' Day, at which time spirits are thought to return to the earth, occurs on 4 November. On this day, many families go to the cemetery and clean the tombs of their ancestors.
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Hasquin, Hervé (1982). Historiographie et politique: Essai sur l'histoire de Belgique et la Wallonie. Mont-sur-Marchienne: Édition Institut Jules Destrée.
Lejeune, Rita, and Jacques Stinnon (1978). Wallonie: Le pays et les hommes. Liège: Marche Romane.
Turney-High, Harry Holbert (1953). Chateau Gérard: The Life and Times of a Walloon Village. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.
Wickman, Stephen B., ed. (1985). Belgium: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office; Brussels: La Renaissance du Livre.
LOCATION: Belgium (southern region, called Wallonia)
POPULATION: 3.5 million
RELIGION: Roman Catholic; Muslim; Protestant; Jewish; Russian Orthodox; and Greek Orthodox
The Walloons, who reside in Belgium's southern provinces, comprise the country's French-speaking population. Their language and history have given them a cultural identity distinct from that of the Flemings in the northern part of the country, whose language (Flemish) is similar to Dutch. While the Flemings are culturally closer to the Netherlands and Germany, the Walloons' cultural affinity is with France in particular and, in general, other countries in which Romance languages are spoken.
The historical forces dividing the two language groups date back to the 5th century ad, when the Franks, a Germanic people, invaded the territory of present-day Belgium, routing the Romans, who had ruled the region for 500 years after wresting it from its original Celtic inhabitants in 57 bc. The Franks were able to establish a stronger presence in the northern area, in which early forms of the Dutch language subsequently developed. Frankish settlements in the south were less extensive, allowing the Roman culture and Latin-based dialects already in existence to flourish. ("Walloon," a term that did not come into use until the 19th century, is derived from "Walha," the Frankish designation for the Romanized people of the south.)
Between the 9th and 12th centuries, both the northern and southern parts of the region fell under the control of feudal lords, and numerous duchies, principalities, and towns sprang up without any unifying center of power or culture, allowing the Germanic and Latin cultures of the two regions to continue developing along separate lines. In the east, Liège became a large and powerful prince-bishopric within the Holy Roman Empire. Eventually the power of the nobles was challenged by the burghers of the cities, especially those of the north, who had began to play a vital role in European trade. There was a period of Burgundian rule in the 15th century, when French—the language of the court—first became associated with power and privilege. Beginning in the 16th century, the entire region came under the rule of a succession of foreign powers: Spain, the Austrian Habsburgs, the French under Napoleon, and, finally, the Netherlands. In spite of the Flemings' cultural and linguistic ties to Holland, they joined with the Walloons in revolting against Dutch rule, and Belgium gained its independence in 1830 as a constitutional monarchy.
Throughout the 19th century, the Walloons were the dominant group in Belgium both politically and economically, even though the Flemings accounted for a majority of the population. Independence did nothing to change the tradition of French as the language of government and culture, and the richer natural resources of the south brought the mines, mills, and factories of the Industrial Revolution to that region early, while Flanders remained a poorer, primarily agricultural area. Belgium suffered enormous losses in both world wars, but was most devastated during World War I. After World War II, structural and social problems had a debilitating effect on Wallonia's industries. By the 1930s Flanders had gained sufficient political and economic clout to make Flemish its official language for education, legal proceedings, and government.
In the post-World War II period, Wallonia's traditional heavy industries (notably steelmaking) have continued to decline, and its coal mines have closed. In the 1960s, the Flemings and Walloons were given increased control over their respective regions, and in 1993 Belgium's constitution was amended, making Flanders and Wallonia autonomous regions within the federal state of the Belgian Kingdom, together with the nation's bilingual capital, Brussels, and another autonomous community composed of Belgium's German-speaking population. Belgium was locked in a political stalemate beginning in June 2007 when elections failed to produce a new government. The question arose as to whether or not Belgium should cease to exist as a country, and that the territory would be split into two—Flanders and Wallonia. The crisis was temporarily resolved in March 2008 when a new government was formed, and major reforms of state were planned.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
The Walloons live south of an east-west line running from Aachen to a point north of Lille that divides the country's Flemish- and French-speaking regions. With an area of 17,094 km (6,600 sq mi), Wallonia covers 55% of Belgium's territory and includes the provinces of southern Brabant, Hainautl, Namur, Liège, and Luxembourg. The region's terrain rises from the Meuse valley to the wooded hills of the Ardennes, which reach their highest elevations at 694 m (2,277 ft). Its two major rivers are the Meuse and the Escaut. Wallonia has a population of 3.5 million, or some 175 people per sq km (450 people per sq mi), making it a densely populated area. There is a growing immigrant population from southern Europe and North Africa.
The language of Wallonia is French, as well as various regional dialects, whose main divisions are Eastern (Liège), Central (Namur), and Western (Charleroi, La Louvière, Nivelles). There are two additional dialects called Picard and Gaumais, although all dialects in Wallonia are commonly referred to collectively as "Walloon." Dialects are spoken mainly by rural and working-class Walloons, and more often with one's family than in more formal situations, such as at work. Immigrant workers have introduced a variety of new languages into Wallonia in recent decades.
Historically, French has been the most prestigious language in Belgium since the late medieval period of Burgundian rule, when it was spoken by aristocrats at court. It remained an elite language during the periods of Spanish, Austrian, and French rule from the 16th through 18th centuries, and maintained its privileged position with the Belgian bourgeoisie even after independence in the 19th century. It was the language of government, law, the church, and education. By comparison, the Dutch-based Flemish language of northern Belgium was associated with provincialism, poverty, and a lower level of education. This language division was dramatized by the inability of French-speaking Belgian officers in World War I to communicate with their Flemish-speaking troops. Although Flemish has gained increased respectability in this century as Flanders has become more powerful economically and politically, Flemings on the whole are still more familiar with French than Walloons are with Flemish.
Traditionally, the spirits of the departed were thought to return to earth on All Saints' Day (November 1), and families still visit the cemetery to clean the tombs of their deceased relatives on that date. Walloon folklore includes many tales involving the devil, remnants of the pre-Christian Druid religion of the region. Inhabitants of some rural villages still believe in the powers of folk healers, whose methods include toucher, healing by touch. There is a marionette in Belgium's traditional puppet theaters called Woltje, which means "little Walloon," and others who personify particular regions or cities. Tchantchès, who is identified with the city of Liège, wears patched trousers and a floppy hat with tassels.
While Catholicism is the traditional religion of Wallonia, as it is throughout Belgium, the Walloons are generally less religious than the Flemings to their north, a difference that has become even more pronounced in recent years, with parish churches closing due to lack of attendance. Even the elderly who keep statues of the Virgin Mary in their windows often are not regular churchgoers. However, southern Europeans who have emigrated to the region maintain stronger religious ties than do native Walloons. Immigrants from Turkey and North Africa make up a growing Islamic community that is beginning to call for increased public recognition. Other religious minorities include Protestants, Jews, Russian Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox. Wallonia is the site of two popular pilgrimage shrines, at Beauraing and Banneaux, and Lourdes in southwestern France has traditionally drawn many pilgrims from the region.
The Walloons observe Belgium's public holidays (New Year's Day, Easter Monday, Labor Day (May 1), Independence Day (July 21), All Saints' Day (November 1), and Christmas. However, they also celebrate other dates on the Christian calendar as well as many folk holidays with origins in history and legend. Binche is notorious for its carnival festivities in the weeks before Lent. The best-known feature of the annual celebration is the dance of the Gilles, with over 1,000 people dressed in brightly colored, padded costumes throwing oranges at the spectators. Malmédy is also known for its carnival celebration, which actually continues into the Lent period, as do those in Fosses and Tilff.
RITES OF PASSAGE
The Walloons live in a modern, industrialized, Christian country. Although less religious than some of their fellow Belgians, most Walloon young people undergo religious rituals such as baptism and first Communion. In addition, a student's progress through the education system is marked by many families with graduation parties.
Walloon manners are generally formal and polite, and conversations are marked by frequent exchanges of compliments and repeated handshaking. Relatives shake hands, hug, or kiss each other on the cheek, while friends usually hug. Men and women or two female friends—but never two men—might exchange kisses on the cheek, and women can sometimes be seen walking down the street arm-in-arm.
The majority of Walloons are city dwellers, and most live in multistory brick row houses with large kitchens and gardens. Walloon houses, like those of other Belgians, often include (or are attached to) an area used for a family business. Walloons enjoy Belgium's high level of modern medical care by private doctors and at state-run hospitals and clinics, and the vast majority have most of their medical expenses covered by national health insurance. Located in Wallonia, the Meuse River, one of Belgium's two major waterways, is part of a network of rivers and canals whose center is the port of Antwerp, on the Scheldt River (Escaut in French), which is linked to the North Sea. Antwerp is the second largest port of Europe (after Amsterdam). Historically the connection of the Walloon city of Charleroi with Brussels and Antwerp has formed one of Belgium's major transport links.
The main type of family in Wallonia is the modern nuclear family, although it is not uncommon for an elderly grandparent to join the household. Men and women generally marry when they are in their mid- to late twenties. Wallonia's divorce rate is rising, and divorce and remarriage are considered socially acceptable.
The Walloons, like all Belgians, wear modern Western-style clothing.
While Walloon cuisine is derived from that of France, it tends to be spicier, richer, and higher in calories than modern-day French food. The most popular meats are pork and local Ardennes hams, a delicacy for which the region is famous. The main meal of the day, which is eaten at noon, might typically consist of a pork dish, potatoes, and salad with mayonnaise. Both breakfast and supper are light meals, which may include the popular regional cheese, makèye, served on slices of bread. Soup is a staple of the Walloon diet, as it is throughout Belgium, and it is often served as a first course for the mid-day and evening meals. Walloons drink a lot of coffee, and the common custom is to take a four o'clock coffee break called a goûter, often consisting of coffee and a piece of pie. Like their Flemish neighbors to the north, the Walloons like and brew beer; even the monks, for instance, in Chimay and Orval abbeys, have their own breweries. Another popular drink is straight gin, called pèkèt.
Local specialties in Wallonia range from venison chops and stuffed goose forestière in Luxembourg province to simple fried eggs and bacon in the area around Verviers. A favorite dish in south Belgium, adjoining the French border, is ragôut of lamb with chicory. Mussels and chips (tasty Belgian french fries) are as popular in Wallonia as they are throughout the country. In fact, when the French want to distance themselves from their Walloon neighbors across the border, they refer to them as moules-frites (the French term for mussels and chips).
Education for all Belgians is compulsory from age 6 through 15, and the national literacy rate is 99%. At the secondary level, students choose between trade-oriented, business, and college-preparatory training. Wallonia has approximately 30 research centers and 300 research labs. Wallonia attracts researchers from all over the world with a high percentage of foreign researchers (15% to 20%) in Walloon universities and companies. It particularly welcomes researchers from Western and Eastern Europe.
Among Belgium's early painters, the most renowned were the Flemish "Old Masters," including Van Eyck, Memling, and Rubens, although Walloons made contributions to the visual arts during all periods. In modern art, however, they came into their own with the work of surrealists René Magritte and Paul Delvaux. The best-known Walloon author is mystery writer Georges Simenon, creator of the police commissioner Maigret. There are many "French" writers who are, indeed, of Walloon origin, such as the famous poet Henri Michaux. Marguerite Yourcenar also had an international reputation; in 1980 she became the first woman elected to the Académie Française. Wallonia's most famous composer was César Franck, and the violin virtuoso Eugène Ysaye was famous for his performing career and also as the founder of the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Music Competition, one of the most prestigious international music contests. The saxophone was invented by a Belgian, Adolphe Sax, who was born in Dinant in 1814.
Due to Wallonia's coal reserves and access to river transportation, the region underwent industrialization early. With its steel, glass, and textiles industries, it became one of Europe's leading manufacturing centers in the 19th century. However, since World War II, its coal mines have closed and its traditional heavy industries have fallen into decline. At the same time, Flanders, historically a less developed agricultural area, has caught up economically, with booming international trade through the port city of Antwerp, new industries supported by foreign aid and private investment, and a burgeoning service sector. During the 1960s, Wallonia received 50% less government aid than Flanders, with its larger work force. The Walloons were also hit harder by Belgium's high unemployment of the late 1980s and early 1990s than their neighbor to the north, where more new jobs were available. In the 21st century, Wallonia's economic future lies in high technology, the region encourages the development of a diversified fabric of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Walloons share in Belgium's national passion for soccer ("football"). Thousands of fiercely partisan fans turn out for games, and many also play the sport on local or regional teams. Another favorite national pastime that the Walloons share is bicycling, either as a relaxed form of recreation or in organized races. Pigeon racing, practiced throughout Belgium, is especially popular in Wallonia.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
The Walloons enjoy typical leisure-time activities such as watching television and reading. Like many Belgians, they are avid gardeners, and maintain well-tended gardens. Other typical hobbies include playing cards, stamp collecting and model trains. Popular cultural pastimes include concerts and the theater. Residents of Wallonia's towns and villages enjoy gathering with friends after hours in neighborhood cafés and discussing work, politics, sports, and other topics. The Walloons also share the general Belgian love of festivals, and their calendars are filled with celebrations of all kinds, both religious and secular.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
The talents of traditional artists can be seen in the elaborate costumes and giant figures used in festivals and processions, and also in the popular puppet and marionette theaters that have enjoyed a revival in recent years.
Wallonia was hit particularly hard by Belgium's high rate of unemployment in the 1990s, and some of its inhabitants find themselves forced to commute to jobs in Brussels or Flanders. The most lingering controversy for Walloons, as for all Belgians, has been the country's cultural, linguistic, and political division between its French- and Flemish-speaking populations. In spite of a 1993 constitution granting autonomy to both Flanders and Wallonia, separatist elements are still active on both sides. The divisiveness between the two cultural groups even threatened to divide the country in 2007 and 2008.
Women make up 51.3% of Wallonia's population. As of 2008 women had a lower employment rate (48.3%) than men (63.5%), but this figure was growing, whereas the male employment rate is tending to decrease slightly. Women won the right to vote in Belgium in 1919, and restrictions on the suffrage were dropped in 1948. Abortion was only legalized in Belgium in 1990. As of 2000, women made up 24% of the lower house of parliament, and 28.8% of the upper house. Approximately 55.7% of Belgian women hold a secondary degree, 53.1% hold a bachelor's degree, and 7.6% are in senior management. The government made a concerted effort in the 1990s in involve women in politics.
Belgium decriminalized homosexuality in 1843 and legalized same-sex marriages in 2003—it was only the second country to do so worldwide. Gay and lesbian couples have the same rights as heterosexual ones, including inheritance and adoption.
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—revised by J. Hobby
LOCATION: Belgium (southern region, called Wallonia)
POPULATION: 3.2 million
1 • INTRODUCTION
The Walloons, who live in Belgium's southern provinces, are the country's French-speaking inhabitants. Their culture contrasts with that of the Flemings, who inhabit the northern part of the country and speak Flemish, a language similar to Dutch. The Walloons' closest cultural ties are to France and other countries in which Romance languages are spoken.
In the fifth century ad the Franks, a Germanic people, invaded the region that includes modern Belgium. They gained the most power in the northern area, where early forms of the Dutch language took hold. In the south, the Roman culture and Latin-based dialects continued to flourish. During the feudal period between the ninth and twelfth centuries ad, the Flemish and Walloon cultures continued developing along separate lines.
Beginning in the sixteenth century, both the Flemings and the Walloons came under the rule of a succession of foreign powers. These included Spain, the Austrian Hapsburg monarchy, the French under Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), and, finally, The Netherlands. Both groups then joined together in a revolt against Dutch rule. The new Kingdom of Belgium was created in 1830 as a constitutional monarchy.
Throughout the nineteenth century, the Walloons held most of the political and economic power in Belgium. The rich natural resources of their region (known as Wallonia) brought the mines, mills, and factories of the Industrial Revolution to the region early. Their language, French, was the language of government, law, the Roman Catholic Church, and education. By comparison, the Dutch-based Flemish language was associated with rural poverty and lack of education. This language division was dramatized when French-speaking Belgian officers in World War I (1914–18) couldn't communicate with their Flemish-speaking troops.
Since World War II (1939–45), Wallonia's traditional heavy industries (especially steelmaking) have declined, and its coal mines have closed.
In the 1960s, the Flemings and Walloons were given increased control over their respective regions. In 1993 Belgium's constitution was amended, making Flanders and Wallonia autonomous (self-governing) regions within the Belgian Kingdom.
2 • LOCATION
With an area of 6,600 square miles (17,094 square kilometers), Wallonia covers 55 percent of Belgium's territory and includes the provinces of southern Brabant, Hainautl, Namur, Liège, and Luxembourg. Wallonia is a densely populated area with 3.2 million inhabitants.
3 • LANGUAGE
The language of Wallonia is French. There are also a number of regional dialects. These dialects, which are referred to collectively as "Walloon," are grouped into Eastern (Liège), Central (Namur), and Western (Charleroi, La Louvière, Nivelles).
4 • FOLKLORE
Traditionally, the spirits of the departed were thought to return to earth on All Saints' Day (November 1). Families still visit cemeteries to clean the tombs of their deceased relatives on that date. Some rural villagers still believe in the powers of folk healers. Walloon folklore includes many tales involving the devil.
5 • RELIGION
Catholicism is the traditional religion of Wallonia. The Walloons are generally less religious than the Flemings to their north. Even the elderly who keep statues of the Virgin Mary in their windows often are not regular churchgoers. Wallonia is the site of two popular pilgrimage shrines, at Beauraing and Banneaux. Lourdes in southwestern France has traditionally drawn many pilgrims from Walloon.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
The Walloons observe Belgium's ten public holidays as well as many folk holidays. The town of Binche is famous for its carnival festivities in the weeks before Lent. The best-known part of the annual celebration is the Dance (or March) of the Gilles. Over 1,000 people dressed in brightly colored, padded costumes throw oranges at the spectators.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
Most Walloon young people undergo religious rituals such as baptism and first communion. In addition, a student's progress through the educational system is marked with graduation parties in many families.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
Walloon manners are generally formal and polite. Conversations are marked by frequent exchanges of compliments and repeated handshaking. Relatives greet each other by shaking hands, hugging, or kissing each other on the cheek. A hug is a common greeting among friends. Men and women or two female friends may exchange kisses on the cheek.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
The majority of Walloons are city dwellers. Most live in multistory brick row houses with large kitchens and gardens. Walloon houses, like those of other Belgians, often include an area used for a family business.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
The modern nuclear family (parents and children only) is the norm in Wallonia. However, it is not unusual for an elderly grandparent to join the household. Couples generally marry in their mid-to late twenties. Wallonia's divorce rate is rising, and divorce and remarriage are considered socially acceptable.
11 • CLOTHING
The Walloons, like all Belgians, wear modern Western-style clothing.
12 • FOOD
Walloon cuisine is derived from that of France. However, it tends to be spicier and higher in calories than modern-day French food. The main meal of the day, which is eaten at noon, might consist of a pork dish, potatoes, and salad with mayonnaise. Both breakfast and supper are light meals that may include the popular regional cheese, makèye, served on slices of bread. Soup is a staple of the Walloon diet, often served as a first course for the midday and evening meals. Walloons drink a lot of coffee. It is common to take a 4 pm coffee break called a goûter, often consisting of coffee and a piece of pie. Walloons also like to drink and brew beer.
13 • EDUCATION
Education for all Belgians is required from age six through age fifteen. At the secondary level, students choose between trade-oriented, business, or college-preparatory training.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
The Walloons are best known for their contributions to modern art, notably the work of painters René Magritte (1898–1967) and Paul Delvaux (1898–1994). The best-known Walloon author is mystery writer Georges Simenon (1903–89), creator of the character of the police commissioner Maigret. Wallonia's most famous music composer was César Franck (1822–90). The concert violinist Eugène Ysaye (1858-1931) founded the Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Music Competition. The saxophone was invented by a Belgian, Adolphe Sax (1814–94), who was born in Wallonia.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
With its steel, glass, and textiles industries, Wallonia was a leading manufacturing center in the nineteenth century. Since World War II (1939–45), however, its coal mines have closed and its traditional heavy industries have fallen into decline. The Walloons were hit harder by Belgium's high unemployment of the late 1980s and early 1990s than were their neighbors to the north.
16 • SPORTS
Walloons share Belgium's national passion for soccer. Another favorite national pastime that the Walloons share is bicycling. Pigeon racing, practiced throughout Belgium, is especially popular in Wallonia.
17 • RECREATION
The Walloons enjoy typical leisure activities such as watching television and reading. Like other Belgians, they are avid gardeners and maintain well-tended gardens. Other typical hobbies include stamp collecting and model trains. Many Walloons enjoy gathering with friends in neighborhood cafes after work.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
The talents of traditional artists can be seen in the elaborate costumes and giant figures used in festivals and processions. Folk art can also be seen in puppet and marionette theaters.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Wallonia has suffered from high rates of unemployment in the 1990s. Some of its inhabitants have been forced to commute to jobs in Brussels or Flanders. The cultural, linguistic, and political divisions between the Walloons and the Flemings are a continuing source of conflict.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Hargrove, Jim. Belgium, Enchantment of the World. Chicago: Children's Press, 1988.
Pateman, Robert. Belgium. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1995.
Wickman, Stephen B. Belgium: A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1984.
Belgian Tourist Office. [Online] Available http://www.visitbelgium.com/, 1998.
Embassy of Belgium. Washington, D.C. [Online] Available www.belgium-emb.org/usa/, 1998.
World Travel Guide. Belgium. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/be/gen.html, 1998.
WALLOONS, French-speaking people of Celtic stock in northeastern France (present-day Belgium) who became Protestant in large numbers during the Reformation. Many, exiled to Holland, England, and Germany, emigrated to America beginning in the early 1620s. They were the first colonizing settlers in New Netherland (first called Nova Belgica): at Manhattan (called New Avesnes), at Fort Orange (Albany), at Wallabout (Brooklyn), and at Boompjes Hoek on the Delaware River (Gloucester, New Jersey). They later settled on Staten Island and in the Walkill Valley. They brought seed, fruits, and cattle. Immigration continued, and they often intermarried with Dutch and Huguenot settlers.
Griffis, W. E. The Story of the Walloons. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1923.
Augustus H.Shearer/f. b.