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.

Read more: Walloons - Introduction, Location, Language, Folklore, Religion, Major holidays, Rites of passage, Relationships, Living conditions http://www.everyculture.com/wc/Afghanistan-to-Bosnia-Herzegovina/Walloons.html#b#ixzz25RD1MxGF

Wallonia and Belgium

Belgian Economy in the 20th Century
For 200 years through World War I, French-speaking Wallonia was a technically advanced, industrial region, while Dutch-speaking Flanders was predominantly agricultural. This disparity began to fade during the interwar period. As Belgium emerged from World War II with its industrial infrastructure relatively undamaged, the stage was set for a period of rapid development, particularly in Flanders. The postwar boom years contributed to the rapid expansion of light industry throughout most of Flanders, particularly along a corridor stretching between Brussels and Antwerp (now the second-largest port in Europe after Rotterdam), where a major concentration of petrochemical industries developed.

The older, traditional industries of Wallonia, particularly steelmaking, began to lose their competitive edge during this period, but the general growth of world prosperity masked this deterioration until the 1973 and 1979 oil price shocks sent the economy into a period of prolonged recession. In the 1980s and 1990s, the economic center of the country continued to shift northward to Flanders.



Notable Wallonians

Django Reinhardt

Jean "Django" Reinhardt
Django Reinhardt (French pronunciation: [dʒɑ̃ɡo ʁenɑʁt]; 23 January 1910 – 16 May 1953) was a pioneering virtuoso Belgian jazz guitarist and composer. He was born 23 January 1910 in Liberchies, Pont-à-Celles, Belgium, into a family of Manouche gypsies. Reinhardt's nickname "Django" is Gipsy for "I awake."[3]Reinhardt spent most of his youth in Romani (Gypsy) encampments close to Paris, playing banjo, guitar and violin from an early age. His family made cane furniture for a living, but included several keen amateur musicians.

Often regarded as the first important European jazz musician who made major contributions to the development of the idiom, he is also revered by guitarists worldwide as among the foremost exponents of the instrument. Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called 'hot' jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture. With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as "one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz."[1] Reinhardt's most popular compositions have become jazz standards, including "Minor Swing", "Daphne", "Belleville", "Djangology", "Swing '42", and "Nuages".


Adolphe Sax
Adolphe Sax (November 6, 1814 – February 4, 1894) was a Belgian musical instrument designer and musician (clarinetist), best known for inventing the saxophone. He was born in Dinant in Wallonia, Belgium. His father, Charles-Joseph Sax, was an instrument designer himself, who made several changes to the design of the horn. Adolphe began to make his own instruments at an early age, entering two of his flutes and a clarinet into a competition at the age of fifteen. He subsequently studied those two instruments at the Royal School of Singing in Brussels. (read more...)