Friday, August 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 August 2017

Morning high (8.08am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 35C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 19 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 20 August - Sun, cloud, 28C; 21 August - Sun, 29C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 increasing East 3 by midday.

Yellow alert for high temperatures especially in the interior.

Evening update (20.45): High of 35.1C.

A Red Carnation For A Tourist

As sure as night follows day, so philia follows phobia. Or should this be the other way round? Yes it should. There was a great deal of philia daylight before phobia darkness set in. And in case anyone had forgotten this, the Magic Costa Blanca hotel chain decided to remind them. On Tuesday, it staged a day of "tourismphilia".

As its name suggests, the chain concentrates on the Costa Blanca - Benidorm, for instance. This is an area of Spain, so the president of the Valencia regional government has been at pains to point out, which hasn't experienced tourismphobia. Ximo Puig, for it is he, has been singled out for praise in making noises different to certain other politicians. There is not one tourist too many in the Valencia region, Ximo has observed. Benidorm is not for phobia. In fact, bring on ever more tourists. There's a lot of all-inclusive awaiting them.

Tuesday, the public holiday for the Assumption, is an emblematic day in the Spanish tourism calendar. Thus explained Magic Costa Blanca's vice-president. It is the absolute height of summer. Around this date, the statisticians in the Balearics will have been poring over figures in preparing themselves to announce the day on which there were more people on the islands than on any other day. The Balearic politicians will hardly be able to contain themselves. How many more were there? Saturation, massification, blah, blah.

In Valencia, on the other hand, they opted - well, Magic Costa Blanca did - to focus on actions to "counteract the stupid campaign" in parts of the country. Javier García, the VP, explained that the hotel chain wanted to tell tourists that Spain wants tourists, that they will be taken care of in their pursuit of happiness. One way that they are able to is at the Middle Ages-themed Magic Robin Hood. Very Spanish, but then Spaniards know him from films.

All staff - from receptionists to waiters, cooks, cleaning staff and management - were handing out red carnations and asking for hugs. It was a way of "sealing friendship" of showing a "special feeling of respect and affection" that tourists always deserve. Friendship: a tourist, a friend as the old motto goes. The red carnation should become a symbol of tourism, García suggested, and good for him. Alcudia holds its tourism day at the end of the month. Will they be handing out red carnations?

In Ibiza, the president of the island's council who is also responsible for tourism, made reference to that old motto the other day. Messages, he said, must be positive. That campaign of friendship can't be forgotten. Vicent Torres added that there isn't tourismphobia in Ibiza. Or at least it hasn't been exhibited, thus contradicting certain elements of the media which suggest that it has been.

Torres added that in order to prevent this phobia, order needs to be created. Ibiza, it has been well reported, has a greater issue with housing than Mallorca. As an island there is only so much capacity. Mallorca is the same, just on a larger scale. The situations are somewhat different in both islands to that of Valencia. The island's president went on to explain that this order should come from a cap on the number of tourist places, and he had illegal holiday rentals firmly in mind. He made an interesting further observation, which was that way back when Gabriel Cañellas (of the Partido Popular) was president of the Balearics there was a move to limit the growth in the number of places. In the all current discussion of limits etc., the left is getting some criticism for wanting limits, when the right - the PP - first established the notion. The PP also referred to this in its 1999 tourism law. Later, when Carlos Delgado was tourism minister, he spoke about the possible need to reduce places.

Just placing limits on tourists won't make the kind of tourismphobia displayed by Arran and their chums disappear. That's because their agenda is much broader and isn't by any means focused only on tourism; they have used tourism for their own political, independence aims. But limits, to me, seem eminently logical. Can there be such a thing as too many tourists? Yes, there can be, and even tourists themselves - as shown from different surveys - think so.

In Valencia they've made a nice gesture. Torres in Ibiza is addressing the issue of tourismphobia in a sensible fashion. But much other reaction has been hysterical, and this includes Madrid. We have the secretary-of-state for tourism (for whom judgement is well and truly being reserved) confirming that the attorney-general is getting involved in pursuing anti-tourism protesters. What do they want to do? Create martyrs? Because that's exactly what the far-left, independence-agitating minor minority craves.

There's something of a summer madness. Keep calm and hand out red carnations.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 August 2017

Morning high (6.21am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9. Sun with minimal cloud
Three-day forecast: 18 August - Sun, from 32C to 36C depending on area; 19 August - Sun, cloud, 29C; 20 August - Sun, 28C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 3, occasionally 4.

Evening update (20.45): High of 32C.

The Legal Hypocrisy Of Rentals

Adlai Stevenson was a great of American politics. He was the US ambassador to the UN for five years. His intellect and reasoning wouldn't go amiss in today's America.

That's by the by. Stevenson provided many a quote. One was: "A hypocrite is the kind of person who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation." Never let it be said that there isn't hypocrisy in politics. There's a great deal of it in Spain. Madrid is considering the chopping down of legislation designed in part to conserve but also to preserve - a society's well-being. If it does so, then it will speak of conservation: the status quo.

The additional hypocrisy is manifest. The Partido Popular has for years sought to prevent any liberalisation of the holiday rentals' market. It refused to do so in the Balearics. It has refused to do so elsewhere. The PP of national government in effect washed its hands of the looming boom in rentals by delegating legislation to the regional governments. A regional government, the Balearic government, has legislated. Now the PP is playing the constitution card. Conserve the status quo. It would wish to do so because it has been wholly inadequate in managing an issue that affects the whole country.

The Balearic rentals' legislation was probably always destined to find its way to some court or other. The Aptur rentals' association has yet to make its move, but it signalled before the passing of the legislation that it would be considering a legal challenge. There were two main reasons: conflicts with national law in respect of tenancy and of the so-called horizontal property regime (which at its most simplistic refers to living in apartments).

To be fair to Madrid, it does have a duty to ensure that regional legislation does not invade the competence of the state, if the state has superior competence for a particular matter. But exercising the right to challenge regional law and to take an appeal before the Constitutional Court can appear to be influenced by political thinking and differences. Bullfighting is a clear example.

The problem, constitutionally, that the Madrid government created with rentals is that it acknowledged regions' powers. Statutes of autonomy enable regions to determine policy with regard to tourism, and Madrid made clear that it was up to the regions to come up with their own rentals' laws. There was a total lack of foresight, not least because the government failed to modify its laws that could facilitate those of the regions. The Balearic government has asked Madrid to reform the tenancy act and to establish the principle of a minimum let. Madrid has vacillated and now seems stuck in neutral. Tourism chiefs - the minister and the secretary-of-state - have appeared to be working from different scripts. One says there won't be reform; the other says she'll be looking into it.

Madrid, interestingly, hasn't cited the two laws that Aptur has. It has referred to the law on the internal market, i.e. a nod in the direction of Brussels. While its potential appeal to the Constitutional Court has to do with specific articles in the Balearic legislation, it is this reference which hints that the court may - if it is asked to make a ruling - suspend the whole legislation. It would then have five months to decide whether or not to make the suspension permanent.

These legal niceties aside, one comes back to the apparent hypocrisy. The PP would be adopting a stance that it has long fought to avoid. The Balearic legislation, it could be argued, is over restrictive while at the same time hanging out something of a carrot of licences to come. But in principle it isn't so different to what the PP established under law.

The PP were accused - rightly enough - of favouring friends in the hotel industry. They are now lobbying Madrid to get a grip and establish some form of coherent national policy and law on rentals; just as the regions are also. The government has to take account of social developments - the saturation and now the protests. If it's in any doubt as to what is to blame for saturation, then it can ask Gabriel Escarrer of Meliá. Aptur may claim that rentals are not to blame for saturation, but it's difficult to disagree with Escarrer when he says that they are.

We now have the leader of the PP in the Balearics, Biel Company, saying that his party is open to a review of its stance on holiday rentals. Without giving an idea what this might mean, he has at least acknowledged market dynamics. The Bauzá government, of which he was a member, failed completely in recognising the realities.

Meantime, Madrid seems intent on conserving something to which the PP has been antipathetic. Yes there are market realities, but so there are also social realities.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 August 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 22.5C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 17 August - Sun, 30C; 18 August - Sun, 31C; 19 August - Sun, cloud, 30C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 to 4.

Big day today for Sant Roc, aka and variously Saint Rock, the closest fiery manifestations of whom are in Alaro and Cala Ratjada. Pretty hot in other ways as well today.

Evening update (20.15): High of 33.6C.

The 40-Year-Old Prediction Of Anti-Tourism

George Doxey may not be well known but he is important: where tourism is concerned, that is. Doxey was responsible for devising something that came to be known as Irridex. This might sound like treatment for mosquito bites or liquid for cleaning the loo, but it was an index - the irritation index. Forty-two years ago, George Doxey modelled the rise and fall in a society's affiliation with and affection for tourism. His model is probably only now truly being put to the test.

Think what it was like in 1975. Mallorca already had mass tourism, but it wasn't anything like on the scale it now is. Figures from the time show that in the Balearics as a whole there were around 3.6 million tourists per annum. There were 223,000 hotel places. Mallorca had the lion's share of both. By 2016, the number of tourists for the Balearics was up to more than 13 million. In Mallorca alone, the number of hotel places was around the 300,000 mark. The government wants to cap the total of all places in Mallorca at something over 435,000.

The mass has therefore advanced significantly since the time that Doxey was compiling his index. Also in 1975 there were continuing concerns about a downturn. The effect of the 1973 oil crisis took a few years to reverse. Mass had, for the time being, peaked or was being lowered. It was the year that Franco died. While there had been plenty of comment about and worthy research into the harmful impact of "Balearisation", this was not comment of the streets. Two years later, awareness took to the streets for the first time. Democracy had ushered in protest against the voracity of development, and not just for tourism. The Dragonera demos were staged.

Regardless of this nascent protest, the oil crisis had exercised minds. It disrupted the progression that George Doxey had set out. His was a four-stage model of societal attitudes towards tourism development. By 1975 Mallorca was certainly no longer at stage one - euphoria created by the anticipation of tourism benefits and from meaningful contact with tourists on a grander scale than had been the case prior to the "boom" of the sixties. It was probably somewhere between stages two and three. The second step is apathy, with tourism viewed as a source of income and investment. The third is annoyance - misgivings about the tourism industry because of increasing numbers, development and high levels of foreign investment.

Attitudes were modified because of the realisation of the harmful impact of recession on what by then had become the island's principal industry. Such modified attitudes, it can be argued, have prevailed for years. They would certainly have been around during the economic crisis that took hold in 2008.

Now, however, one can witness the presence of Doxey's fourth and final stage. Antagonism is defined as irritations with tourism being expressed verbally and physically. Politeness gives way to this antagonism. Tourists are seen as the cause of the problem. How prophetic Doxey had been.

There is another model, one that is far better known than Doxey's. It deals with the economics of tourism. Richard W. Butler produced his model five years after Doxey had come up with his. It was essentially a variation on the product life cycle model that business was already familiar with. Butler's model can be combined with Doxey's. The fourth stage of antagonism coincides with Butler's fifth stage of stagnation and potential decline. Implicit to Butler's stagnation are the ideas that tourist numbers have reached their peak, that capacity has in fact been exceeded, that tourism creates problems for the environment and society (and possibly also for the economy), that tourist resorts engender a sense of divorce from their realities - residents feel alienated, therefore.

None of this is earth-shattering insofar as Butler (Doxey less so) is tourism studies 101. Anyone who has ever taken a tourism course knows about Butler. Anyone in tourism industry management knows about him. Anyone in tourism government should know about him. The caveat of "should" is key. Butler and Doxey require the strategic management of tourism. Governments have singularly failed to do this. All the theory was established decades ago. Only now are governments waking up to the practical consequences.

The economic crisis, like the oil crisis of the seventies, was a blip. As it abated and the mass of tourism grew in comparative terms like never before, Doxey's antagonism began to kick in. One can chastise the Balearic government for its handling of tourism policy, but underlying this is (or seems to be) an appreciation of both Butler and Doxey. In order to prevent decline, there needs to be rejuvenation, even if this means a downward correction in the numbers of tourists. Magalluf, it might be said, is a stuttering attempt at this. Managing antagonism, however, is a different matter altogether.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 August 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 21.8C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 16 August - Cloud, sun, 32C; 17 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 18 August - Sun, 34C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 3 to 4, swell of one metre.

Happy Assumption. All fine for the Can Pic duck swim and pyromusical - loads of bangs in the bay.

Evening update (19.30): Didn't go totally according to plan as there was a fair bit of cloud at times. High of 32.6C.

The Nickname Which Became A Resort

They put up a plaque in Can Picafort the other day. It was to Llorenç Fuster Quintana. Llorenç died in 1899. There was another Fuster who passed away sixteen years before: Jeroni. Both had the nickname "Picafort". I'm guessing that Llorenç must have inherited it.

The story of Jeroni is central to the story of Can Picafort. He did, after all, give it the name. While he had the nickname, his shack was seemingly known as Picafort. Something to do with the strength of mosquito bites, supposedly. And quite believably. In the nineteenth century those bites could kill. There is in fact a completely different explanation - cholera - and also more to the story of why Jeroni went to live on the uninhabited coast of Santa Margalida some time in the mid-nineteenth century (probably the 1860s).

It's normally said that he was of humble stock and couldn't afford to live in the town. Well, he was from humble stock, but it would appear that he was given a job. He was the coast watchman. He was there to look out for clandestine activity. Smuggling, in other words. And Santa Margalida was to become famous for the biggest smuggler of them all - Joan March, he of Banca March fame.

Llorenç must have been a relative because the plaque is more or less exactly where the shack once stood. Jeroni had four children and is said to have been aged 105 when he died: a remarkable age for those times. He would indeed have been of fairly advanced age when he took that watchman's job.

There were actually two shack-type houses. The other was the residence of Llorenç Dalmau. His nickname was "Barret" (hat). He lent his nickname to the Clot d'en Barret, which is in the same area. It's also near to the Mar y Paz Hotel (Apartments).

Before Can Picafort there were two estates - Son Baulo and Santa Eulalia (aka Eularia). Son Baulo, it is often overlooked, was really what came first. It was partially developed as a garden city in the 1930s. In Can Picafort there was very little development. Nowadays, Son Baulo tends to be treated as part of Can Picafort, which it is in administrative terms, but part of it went into the development of Can Picafort in the 1960s. Can Picafort was really the estate of Santa Eulalia, and some might even today refer to the beach as Playa Santa Eulalia.

The Mar y Paz sits in the area of the resort where a notional boundary lies between Can Picafort and Son Baulo. It has a notable role to play on 15 August every year. It is from the Mar y Paz where they dive in to swim after the ducks. It's a symbolic choice, given the legacy of Jeroni Fuster and Llorenç Dalmau and also because it was the Son Baulo end which gave Can Picafort the ducks' swim.

The swim, also known as the release, dates back to the 1930s. It is normally said that the ducks (real ones, which they no longer are) came from the Son Baulo torrent and were gifts of a landowner to workers who had to swim for them. Well, a different version is that they also came from a Santa Eulalia landowner. Moreover, it wasn't poor workers who were necessarily swimming for them. It was young people in general.

This discrepancy is just one way in which the tradition of the duck swim has failed to ever truly be established in totally accurate fact. There isn't even any mention of it in what is otherwise an extensive history of Santa Margalida that the town hall produced some years ago. There's no question that there was a duck swim, but there is nothing definitive either as to exactly when it started or its continuity. Did it take place every year?

This matters to an extent because of the ambitions that remain for reviving the swim with real ducks. The law is most unlikely to be changed from being able to prove one hundred years of uninterrupted use of animals in a fiesta event, but if the threshold were to be lowered - which is what some would like in Santa Margalida - there would still be a problem of verification. Very little has ever actually been documented about the swim.

But it was around in the early 1960s; that's for sure. At the start of that decade, there were 173 residents in the whole of Can Picafort (including Son Baulo). There were, however, over 300 dwellings - chalets, villas, cottages. This was somewhere which grew because of summer holiday homes, most of them owned by Mallorcans, though there was also some foreign ownership: I know a German family whose chalet dates from that time. And there were other Germans.

The duck swim was therefore the highlight of the holidays in August. It is why it still is a highlight, because of all the families who have continued to summer in Can Picafort. The ducks are now plastic, but the tradition remains in the resort that takes its name from a nickname.

* The image is of the famous poster for the 2008 fiestas. The boy wearing the Power Rangers' mask was an acknowledgement of those who had released real ducks the year before, which was the first year that ducks were prohibited. They had worn Power Rangers' masks.

Monday, August 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 August 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 17.9C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 15 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 16 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 17 August - Sun, 32C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3 increasing 4 around midday.

A fine morning and a fine day to come.

Evening update (19.45): High of 31.3C.

The Rentals' Panic

Panic. This might be one way of describing it. Despite the provisions of the holiday rentals' legislation having been known about for weeks in advance of the law's enforcement, only now is the reality kicking in.

An alternative position is that things will calm down and the government won't act in as draconian fashion as it appears to be. This attitude is wishful thinking. The Aptur holiday rentals association is under no illusion. Remove ads for short-term apartment rentals on various websites immediately. Don't even think twice.

Puerto Pollensa, as we all know, stands to be greatly affected. But so also do Alcudia and the other bay resorts. Consequently, there is a great deal of chatter on social networks dedicated to the different resorts. And some of it is highly misleading, while the "keep calm, it'll sort itself out" message only clouds the situation. Listen to Aptur, it is an association which knows exactly what it is talking about. Follow its advice; no one else's.

I'm afraid that the misleading content persists in, for example, saying that an owner will be ok if an apartment has a licence. How many more times does it need saying? There is no such thing as a licence to rent out a private apartment to tourists. There never has been and the chances of there being licences in the future are, in my opinion, fairly low.

Once the zones for new holiday rentals are determined, my guess is that there will be only a limited number of licences available for the coastal areas of the two bays. Although it hasn't stated this, the government (and Council of Mallorca) will prefer to have zones for licences away from the coasts and thereby give a boost to tourism in the island's interior. It can't state this as specific policy in law, because if it did, it would run into the same problem that emerged in the Canary Islands. The regulations there were that rentals could only be licensed a certain distance from the coasts. A court told the Canarian government that it couldn't apply this because it was a breach of competition.

So there is, I'm afraid, a great deal of uncertainty as well as panic. Meanwhile, there is evidence of one-time holiday rental apartments being re-marketed as long-term rental, which is and always has been perfectly legitimate. There is talk of apartments being offered for a minimum of a month only. This gets round the 30 days minimum period in the legislation, though how practical it might prove to be is debatable. Moreover, even with a month-long minimum rent, an apartment still couldn't be openly marketed as being "touristic". Only if a licence is issued at the end of the current twelve-month moratorium for all new holiday rentals' licences would it be possible to market the apartment in this way. And much, indeed everything, will depend on the Council's zones, which is before one gets to issues such as standards required by the tourism ministry, individual meters, communities' rights of veto, licences of only five years duration that presumably would have to go through a process of renewal. Plus, there will be the cost to register an accommodation place - 2000 euros, it would seem.

I understand that some agencies are considering taking enquiries from known customers. They would then act as intermediaries with the property-owning clients. Nothing would be advertised, but the short-term renting would continue, until, that is, the inspectors find out.

A black market would therefore flourish (if flourish is the right word). Lets wouldn't have to rely on sites like Airbnb because of portfolios of clients that have been built up. It would be a risk, but one that some may wish to take. Let's hope they don't get dobbed in by a neighbour.

The notion that many of the short-term lets will become long-term rentals is not one that "experts" in the real-estate market subscribe to. Yes, there will be some, and there already are, but one can appreciate the logic that there wouldn't be a whole load: apartments were bought for holiday let purposes. These experts believe that the main options will either be the black market or selling. A sudden flood of apartments on the market? You can probably guess what that might mean for prices.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 August 2017

Morning high (7.13am): 18.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 14 August - Sun, 30C; 15 August - Sun, cloud, 31C; 16 August - Sun, cloud, 32C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 increasing Northeast 3 during the morning.

Clear morning sky. Should be a mostly cloudless day.

Evening update (20.15): Very nice. High of 30C.

Pin The Tail On The Tourist

Esporles. What do we know of the place? It is home to La Granja, it has a sweets fair every October and Mick of the Council was its mayor for ten years. Since ascending to the presidential throne at the Council, Mick and his cultural vice-presidential compadre Frank (Miralles) have been bigging up the island's fiestas. They are a means for tourists to get to know the real Mallorca, the authentic Mallorca. Not, therefore, the Mallorca with roads with all-summer-long jams, with every last piece of the streets of old Palma crammed with visitors, with locals ejected from their dwellings by Airbnb, with youthful tourists leaving trails of vomit between Magalluf and Playa de Palma. No, this is the authentic Mallorca with tranquil village squares cooled by Tramuntana breezes and where visitors can engage in cultural exchange with the locals and discover the limitless joys of bread with oil and tomato and of ball de bot, little-jumping folk dancers.

Esporles does have tourists. Not huge numbers but numbers nonetheless. They are swelled by cyclists overrunning the tranquil squares in springtime and excursion trips to La Granja. The right sort of place, in general though, for the Mick'n'Frank vision of touristic cultural harmony and appreciation of the rich and long history of the Island of Calm to flourish. However.

There are two bits to Esporles: the old bit and the new bit. The latter of these, Vilanova, has had its fiestas. Jolly little affairs, they will be more of an occasion for the indigenous population of the new bit than for outsiders. Which may be as well. Each year, the fiestas use a mascot for promotion. This mascot is the Boc, a goat. The poster took the word Boc and came up with "OverBOCking". How clever. Then there was a game to be played. Was this in the style of the "jocs tradicionals" that feature so heavily in village fiestas and can allow visitors to understand the traditions of jewel races and spinning tops? Well, it depends what you mean by tradition. There is a new tradition. A new craze. Everyone seems to be playing it. And so in the new bit there was "hunt the guiri".

The guiri of the poster didn't, it has to be said, look like a typical tourist. Certainly not one along Punta Ballena. He was an Inspector Poirot type of character carrying a rolled-up beach umbrella (not that you really need a beach umbrella in Esporles). Anyway, if the guiris could be hunted down, there would be a free supper for the winner. Goodness, they know how to make their own fun in the new bit.

No, it wasn't xenophobic, which had been a criticism. It was all a spot of humour with an ironic touch, said the organising committee, that took "massification" and holiday rentals as its themes. And humorous it no doubt was. Absolutely no offence was meant or indeed caused. It was all just a variation on a "joc tradicional" that isn't necessarily one here in Mallorca. Pin the tail on the donkey, with a tourist as the substitute. Mick'n'Frank, as far as one is aware, haven't commented.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 August 2017

Morning high (6.55am): 19.8C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 13 August - Sun, 29C; 14 August - Sun, 30C; 15 August - Sun, cloud, 32C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 3 to 4. Swells of between one and two metres.

Some cloud around first thing and may be about during the day. Decent enough, though.

Evening update (20.45): High of 29.2C. Cloud, then sun, then cloud ...

Candida Of Llucmajor

In terms of land area Llucmajor is Mallorca's largest municipality. Given its size, you might think it would be responsible for one of the island's grander fiestas. But Santa Candida tends to get a bit lost amidst Moors and Christians roaring around the north of Mallorca and the mid-August bangs and wallops for Sant Roc and the Mare de Déu d'Agost. In fact, it is said that Santa Candida is a somewhat solemn affair, which isn't entirely accurate. It has its night parties like other fiestas, but it is true that the religious aspect does carry rather greater weight than others.

This is due to Santa Candida herself, about whom there is - not untypically for saints - a spot of confusion. Being an August fiesta, this isn't one for Santa Candida María de Jesús, whose feast day is tomorrow. That Candida is a modern saint, who died on 9 August 1912 and was canonised in 2010. The Llucmajor Candida is very much older and her story is, in some ways, similar to that of the patron of neighbouring Palma, for whom there are altogether more riotous fiestas in January.

Palma's Sant Sebastià was, like many other saints, a victim of the Emperor Diocletian, whose contribution to Christian genocide outstripped more or less all the other pre-Christian emperors. Candida similarly fell foul of Diocletian. Also like Sebastian, there is a saintly relic, more than the one in fact. While Sebastian's bone supposedly brought about an end to the plague in Palma, Candida's relics are not known for having had any notably miraculous powers.

Three hundred years ago, on the day of Sant Bartomeu (Bartholomew), i.e. 24 August in 1717, the succentor of Palma Cathedral, one Josep Cardell, brought from Rome what were apparently relics of Candida. Well, there were those around who were prepared to authenticate them. Two days later, they were donated to the parish of Llucmajor, Sant Miquel (after the the archangel Saint Michael). Candida was thus installed, along with her relics, as the town's co-patron; Miquel is the other, and the original primitive church named after him dates back to 1235.

So the story goes, Candida was married to Arteme (or Artemis). He was a jailer in Rome. The couple had a daughter, Paulina, who was apparently possessed by demons. An exorcist, called Peter, was called in. His main advice to Artemis was to worship Christ as God. This would help to drive out the devil in Paulina. And this, more or less, is what is meant to have happened. Paulina, no longer possessed, joined her parents in converting to Christianity, an act that was to seal their fate.

A magistrate, acting under persecutory imperial orders, demanded that Artemis hand over a whole load of prisoners who had converted to Christianity and had been allowed to escape. Artemis didn't. Which was just one mistake, where the magistrate was concerned. And he, the magistrate, was doubly infuriated by the fact that Peter avoided an awful fate thanks to an angel who freed him. Artemis was beheaded. Candida and Paulina were thrown into a dry well and buried alive because of heavy stones placed over the well.

This jolly tale is therefore the background to Candida's relics, to her having attained co-patronage status in Llucmajor and to the fiestas. And the fiestas shouldn't actually take place in August. Candida's day is in fact 6 June. So, what prompted the fiestas to be allocated to around the second Sunday of August? Farming is the answer, and Llucmajor even now, courtesy of its grand land area, is highly agricultural, even if it is more known for accommodating part of the resort of Arenal and the headquarters of Air Europa.

The second Sunday of August was (is) between some crucial harvests, e.g. apricots and almonds. It is not the only fiesta for which the date was governed by agricultural activity. For example, Santa Margalida's La Beata (Santa Catalina Thomàs) being on the first Sunday of September owes a great deal to historical local farming activity.

Tomorrow, Sunday (13 August), is therefore the big day for Candida. But it won't be riotous. There will be giants, there will be pipers, there will be ball de bot. And there will also be the dances of the cavallets cotoners. As a tradition, these dancers faded away before being revived in 2000. They are in fact one of the very oldest of Mallorca's folk-dance traditions: Llucmajor's cavallets rival Arta's and Palma's in this regard. They were a Franciscan import from Barcelona in the mid-fifteenth century, and their name is derived from the Guild of Cottonmakers in Barcelona, to which ownership of that city's cavallets was ceded in 1437.

Santa Candida - fairly solemn but not overly, and certainly highly traditional.

* Photo of the cavallets cotoners from Viquipèdia.