Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hidden Identities: Spanish or Mallorcan?

Let's imagine that you are minding your own business, walking down the street and some chap with a clipboard accosts you and starts asking you with what you identify; your country or island, that is. Were this to happen in Mallorca, you would, and I assume for a moment that you are English, reply in song, "England till I die", and then probably nut the interviewer. Were, though, you unable to opt for England or any other part of the British Isles, but had to select Mallorca or Spain or even the Balearics, what would be your reply?

Well, imagination is all fine and dandy, but chances are that you wouldn't be asked. Unlike 900 Balearic sorts. The research organisation Gadeso has been asking them whether they feel more Spanish, more Mallorcan (or Menorcan, Ibizan or Formenteran) or more Balearic. And what do they feel? For the most part, they are neither one thing nor the other. They are split personalities, as Spanish as they are Balearic. 55% of them. But of those who are one thing or the other, roughly equal numbers consider themselves more Spanish or more Balearic, while equal numbers (7%) believe they are either only Spanish or only Balearic.

There we are then. The islands mainly comprise people who, on given the compromise option, opt for it. Spanish and Balearic in equal measure. It's the don't know answer for those who probably normally never give the question a moment's thought. Gadeso is a worthy body, but this research is somewhat spurious. Or is it?

Not completely. Gadeso argues that an increase in those who feel more Spanish than the last time such research was conducted can be explained by dissatisfaction with government in the Balearics. Possibly. It could also be that they are just asking different people.

The more interesting stuff, though, lies in the detail behind the general findings. On first reading the report of this research, my own reaction was to question the degree to which local people associate themselves with the islands of the archipelago as a whole, the Balearics, or with an individual island. I cannot ever recall a Mallorcan referring even vaguely to the Balearics in terms of the islands being his or her homeland. To Mallorca, yes, but not the Balearics. The research bears this out. Around two-thirds of Mallorcans identify with Mallorca and not the Balearics; the numbers are higher in the other islands.

Is this either surprising or important? No, it isn't surprising, but, yes, it is important. Important because regional government is Balearic, because autonomy is that of the Balearics and because much impulse for positioning and promotion is Balearic, even that of tourism promotion. Just as the tourist thinks only of the individual islands, so too do the people of the individual islands. The Balearics are a geographical convenience, rather than a cohesive political, social or touristic unit.

The finding is also important because, if there genuinely is a desire for greater autonomy or indeed independence, then it is not the Balearics which are inspiring this desire; it is the islands themselves. But even here, the sympathy is skewed significantly. Of the four main political parties or groupings at the 2007 local elections, only those who voted for the left-wing Bloc (the Mallorcan socialist party and others) have a strong Balearics-only identity. This, though, is diluted when Balearic and island identity is asked about. Across the four parties - Bloc, Partido Popular, PSOE socialists and the now ex-Unió Mallorquina - identity is overwhelmingly with the island and not the Balearics.

Any drive towards independence and an association with another vague political and social construct, the "Catalan lands", is exposed as having virtually no ground swell of identity. A whole 2% of Bloc voters place a Catalan identity above a Balearic or island identity. The percentages are zero for the other parties. This will make uneasy reading for the likes of the Obra Cultural Balear and others on the independence wing who seem to believe that there is mileage in independence and a confederation of Catalan states. They may believe it, but the public may beg to differ.

Taking the findings as a whole, the case for greater autonomy or independence would seem, on the basis of personal identity at any rate, to have only a minority public support. Almost 80% of the public consider themselves to be either as Spanish as they are Balearic, more Spanish or Spanish alone. Another angle on this, and it should be something that the Partido Popular with its potentially dangerous tendency towards greater "Spanishness" should take note of, is that only a quarter of its supporters feel that they are more Spanish than Balearic and that only 10% feel more Spanish alone. They are not the majority, therefore.

What the findings also show is a confirmation of what has historically been the case. That the people of Mallorca and the islands are generally middle of the road and conservative with a small "c". It's a message that may not please the promoters of independence and it may contradict a growing sense of radicalism, but it is a message that is probably accurate.

Any comments to please.

Index for March 2011
Airport workers strike - 7 March 2011
Baltasar Garzón - 26 March 2011
Bars to close in smoking-ban protest - 9 March 2011
British, what Mallorcans think of the - 30 March 2011
Carlos Delgado: ambitions for office - 20 March 2011
Convergència per les Illes Balears - 6 March 2011
Cycling tourism - 8 March 2011
Earthquakes - 19 March 2011
Film in Mallorca - 21 March 2011
GESA building - 1 March 2011
Historic tourism season in 2011 - 23 March 2011
Identity, Mallorca v. Spanish - 31 March 2011
Infrastructure, expensive - 22 March 2011
Innovation and development - 25 March 2011
Insults, Balearics parliament and political - 17 March 2011
Magaluf death of a tourist - 29 March 2011
Mallorca Rocks - 16 March 2011
María Salom and the Council of Mallorca - 13 March 2011
Menorca: all-inclusives and restaurant offers - 28 March 2011
Miserable, Spanish the most - 11 March 2011
Oil and petrol prices - 7 March 2011
Partido Popular, corruption and - 6 March 2011
Photography, society and - 15 March 2011
Rain, pollen and dust - 18 March 2011
Ramón Socias - 6 March 2011
Royal wedding and street parties - 27 March 2011
Seasonal workers and expats - 14 March 2011
Sepia fair, Alcúdia's fishermen pull out of - 3 March 2011
Sobrasada - 4 March 2011
Speed limit reduction - 2 March 2011
Sustainable tourism - 24 March 2011
Tourism minister, President Antich and - 12 March 2011
Trains and public transport - 10 March 2011
"Wetten, dass ...?" broadcast from Palma - 5 March 2011

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