Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Different World: Mallorca's north-south divide

North, south, east or west. Wherever you may live in Mallorca, you will have a view as to where the place you live fits within the general scheme of things. My apologies, by the way, if you live in the middle, but for the purposes of the following, I'm afraid I will need to exclude you. But don't feel put down, because you are not alone. And if you don't live in Mallorca, you will still appreciate that location on the four main points of the compass can have meaning.

You may live in London, or you once used to; London and the south that have been damned for always being the focus of attention. It's the media that's to blame. Usually. But it has always been thus. Greater density of population, the capital city and the financial centre. And for England, read also Mallorca and Palma.

One needs to define what is meant by the south of Mallorca. In purely geographical terms, "the south" isn't strictly accurate. The dominance of what is referred to as the Palma-Calvia axis lies to the south-west, but let's ignore such pedantry.

The dominance is all but total. Everything revolves around the south and Palma in particular. You can judge for yourselves how the hierarchy works beneath Palma. It probably goes, in descending order, something like: Calvia, Manacor, Inca (and see, if you are in the centre, you aren't neglected), Llucmajor, Marratxi, and then it's anyone's guess. If you are unfortunate enough to live right out on the east coast, you will know that, for all intents and purposes, you don't exist.

The hierarchy reflects the degree of attention afforded different parts of Mallorca. It really shouldn't come as much of a surprise that certain places receive less, far less or even no attention. If no one much lives in these places, if nothing much happens, then what can you expect?

Nevertheless, there are genuine antagonisms, and none more so than the north-south divide. Well, the antagonism is felt by those in the north; I would very much doubt that it is reciprocated. And it is an antagonism that crosses nationalities. The natives are as disaffected by Palma-centricity, far more so in fact, as are incomers from other countries.

I'll give an example that is not unrepresentative. The lady in my local newsagents in Playa de Muro lives in Alcúdia. Why, she wanted to know, was there no coverage of the Ironman triathlon in Alcúdia at the weekend. It was an international event which attracted some two thousand athletes. The newspapers, the television; they didn't cover it. Had it taken place in Palma, it would have been a different story. I wasn't inclined to disagree with her.

The triathlon may not, compared with other international sporting events, register that highly, but for Alcúdia, and for Mallorca, it was a pretty important event. To be fair, it wasn't totally ignored. There was mention in sports pages, which is where you might expect it to be mentioned, but the point the lady in the newsagents was making was that there would have been considerably more hullabaloo if Palma (or Calvia) had staged the event.

So why the apparent neglect? The charitable defence of the media is that it is all a resourcing issue, and let's not forget that there are elections looming, with all the coverage they require. Less charitably, one can perceive this as being indicative of a Palma-centric arrogance, aloofness and disinterest in anything outside Palma's boundaries or those of its westerly neighbour.

It isn't only in media circles that the divide exists. It is there in politics as well. For all the publicity given to corruption scandals, they don't have much influence on towns well away from the dominant south. Miguel Llompart, Alcúdia's mayor and likely to still be its mayor after 22 May despite his association with the discredited Unió Mallorquina, once told me that the scandals were all a Palma thing. They were largely irrelevant to what happened within the town.

And you can understand this, because, and it is the same anywhere, people identify most closely with their own communities. Alcúdia, and you can name any number of places in Mallorca, could be in another world compared with Palma. And as far as Palma is concerned, it is in another world.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

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