Monday, May 12, 2014

The Man Who Made Palmanova

Over the past few days I have been devoting time - a fair amount of it - to writing features for the summer supplement to be published by the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" next month. One of these features deals with the founding of Palmanova, a place that didn't exist, or not by that name at any rate, until the 1930s. You will have to wait for the supplement to come out to find out about Palmanova, but in the meantime, there is a story to be told about the person who was responsible for its creation.

I knew the name but I didn't really know a great deal about Llorenç Roses Bermejo until I started to dig into Palmanova's history. His should perhaps be a story of triumph, that of the man who built a tourist resort, but it isn't. It is one of tragedy. This is something of that story and its gut-wrenching conclusion.

Llorenç wasn't from Calvia. He was from Sóller, though he had in fact been born in Puerto Rico in 1895. His Mallorcan father had been mayor of Arecibo on that island. In 1898, United States forces having invaded Puerto Rico, the island was ceded by Spain to the US under the Treaty of Paris. The family returned to Sóller a year later, and Llorenç was himself to go on to become a mayor - that of Sóller, albeit for a brief period in 1931. Otherwise, Llorenç was something of a property developer, which was how he came to be involved with Palmanova.

1930s Mallorca was a time when a form of tourism infrastructure was being developed, but it was being done so against the background of the Second Republic, gathering turmoil and eventually the Civil War, which brought that infrastructure development to a halt. For some who were involved in that development, it was largely a case of putting on hold their plans until circumstances were more favourable. For Llorenç, however, there was to be no such opportunity.

His brother-in-law was Emili Darder, the mayor of Palma and one of the leading figures in the Republican movement in Mallorca. Llorenç was also a Republican and he joined the Esquerra Republicana Balear (the Balearic Republican Left) when two other parties merged to form it in 1934. It might have seemed odd that businesspeople would support a left-wing party but actually it wasn't so odd. Another member of the party was Antoni Ques Ventayol, an Alcúdia-born businessman who was a shareholder in the Trasmediterránea shipping company, which had been founded by Joan March (later Franco's banker). Ques had also been a member of the Liberal Party in Mallorca, of which March was the leader.

Left-wing or not, for elements of the business class - the bourgeoisie - Republicanism presented an alternative to royalist, aristocratic and conservative dominance. The aristocrats of Mallorca, the principal landowners, were under some pressure by the 1920s. Though a dictator came along, i.e. Primo de Rivera (himself an aristocrat), economic circumstances were not great. Aristocratic landowners faced financial problems, exacerbated by the Great Depression, and then, from 1931, the awful reality of Republicanism.

The reason why Llorenç came to create Palmanova was that he had bought land from an aristocratic family. Selling to a member of the bourgeoisie, even if it were through necessity, represented a loss of face. There were many among the aristocracy who came to resent the wealthy middle-class, and only partly because some of it had Republican sympathies.

After the Civil War broke out in July of 1936, Llorenç was arrested. On the first of October he was sentenced to thirty years' imprisonment, accused, it would seem, of having done no more than voice his opposition to the declaration of a state of war in the Balearics by the Nationalist military commander, Manuel Goded, on 19 July. But there was more to come. He was interrogated further and he began to realise what would happen. On 19 November he was executed.

There is ample evidence which indicates that the Civil War created an environment for revenge. Llorenç was a Republican but he was also a member of the bourgeois middle-class. His trial was a farce. Accusations were made which lacked consistency and which couldn't be justified. He was a victim of bloody reprisal against his class.

Before he was executed, Llorenç wrote a final letter to his wife Dolores. I reproduce some of it:

"Forgive me for what I have made you suffer... Look after my father well. Love him so much and comfort him for the loss of his son... Enjoy everything you can in life. Make life wonderful for the children and for father. I love you and I will die thinking of you and our children. Ask dad to forgive me and my children to forgive my enemies... Teach the children, take care of dad and live long for the children and to pray for your husband... Goodbye my darling wife... My last kiss and goodbye... Llorenç, October 1936."

* Footnote:
Emili Darder and Antoni Ques Ventayol were both executed by firing-squad on 24 February, 1937.
Manuel Goded, having issued the declaration of state of war in the Balearics, flew to Barcelona by seaplane in order to foment insurgency against the Popular Front government. He was arrested on the same day (19 July) and was shot by firing-squad on 12 August.


Anonymous said...

Llorenc bought the lands of Ses Planes of Son Caliu de Pel from the family Truyols and Villalonga, who also owned the lands of what is now known as Son Vida. The land stretched from where Son Caliu is now, as far as the now Hotel Cala Blanca. He started his company Palma Nova S.A and thence changed the name of the area to Palma Nova, (separate words). The man who developed Palma Nova actually was his son Jose (Pepe), who built the port, the Palma Nova church (of Sant Llorenc after his father), and the first houses and hotels during the sixties.

andrew said...

Thanks, Confirms what I have written elsewhere.