Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Pregón Of Mallorca's Fiestas

At nine o'clock this evening in Puerto Pollensa's church, one Antoni Ordoñez Muñoz will get to his feet (though it's possible that he might remain seated) and tell the gathered audience about his port. The Virgen del Carmen fiestas will officially start and, as is common, the fiestas will be declared open, as it were, by a pregón. This is what Antoni will be delivering: the opening speech, the opening address, the welcome, the oration, the prayer or blessing even for the fiestas.

The pregón can be any of the above. It can have musical accompaniment, it can be done in verse, it can be made with the use of a PowerPoint presentation or it can even be performed as a type of comedy routine. It all depends where the pregón is being delivered and the occasion on which it is being delivered. There is the more solemn pregón for Christmas and Easter, or there is the informative, the political, the satirical, the reflective. It can be and can mean more or less whatever you want it to be or mean. Essentially though, the pregón is normally the event which marks the opening of a town's fiesta programme. But there is flexibility in this regard as well. The pregón isn't always the opening ceremony.

While we might now associate the pregón with fiestas, its origin is quite different. Literal meanings of pregón in English can vary, but the most precise would be a proclamation or a public announcement. The roots of the word lie, not untypically for Spanish, with Latin. The Romans had "praecones", literally heralds. They were messengers, bringers of news. Newspapers in modern or less modern times which took the name herald were giving a nod in the direction of very old history, i.e. the news presenters of old Rome.

The pregonero, the Spanish news presenter of history, was the town crier. The pregonero of the current day is the person like Antoni Ordoñez Muñoz who makes the presentation at fiesta time, though there are pregoneros who have been retained for ceremonial purposes; very much like town criers, therefore.

Getting a handle on when pregoneros first emerged in Mallorca is far from easy. One would assume that they were around in Roman times and they most certainly were around following the arrival of the Catalans in the thirteenth century. There are examples of pregón proclamations from those times, such as one against the "Judaisation" of Mallorca. But as for the historical involvement of pregoneros with the island's fiestas, well it's hard to say. One can again make an assumption, though, that a fiesta pregón may well originally have been the announcement of the entertainment of the mediaeval Mallorcan fiesta. The pregonero, deprived of modern-day design graphics and print techniques, would have been a walking, talking publicity machine, informing the local revellers as to the start time for ye olde beach party and ye olde kiddies' bouncy castle and foam splash fun and games in the market square. 

The current-day fiesta pregón and pregonero are therefore quite different to what they probably once were, but not entirely different. The mediaeval fiestas had their sermons. The current-day version is, in a sense, a combination of the two - the sermon and the announcement/proclamation.

There are some fiesta pregóns which are anticipated more than others, mainly because they are expected to carry some controversy. Palma's fiesta of the standard is a prime example. The pregonero in 2010 was the former president of the Balearics, Cristòfol Soler. He took the opportunity to deliver a pregón which attacked his colleague in the Partido Popular, the current president, José Ramón Bauzá, because of his attitude towards Catalan.

But normally the pregón isn't controversial. As an indication of how varied it can be in its style, there was the one for the 466th edition of Llucmajor's fiestas in 2012. It was a presentation by Bartomeu Font which explored the town's cartography and topography; maps in other words. Other pregóns are similarly used for historical lectures. The pregón for the 2012 fiestas in Son Serra de Marina, as a further example, was delivered by the granddaughter of Joan Massanet Moragues, who had created the first urbanisation of the rather curious village of Son Serra in the early 1950s.

And other pregóns are simple celebrations of a town or a village, which one imagines is what Antoni Ordoñez Muñoz has in store for the people of Puerto Pollensa this evening. There are many others who could deliver a pregón for Puerto Pollensa, and they would be similar. Their port, their beautiful port.

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