Monday, April 04, 2016

Paradise Enjoys A Boom

Much can be said and has been said about paradise - the Mallorcan one, that is - and paradise, as the title of this article suggests, is enjoying a boom. Again. It has enjoyed various booms at various times in the past, but each one brings with it some questions, some doubts. The current boom in paradise is accompanied by fears of overcrowding, of shortages of accommodation, of gridlock on access roads to beaches. Paradise is never totally without blemish.

This paradise, as far as foreigners were concerned, only genuinely began to be discovered in the early years of the last century. Those who arrived tended to congregate together. They made the then suburb of El Terreno in Palma one of their main enclaves. It was here that the American writer Gertrude Stein lived for a time. And it was Stein who was to immortalise the Mallorcan paradise in the words she said to Robert Graves: "It's paradise, if you can stand it."

Stein's words still seem curious. What did she really mean? It was as though there was a catch to paradise. Or was there? The words are equivocal: they can be interpreted in different ways. But that was Stein for you.

For the most part, the foreigners who came and who were also writers painted word pictures of this Mediterranean paradise in paradisal terms. There weren't among them the criticisms that George Sand had made. And besides, Sand had come to Mallorca decades before. Her Mallorca was that of the late 1830s, not of the first years of the twentieth century.

The foreign writers came for different reasons. Some wrote guide books, others wrote stories. There were also journalists, introducing Mallorca to a world that was almost totally ignorant of the island. Among them were Americans, writing for an audience that knew very little about Europe let alone an island in the Mediterranean.

These writers and indeed other foreign residents (mainly British, French and also American) began to colonise other parts of Mallorca, and none more so than Puerto Pollensa. Some time in the future I hope to be able to explain quite why there was the foreign community in Puerto Pollensa, as it's a story - as far as I'm aware - that hasn't ever been explained. The painters we know about, but they were typically from Mexico and South America or from Catalonia. Of the British and Americans, we know very little, other than about the famed visitors, such as Agatha Christie, rather than residents.

Spain held a particular fascination for the Americans, and Ernest Hemingway was the clearest example of a writer who explored the culture of the country. In something of the mould of Hemingway was an American journalist who came to Puerto Pollensa in 1932. He would file copy for US publications and he also wrote for "The Daily Palma Post". His name was Theodore Pratt, Ted Pratt.

I have asked around, though getting an answer is, as might be expected, proving difficult. Are there any recollections of Ted Pratt? Where, my curiosity makes me wonder, did he live? It was in a cottage in Puerto Pollensa. That much is for sure. But which one? Maybe it isn't there any more. The cottage, however, is important to the Ted Pratt story. In 1933, the cottage was besieged by angry Mallorcans.

In July of that year, an article appeared in "American Mercury". The author was Ted Pratt. Its title was "Paradise Enjoys A Boom". Pratt was in Mallorca at a time when there was a boom, a tourism boom. The island was discovering tourism in ways that it hadn't previously. New coastal urbanisations were being developed or planned. The British and American residents of Puerto Pollensa were a key market to be added, it was hoped, to a wave of golf tourists for the island's first ever golf course in Puerto Alcudia, which was created in 1934. By that time, Ted Pratt had gone.

Pratt's article was utterly vicious. There were some things he liked and admired, such as the local brandy, mushrooms and handicraft - embroideries in particular. Otherwise, and he had lived in Puerto Pollensa for a year when he wrote the article, he attacked the people, the food, the wine, the mountains: you name it, Ted had it in for it.

He might have thought that no one in Mallorca would read the article. Well, they did. In translation. "Ultima Hora" got hold of it, and there was outrage. Ted Pratt and his wife were forced to leave Puerto Pollensa. They took refuge in Palma but were then "advised" to get off the island. He had chosen to attack paradise, and for that he could not be forgiven.

* Photo of Theodore Pratt some years after he was in Mallorca.

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