Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Square Names: Spain and Franco

When, do you imagine, will the nationalist (Mallorcan) left in Palma present the motion for a decree to change the name of Plaça Espanya? There wouldn't be anything so mad as altering it officially to Plaza España (which officially it used to be), for clear reasons of politico-linguistic correctness, or Anglicising it as Spain Square (which would be utterly ridiculous). Rather, there would be an entirely different name. Anyone care to offer some alternatives? Perhaps there should be a referendum, otherwise known in Palma-land as a citizens' consultation.

One possibility might be Plaça Més in recognition of all things Mallorcan nationalist. Or how about pre-empting the elevation of the mayor-in-waiting to the rank of mayor next year? Rename it Plaça Antoni Noguera, the deputy mayor who models cities, or one in particular. While they're at it, just rename Palma, but for God's sake leave off the "de Mallorca": Antoni Noguera, the new capital of Mallorca, named in his own image.

Why might they even consider a renaming of the square? The clue, quite clearly, is in the current name. Espanya (aka España): Spain, a concept of nationalism at variance with the one promoted by Més. Think they might not? Well think again. The Més brethren in Sencelles have succeeded in getting the town's Spain square converted to, erm, the Town square, Plaça de la Vila.

Sencelles isn't of course Palma. It is a rural backwater known principally for its wine and for the youth of the municipality haring around the streets on old Mobylettes while being hosed down with water (drought, what drought?) and then rolling two giant bales of hay into the square (Espanya or otherwise) before proceeding to throw the hay at each other. But notwithstanding its comparative inconsequence in the scheme of Mallorcan things (everywhere is inconsequential compared with Palma), Sencelles may act as the spur for Palma to follow the lead of somewhere in the sticks rather than presuming that it must always lead others.

For Palma, for Més and for its republican tendencies, there is an additional justification. Més in Sencelles weren't simply objecting to Spain being the name of the square, there was also the fact that it was "Francoist denomination". And in this regard, Més were absolutely correct. The Spain name was applied following the Civil War, so the renaming is a case of going back to how things were. Few people actually call it Plaça Espanya in any event.

A similar situation applies to Palma's Plaça Espanya. Once upon a time, certainly from the seventeenth century, an area was known as the Plaça de la Porta Pintada in reference to the gate in the mediaeval walls through which it is said that King Jaume I entered in his conquest of 1229. The square was for a time also known as Joanot Colom. He was one of the leaders of the sixteenth-century Germanies uprising that was eventually put down by Carlos V, the Holy Roman Emperor. Colom was beheaded, drawn and quartered, and Porta Pintada was one of the locations for his remains to be put on show. This name endured for a couple of decades before it became Eusebi Estada, who was the chap mainly responsible for building Mallorca's railway. A further couple of decades on, and along came Franco.

In 1990, the Castellano Plaza España was officially dropped in favour of the Catalan. Around the same time, the name Plaça de la Porta Pintada was restored, but it refers only to a part by Olms street.

Going back in time, the historical legacy of the smaller square might suggest that the whole of Plaça Espanya should revert to its seventeenth-century name. Moreover, and apart from direct nationalist sentiments, there is also the fact of the statue of Jaume I and so the link to the days of the conquest and the tale of the Porta Pintada. However, given a desire for historical accuracy, Porta Pintada cannot claim to be the whole square, as it didn't used to occupy the area it now does.

Might there be a change of name? In Sencelles it probably doesn't cause too many issues, but in Palma it would do. Plaça Espanya is very well known and referenced. But as has been seen with the Feixina monument and the intention to demolish it, the current town hall is not averse to seeking to eliminate Francoist symbolism.

There are of course plenty of other Spain squares knocking around. Inca has one, for instance. As it also has a calle Héroes del Baleares, a reference to the same circumstances surrounding the monument. Més have been calling for it to be done away with for years. The street has another name, La Balanguera (the Mallorcan hymn), but the very fact that there are two names creates confusion.

Change the name of Plaça Espanya? Well maybe, but the confusion would be immense.

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