Sunday, August 07, 2016

Where Common People Go: Lloret

The region known as the plain of Mallorca (Pla de Mallorca) extends from Algaida to the bay of Alcudia. For administrative purposes, the two coastal municipalities - Muro and Santa Margalida - are not part of what is referred to as the "mancomunidad" of the plain. This "commonwealth" of municipalities is the most active of ones that exist in Mallorca, and one of its activities is trying to attract more tourism.

Once upon a time, in the days before mass tourism, the plain was - all things being relative - well populated. The migration to the coasts in search of employment and the dramatic shift away from an agrarian economy changed this. While populations elsewhere have risen markedly by comparison, those of the plain have stood still or even declined.

Ambitions that the mancomunidad has for tourism are based principally on agrotourism and rural hotels, but this is a region where there is more than quiet villages and farming. It is one with echoes of long-ago spirituality, as with the Cura Sanctuary and the Puig de Randa in Algaida, where the thirteenth-century religious philosopher Ramon Llull went to experience an hermitic existence. There is also Petra, the birthplace of Father Junipero Serra, now a saint, the founder of many of California's missionaries. In a more secular sense, there is the one-time palace of the Mallorcan kings in Sineu.

The common interests of the mancomunidad were at variance with its two most northerly members. Despite their own long and rich agricultural traditions, Muro and Santa Margalida with their respective tourism-resort economies found, or thought they did, greater common purpose with other coastal municipalities. Together with Alcudia and Pollensa, they formed a separate mancomunidad, which broke down through lack of interest, or rather because of the specific interests of resort towns to a degree in competition with each other.

Common purpose on the plain might be said to be no more typified than by one of the smallest of the municipalities. Lloret de Vistalegre is at the heart of the mancomunidad. It's not the nominal capital - Sineu is - but it is surrounded by five other municipalities, and one of its principal claims to fame, confirming its place at the heart of the region, is that it is home to the geographic centre of Mallorca. This is in what is called Sa Comuna. Sometimes translated as "commune", it is a common and was for the use of the common man. It still is. As a communal space, it dates to the twelfth century when it formed part of the farm estate of Manresa.

Lloret may be tiny, it may be easily overlooked, but as with many places in Mallorca it has its own complicated past. Manresa gives a clue, as this is what Lloret used to be known as. At the end of the sixteenth century, Manresa was dropped, not in an official way but because the common will determined that it was substituted. The new name was Llorito, and there are plenty who nowadays still refer to this. As ever, there are arguments as to the derivation of this name, but the definitive one has to do with the founding of the convent to Our Lady of Loreto.

The Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto on the Italian east coast contains the house of the Holy Family, which was supposedly and miraculously transported to Loreto at the time of the Crusades. Anyway, this led to the devotion of Our Lady and ultimately to the founding of the convent in what was then Manresa. With the arrival of the convent, Llorito was adopted, though there were different versions, such as Laureto and Lloret. It is argued that Lloret was the original Mallorquín name.

But how did it come to be Vista Alegre as well? Having officially adopted Lloret in 1927, the town hall added this in order to distinguish it from other Llorets. Pretty simple really. Just call it Lloret with a nice view. In 2000, the Vista and Alegre were officially joined and became Vistalegre.

The parish church of the Virgin of Lloret is one of the typically colossal structures that seems out of proportion to the demands of what has never been a large local population. Nevertheless, as with other such churches, it is one for which we should be grateful on account of its splendour. The Virgin is, though, only one patron. The other is Sant Domingo - Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order. He died on 6 August, 1221. It is therefore fiesta time in Lloret, and tonight the demons will be marauding.

The story of Lloret is, above all, one of the common people. Now part of a "commonwealth", it has its famous common, while its name owes everything to the common will.

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