Friday, September 02, 2016

A New Fair In Town

There's a new fair today. It's in Inca, a town known for its autumn fairs, for the daddy of all Mallorca's fairs - Dijous Bo - and for the revived Dijous Gros of early May. It's a town also known for its market, the Thursday market especially. Inca would like to be more firmly on the tourist map, but it struggles to find a place. For most tourists, the Thursday market is the only touristic game in this town of leather and footwear - there's a museum dedicated to both, to which no one much goes. Otherwise, it's off the beaten motorway heading towards Alcudia or in the other direction to Palma. It's easily bypassed.

Next weekend, Inca will be where most of the pilgrims undertaking the "part forana" walk to Lluc arrive prior to setting off on the pilgrimage at four in the morning. Proximity to the mountains as opposed to being in the mountains makes the town the start point, a place to be left. In tourism terms, the walk means little or nothing. There's no real reason why it should. It is after all, and as the name suggests, a walk for the part forana, for people in the sticks of Mallorca; no one else.

Dijous Bo is a fair which, on account of its mediaeval antiquity and sheer scale, attracts attention like no other (in Mallorca, that is). November doesn't perhaps help, but when has it ever been a tourist attraction? Is there any real reason why it should be? It's more like a massive social gathering on which all quarters of the island descend in order to admire pigs in pens and canaries in cages. A massive gathering, it's a massive market, more massive than the normal massive market of a Thursday, one which itself has received its share of criticism for the sameyness of its stalls and the proliferation of exotic tat.

To counteract this criticism, efforts have been made to promote the wares of the artisan class. Mallorca has become an island nation of potters and purveyors of home-made chutneys/jams with indigenous (or other) ingredients plucked from the island land. The artisan has his or her place at all fairs, markets or fiestas (they can overlap and be indistinguishable). He or she is ubiquitous as are the mainstays of local gastronomy. The new Inca Friday fair will have both. Fried sobrassada in a llonguet loaf will be topping the culinary bill. Add mustard or ketchup and it could be like a German or British hot-dog, except of course that it is artisan and thus charcuterie apart.

Mayor Virgilio Moreno says that the fair is all about providing an additional element to the summer programme in the town. Dubbed "Divendres a la fresca", its combination of artisan craft and tapas is to be an annual occasion going under this name, a late summer add-on to feature on the same calendar as the spring and autumn Dijous of Gros and Bo. If you - be you resident or tourist - were unaware of today's fair, you are now aware. I've done my bit in promoting it. What has the town hall done?

Inca is a prime example of seeking to acquire an "alternative" tourist but of not seeming to know how to go about it and of not appearing to know if it really wants it or not. It's not as though there haven't been ambitions. Most certainly not. But some ambitions can be over-ambitious. The footwear industry, it has been reckoned, offers an opportunity to attract Japanese tourists, as the Japanese love footwear (this was Inca speaking, not me). There is more than just one problem with this, and you don't need me to tell you what. Suffice to say Inca is unlikely to become akin to Brontë Country with signage in Japanese. 

The sad thing is that today's fair is part of what is a highly vibrant summer programme in the town. Jazz, classics, all manner of events at the showground at the General Luque Quarter (there's more ubiquity there on Sunday - a Holi colours festival). Inca has a lot going for it, but who ever truly finds out about it? What real incentive is there to go, when the resorts offer their entertainment and restaurants?

Inca, although not central to the island's tourism, does rather sum up a general impression of treatment of fairs and fiestas. Who are they for? What does Mallorca want from them? Who knows about them? Sure, there are the well-known events, but there are a hell of lot of others for every Moors and Christians battle.

This is all in sharp contrast to what has just happened in Valencia. The "Tomatina" of Buñol is, says the mayor, the most international fiesta in Spain, with 60% of participants coming from overseas, including Japan. Buñol knows what it wants from its fiesta. In Mallorca ... ?

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