Palma has a new illustrious son. He is posthumously so, which is the case with many who have had illustriousness bestowed upon them. He was shot in 1937. His name was and is Alexandre Jaume i Rosselló, a one-time journalist and Palma councillor. A current councillor, Susanna Moll, said of him at the ceremony on New Year's Eve that he died because they (Franco's Nationalists) were afraid of him and wished to silence him. "However, the opposite has happened. Memory, justice and reparation is what we are giving in proclaiming him an illustrious son of the city."
Alongside Jaume in the cemetery in Palma on 24 February, 1937 was Emili Darder, the Republican mayor whose name is better known for having been a victim of the multiple execution that took place on that day. Eighty years on, and the Balearic parliament looks set to pass its new law for democratic memory to coincide with the executions. The eightieth anniversaries are clocking up. Last year it was the start of the Civil War. No one was celebrating. Instead they were looking for restoration. Of memory. The graves' act was passed just days before the date eighty years previously when the war had started.
The use of "memory" has greater relevance than simply remembering. What we are witnessing is a deepening of the resolve that the national government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero had initiated. The historical memory law and the current initiatives (with the Balearics very much to the fore) seek to reverse the years of amnesia. Some will question the sense of raking up the past and indeed digging it up where the exhumations are concerned. Others will say that it is long overdue.
Perhaps everyone should pause and reflect on some of the present madness descending on Europe at present. If they do, then they will surely appreciate the value in this restoration. The past should not be forgotten. Spain, despite its political uncertainties and years of austerity and crisis, is showing itself to be generally tolerant. It is understanding its past: the far right do not have a voice in this land.
Jaume joins a long list of illustrious sons and daughters in Palma. Darder is one of them, but it isn't a list devoted only to Republicans. There are monarchs, such as the four Jaumes from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Ferdinand VII, Isabel II and Alfonso XIII.
Quite obviously none of the latter were supporters of Republicanism, while each has a history, regardless of monarchy, not in tune with current-day Palma political thinking: Ferdinand was mad, an absolutist and a traitor to liberalism; Isabel, Ferdinand's daughter, was overthrown during the Glorious Revolution, which ushered in the shortlived First Republic; Alfonso, her grandson, went into exile at the end of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship and at the start of the Second Republic.
Each, moreover, was a Bourbon, and the very mention of the name has Republicans and Catalanists reaching for the nearest lighter. "Revolutionary" elements, i.e. the youth organisation Arran, were responsible to setting fire to a picture of King Felipe on the evening of 30 December, when there normally always is trouble in Palma.
The illustrious ones from the past can therefore cause a bit of an issue in the present, and it isn't necessary for them to have been Bourbon monarchs. They can include, for instance, bankers or smugglers or spies, or all three in the case of Joan March Ordinas. His portrait is missing from a collection devoted to Santa Margalida's illustrious sons and it is unlikely to appear because, apart from the fact that he is generally reviled, no portrait was done. Indeed, it was only some three years ago that a discovery was made in the municipal archives which showed that March had been made an illustrious son in 1956.
The town has been wondering ever since if it can withdraw the recognition. It seems that it was kept quiet because it had been an attempt by the town hall to persuade March to part with some money to pay for buildings; March wasn't prepared to. When the discovery was made, the then mayor, Toni Reus, ordered a review of the town's illustrious sons. In his words: "We don't know how many illustrious sons Santa Margalida has."
And the town still doesn't. The new mayor, Joan Monjo, is asking for another review. There are portraits of people who seemingly were never officially named illustrious sons, while March is one of three whose portraits don't appear. Another is Miquel Ordinas Santandreu, March's secretary, who was declared an illustrious son in 1922. This was on account of benefits (buildings) for which he had been responsible. Unfortunately, these benefits would now be liable to court proceedings because of a trafficking of influence.
Which just goes to suggest that some illustrious sons of Mallorca's towns might be better recognised as infamous sons.