Monday, February 26, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 February 2018

Morning high (7.22am): 9.2C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 27 February - Rain, 10C; 28 February - Rain, 17C; 1 March - Sun, cloud, 21C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 4 to 5.

Unremarkable mix of cloud and sunny spells expected today. The east and northeast breezes today are ushering in the "Siberian" front anticipated for tomorrow. The breezes are due to shift southerly on Wednesday, push the front away and bring in quite warm weather.

Evening update (20.45): Some sun but not warm - high of 13.5C.

Guillem Bestard And Mallorca's Early Photography

Pollensa town hall is to spend 277,500 euros on a collection of photos. This isn't any old collection. It is one that will be bought so that it remains the property of the people of Pollensa. It is the Bestard archive, one of the most famous and most important of all photographic collections in Mallorca.

The town hall will make four separate and equal payments over four years. In return, it will receive part of the collection every three months. The photos will be catalogued and stored in Can Llobera, the family home of the Pollensa poet Miquel Costa i Llobera. Eventually, there will be a room at the Pollensa Museum which will be used for a permanent exhibition. There would need to be a fair amount of space, if they were to in fact display the whole collection at one time. The exact number of photos isn't known for sure, but it is believed to be as many 400,000: they were taken over a period of one hundred years by three different generations.

The decision to purchase the collection was made at last week's council meeting. At that meeting it was also agreed to start the procedure by which Guillem Bestard will be named an illustrious son of Pollensa. It was Guillem who started it all off. The year was 1898.

The Bestard family ran an inn. A German painter came to Pollensa in 1898 and stayed at the inn. Guillem was seventeen; the painter introduced him to the camera. The rest was history that endured until 2006, and it is a history that has acquired a worth of more than a quarter of a million euros. While one might sometimes question town hall spending, there surely cannot be any criticism of this investment: one of the most remarkable archives that reveals Mallorca from the start of the last century.

The name Bestard can often be found on old photos of Mallorca. The majority of the photos that Guillem took in the early years were landscapes and scenes of fishing villages, such as his own - Puerto Pollensa. But he had a broader scope. He photographed Antoni Maura in 1910. Maura was the first and only Mallorcan to have been the prime minister of Spain.

His fame spread beyond Mallorca. His work was used for the Madrid daily newspaper El Sol. It was also featured in National Geographic. He received the gold medal for artistic photography at the international exhibition in Paris of 1910; other awards were to follow.

The early work in the Bestard archive is one of only a handful of collections to have survived. Another is that of Josep Truyol. While renowned as a photographer, Truyol had another claim to fame: he was one of the pioneers of film in Mallorca, if not the pioneer.

The claim to having been Mallorca's first photographer is somewhat disputed. One name who stands out in this regard was a Frenchman - Jules Virenque Chastain. He came to Mallorca in 1855. Three years later, he married Francesca Simó. The couple opened a photographic studio in Palma. Virenque was to become friendly with the Austrian Archduke Louis Salvador. His photos were to form the basis of illustrations in the Archduke's master work, Die Balearen. There is one very famous photo of the Archduke and family. The precise year is unclear, but Virenque died in 1876; the Archduke had arrived in Mallorca nine years earlier.

The Welsh photographer Charles Clifford, whose career as a photographer was developed in Spain, took photos of Queen Isabel II when she visited Mallorca in 1860. The official album of that visit is in the safekeeping of Palma town hall.

Then there was also one Francisco Muntaner Llampayes. He was from a family of engravers based in Palma and he collaborated with an industrialist and intellectual, Bartolomé Sureda, and Pere d'Alcàntara Penya, who nowadays has fame as the writer of the Sa Colcada poem that it is recited every New Year's Eve to mark the conquest of Jaume I in 1229.

Anyway, it would seem that Muntaner began using collotype (invented by the Frenchman Alphonse Louis Poitevin in 1856) for works by Sureda and Alcàntara Penya, which appeared in the first travel guide to the Balearic Islands. Muntaner wasn't really a photographer; he sought ways to improve other processes. But in some circles he is described as Mallorca's first photographer. Whether he was or he wasn't, he helped pave the way for those who were to follow, such as Guillem Bestard.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 February 2018

Morning high (8.11am): 5.2C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 26 February - Cloud, sun, 14C; 27 February - Rain, 11C; 28 February - Rain, 19C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 3 to 4.

Another bright and chilly morning. The week ahead ... cold and wet on Tuesday, then warming up but with showers.

Evening update (19.30): Much better - for now - high of 16.7C.

The Political Prisoners Of The Balearic Parliament

Members of the Balearic parliament last week became political prisoners, if only because they had attached small posters to the lids of their laptops in order to disguise which of them have got the latest and most expensive Mac PowerBook. These members were declaring their support for the Jordis, brothers in quasi-revolutionary arms who are currently banged up somewhere in Catalonia. Liberty for the Jordis read the posters displayed on the laptops.

Staring earnestly at the laptop screens were, quite naturally, the brother and sisterhood of Més and Podemos. PSOE, ostensibly partners in government, eschewed the opportunity to join in and become political prisoners. In fact, PSOE members of parliament don't tend to bother looking at laptops at all. Maybe they have more important things to do, like being parliamentarians. I mean, what do the likes of Més wild man David Abril find of such interest on a laptop? The Euromillions numbers?

If you've never taken the time to peer into a local estate agents, I recommend that you do. You will then appreciate how similar estate agents are to members of Més and Podemos. There they all are, eagerly ogling a computer screen. Well, I suppose if you're hunting for the commission on the sale of a five million euro gaff in Puerto Andratx, then you would do. That's the estate agents, by the way; not members of Més or Podemos (or maybe that's what they're doing in parliament as well).

Given that we learned once more last week that seven-figure properties are flying off the shelves (or rather the computer screens) but that local authorities can't find it within their generosity to make land available for affordable housing, perhaps the laptop-obsessed parliamentarians should display solidarity with those closer to home: Jordis plus families in Mallorca living in semi-penury and unable to find somewhere decent to live because all the property which isn't being flogged for seven figures had been snapped up and thrown up on Airbnb (before the government came along and put a stop to that - and rightly so).

Not, it has to be said, that this would go down at all well with the estate agents. A two hundred grand hovel in Inca? Not worth my while getting out of bed, mate.

But no, the parliamentarians - some of them - insist on campaigning for the Jordis and raising motions demanding that the Supreme Court immediately orders their release. Personally, I don't disagree - the Jordis and the others shouldn't be in prison - it's just that one feels these dear elected officials should be spending their time and taxpayer money in pursuit of more meaningful matters.

Someone asked me the other day if we are all led to believe that island politicians make themselves out to be a lot more important than they really are. The answer to which was unquestionably yes. Some are undoubtedly worthy and do worthy things, but how many are basically just nits who consider it worthwhile to waste parliament time on motions for which the parliament does not in any event have any say? (Separation of powers and all that; a regional parliament has no authority whatsoever to tell the Supreme Court what it should or shouldn't do.)

And how many of these nits have been thrust into a political spotlight courtesy of a small percentage share of the vote and now wish to foist Catalonia Mark II onto a populace that would rather slit its collective wrist than ever be under the control of Barcelona and find itself part of the mythical Catalan Lands?

Excluded, it must be stressed, from the ranks of the nit is our favourite president (aka speaker) of the Balearic parliament. Balti celebrated his first year as president last week, and he said that people may feel as though they can identify more with him than with someone who wears a suit and a tie.

If one looks like a one-time bass guitarist with The Allman Brothers Band, favours a pair of Converse and drives a clapped-out Renault Twingo, then one probably does identify with Balti. But this is a disparagement. Balti's image may be somewhat unconventional, but he believes - and he's probably right to believe - that he's doing a decent enough job. And why shouldn't he?

He spoke last week about his first year, suggesting that people have got used to him now. More important was how sincere he sounded. Unlike some who are on-message with all the consensus and citizens guff, when he said that his motivation is to help the citizens, you were left under no illusion that he really meant it. There's a humility with the bloke that is endearing. And it's not as though he's actually coining it in. He earns 3,400 euros a month, and 800 of that is handed over to Podemos.

"I know why I took this step (to become speaker). I know we must be very clear in not falling into any temptation." Amen. Balti? Why not Balti? Think who has occupied the speaker's chair in the past. One of them will be looking at the inside of a prison cell for at least seven more years. And no, she is not a political prisoner.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 February 2018

Morning high (7.21am): 1.6C
Forecast high: 14C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 25 February - Cloud, sun, 15C; 26 February - Cloud, sun, 13C; 27 February - Rain, 10C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 2 to 3.

Cold morning. Clear skies. Should be sunny most of the day.

The Road To Formentor

Antoni Parietti would never have envisaged that almost ninety years after he started drafting the project, the road that was he was responsible for would become the subject of such debate. There were in fact two roads, both of which are being scrutinised because of the apparently excessive volumes of traffic. Sa Calobra was one; Formentor was the other.

Parietti was an engineering genius. Either that or he was mad. It has been said of the Formentor road - thirteen kilometres in length - that it would not now be built. It probably would, but it would be built under very different conditions to the construction of the 1930s. There are no records as to what might have befallen some of the men who worked on it. The project was enormously dangerous and complex. The curves were necessary in order to counteract the slopes. Rock was removed from cliffs in order to give support. Men would have to scale pine trees in order to carry out some of the work.

The lighthouse at Formentor was already there when Parietti embarked on his project. The road that was eventually built is, like that of Sa Calobra, iconic because of its design. But it was a road constructed for the 1930s, when Formentor tourism meant a day's excursion in a rudimentary bus that would make its way from Palma and back. Those were the days; today is very different.

The Council of Mallorca, we learn, has counted the number of vehicles which use the road in summer. Overwhelmingly, these vehicles are private cars. The number reaches a peak in September. There are more than 8,500 per day, not all of which go as far as the lighthouse; around 40% stop at the beach and go no further.

Does this number represent an excessive volume of traffic? For a road conceived in the 1920s and built in the following decade, the number sounds vastly too great. But the solution can never be a remodelling of the road. It is what it is, and it will remain what it is.

But when the Council provides us with the figures it has, what are we comparing them with? There are no comparative data for previous years. By how much has the traffic therefore increased? No one can say with any certainty.

The figures have been presented in order to make the Council's case for limits to be imposed on private vehicles. There is to shortly be another meeting, one involving Pollensa town hall, in order to determine how restrictions are to be applied and at what times of the year the limits will be imposed. Drivers wanting to undertake the hairy route to the lighthouse will no longer be able to. They will instead have to park somewhere in Puerto Pollensa. Where? Then they will have to get on a shuttle bus, which won't be introduced this summer because it has to wait for the new bus service concessions (coming in next year) to be established.

So, it could be that there will be limits this summer but without any bus to compensate for a prohibition on car use. Even once the bus service is created, how many people will this be able to move?

Yes, the number of vehicles sounds like way too many, but then Formentor has always attracted a lot of tourists. In fact, the main reason why the road was built in the first place was because of tourism. Parietti, as well as having been an engineer, was also for a time the president of the Fomento del Turismo, the Mallorca Tourist Board. Formentor was a key attraction, a key excursion in the early years of Mallorca's tourism. It still is.

Friday, February 23, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 February 2018

Morning high (7.53am): 8.6C
Forecast high: 13C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 24 February - Sun, cloud, 15C; 25 February - Cloud, sun, 15C; 26 February - Cloud, sun, 13C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 4 to 5 easing Northwest 3 during the afternoon.

Better morning. Some blue in the sky. Should be sunny spells.

Evening update (20.30): Wasn't too bad for a time, then some rain came in the afternoon. High of 11.4C. 

Fining Airbnb

Apropos the Balearic government having fined Airbnb 300,000 euros, someone said that the fine will never be collected. Someone else agreed. This had been tried in the Canaries, and the courts quashed it.

These two someones are in fact the same person. Technology is wonderful when one has access to certain applications; in this instance, a website back-end administration system. People talk to themselves under different names. It happens not infrequently. Funny old world.

This single-person chat is really a subject in its own right. Let's not detain ourselves by being concerned about it for now. Let's instead consider the Canaries fine, because there has never been one. The real story is that the Canaries High Court has on three occasions issued rulings challenging the Canaries government's holiday rentals legislation; a rather different matter therefore.

The Canaries government has not yielded to the court's rulings. The Supreme Court is to become involved. Legal certainty might therefore be said to be limited in the Canaries; the government had in fact banned holiday rentals in many resort areas. 

The Balearic government, the current government, has not banned anything as such. Rental accommodation, i.e. villas or houses that were legally registered, has been unaffected and will remain unaffected. The government has applied an interpretation of the tenancy act, which had been open to flagrant abuse because of the way in which clearly tourist accommodation (apartments in particular) was being disguised. The Madrid government might have challenged this; it did not.

The banning dates back to 1999. The Partido Popular passed the first Balearic tourism law. From that point on it was definitively illegal to rent out apartments for tourism purposes; the PP's second tourism law (2012) put more flesh on this. People still did rent out because of the tenancy act, but the principle of a ban came into existence almost twenty years ago, and it was introduced not by a left-wing government but by a right-wing administration.

You do hear some real old claptrap, such as the current government being in the pockets of the hoteliers. The PP were so far inside the pockets they were buried deep along with any loose change. That's why the PP failed to regulate in favour of openly marketed holiday apartment rentals in 2012. The PP are now playing political opportunism for all its worth, attacking a government which was left to try and sort out the mess that the PP might have lessened.

And it is a mess. The government's legislation is a mess but only because the situation became messy. And who does one blame for this? The former PP government yes, but the blame lies far more squarely with Airbnb and its ilk and what it has spawned in the years since the PP so lamentably failed to grasp the  nettle that might have prevented a great deal of difficulty for all the apartment owners who had been renting out but were not given the chance to "regularise" their situation when they should have been.

So, the government slaps a fine of 300 grand. Small beer to Airbnb. It might find that it does have to pay, which it didn't when a Catalonia government fine a tenth this amount was ruled out by the Catalonia High Court. The justification for the court's ruling was that Airbnb was merely a digital intermediary that wasn't itself offering a tourist service. The European Court's ruling regarding Uber has changed all that. Barcelona town hall's 600 grand fine of Airbnb may well stick, as will those imposed by other administrations in the EU.

Airbnb operates as though rules don't or shouldn't apply. It has accepted that there were properties in Mallorca without the necessary licence registrations on its website. Why should it worry? It can afford the fine but will do all in its power to avoid paying it. As for poor owners who find themselves being fined in Barcelona, what does Airbnb do? It hooks up with an online legal advisor to help these owners, which is very kind of the website but also a tacit admission that there are legal cases to answer.

Have you heard the one about the single "owner" in Ibiza who markets 500 apartments for holiday rental? You haven't. It was reported on in an Ibiza paper the other day. This is a business, one indicative of the speculation that the virtuous Airbnb has facilitated. The true small owner, the one who was renting out in a somewhat dodgy fashion for years before Airbnb came along, is the one I feel sorry for; not those who have emerged in recent years and are wholly distorting the market for accommodation. That true small owner has been caught out by the Balearic legislation, but don't blame the government. Control had to be applied. People have to live somewhere.

Whether the fines are ever paid, who knows.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 February 2018

Morning high (7.54am): 8.9C
Forecast high: 12C; UV: 2
Three-day forecast: 23 February - Cloud, 13C; 24 February - Cloud, sun, 14C; 25 February - Cloud, sun, 16C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 6 to 7.

More dark skies. Rain possible at any time. Snow at 400 metres. Yellow alert still in place for coastal conditions.

Evening update (20.00): Rotten. High of 8.9C.

Valtonyc: A Berk, Not A Threat

In August 2012 I wrote: "I can't be certain but I wouldn't be at all surprised were Josep Miquel Arenas, aka Josemy Valtonyc Marx Beltrán (Es Rapero Pagés - Marxista Leninista) to receive a visit from someone in the near future. Who is Josemy Valtonyc etc.? He is a 17-year-old rapper and he is not happy with, variously: the King and the royal family; Jorge Campos, the founder of the Círculo Balear; the mayor of Sineu; and the president of Nuevas Generaciones in Sineu.

Referred to as the rapper from Sa Pobla, despite a connection with Sineu (he went to school there and has, you might have noticed, got problems with some people from Sineu), Valtonyc has been creating a right old rapping rumpus. Via his poetry, he has nominated the King for assassination, Jorge Campos for death, and both Pere Joan Jaume, the mayor, and Laura Montenegro, of Nuevas Generaciones, for the receipt of a silver bullet, presumably from the barrel of a gun and not in a velvet-lined presentation box."

Five years and six months later, a prison sentence of three and a half years for Valtonyc has been confirmed by the Supreme Court. Valtonyc had taken an appeal to the highest court, the Audiencia Nacional having a year ago handed out the original sentence. The court has rejected his appeal, which was based on freedom of expression and artistic creativity. The court has pointed to the "seriousness" of what was expressed in a Valtonyc song (and others) and has taken into account, among other things, the "lauding" of terrorist organisations, such as ETA, which went beyond expressions of solidarity based on ideology and instead involved praise of violent means and political objectives of those organisations.

The Supreme Court also identified all those who Valtonyc had threatened, insulted or humiliated: King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, the Infanta Elena, Jorge Campos, Dolores de Cospedal, Esperanza Aguirre, Iñaki Urdangarin, the Guardia Civil, Froilán Marichalar (the son of Elena), José Ramón Bauzá, and more. An open and shut case? Three and a half years?

Valtonyc has reacted to the court's rejection of his appeal by insisting that there is no freedom of expression, that he has no trust in the "Spanish state", that he will be a "political prisoner" and that he didn't commit any "blood crime", he just wrote a song.

A whole host of personalities from the arts and culture worlds have come out in support of Valtonyc. They include the veteran Mallorcan singer Tomeu Penya, hardly the most rebellious of artists or performers. Some two hundred of them have signed up to a manifesto which rejects the sentence as it limits a fundamental right of freedom of expression. It will condemn the now 23-year-old to serve time in prison when the same judicial institutions that have condemned him absolve and pardon businesspeople, politicians and members of royalty.

His lawyer, Juan Manuel Olarieta, says that the sentence hadn't been expected; it makes no sense. It is a total "aberration", and there is to be a further appeal to the Constitutional Court. Political parties and politicians on the left have attacked the sentence. Jorge Campos, satisfied with the court's decision, has called for the resignation of politicians who have sided with Valtonyc. They include Bel Busquets and David Abril of Més; the mayor of Calvia, Alfonso Rodríguez; Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos; Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona.

It can be easy to pick and choose from what Valtonyc rapped. Wanting to get Iñaki Urdangarin to work in a Burger King was hardly threatening or insulting. Saying that the Bourbons are thieves was more serious insofar as a crime can be deemed to have been committed if the royal family is insulted. Generally though, the courts -at most - issue fines if an insult is considered to have been particularly serious.

The apparent lauding of terrorism was another matter, as were the apparent threats. Defending these on the grounds of freedom of expression inevitably raises questions of what limits there should be (if any) to this freedom. Nevertheless, the sentence is harsh; it is wrong. Three and a half years?

Valtonyc's greatest crime was not that he threatened anyone or praised terrorist organisations; it was that he was a berk. He was a teenage berk who allowed his immaturity to get the better of him. He, in himself, is and was no threat to anyone. He was a stupid boy who was rather too full of himself. You don't or shouldn't send someone to jail for being a berk.

The judicial process has merely given him publicity. Yes, he overstepped the mark; yes, in law he was wrong; yes, there are limits to freedom of expression. But the sentence serves little purpose. It also fuels further the current political unrest, and now Valtonyc may be added to the other political prisoners.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 February 2018

Morning high (7.57am): 11.6C
Forecast high: 15C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 22 February - Cloud, wind, 13C; 23 February - Cloud, sun, 13C; 24 February - Cloud, sun, 14C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 4 to 5 increasing 6 to 7 by the evening.

Grey skies. Some quite heavy cloud. Rain very likely. A strong old northerly will whip up later. Yellow alert for coastal conditions.

Evening update (20.00): Lousy. Some rain this morning. Windy now. High of only 9.4C.

Mick's Your Més Man

"Més seem to have no idea where they're going - how much they'd love Ensenyat to say yes, but he wants to stay at the Council of Mallorca."

I wrote this three weeks ago. It was in light of the opinion poll which confirmed that Més were leaking support. A revival of fortunes appeared unlikely. With Biel Barceló, the one Més politician of real substance in government and parliament circles, having been ejected from the frontline, the party was left with less than substantial leadership. Barceló was never in any event going to be a candidate for the Balearic presidency in 2019, but he remained a definable face of the party. Despite the controversies about the contracts and the trip to the Dominican Republic, he was still more asset than liability.

Prior to Barcelo's resignation in December, Més were already riddled with division. The party was aware that Barceló had no intention of standing in 2019, so the question was arising as to who would. Més, a coalition essentially of the PSM Mallorca Socialist Party and the Iniciativa Verds, had begun to show its fault lines, and the more dominant element - the PSM - was getting twitchy. The main candidate appeared to be the social services minister, Fina Santiago, and Fina is not a member of the PSM; she's from the Iniciativa.

When Barceló did resign, it had seemed as if Fina was nailed on to become the new government vice-president. This was before the PSM machinery moved into gear. The vice-president (and tourism minister as it was to also turn out) would be Bel Busquets. Fina has never said anything, but there was an unmistakable sense of her having had the right hump as a result. And she wasn't the only one. Outside of Més, Bel was not looked upon favourably; President Armengol clearly didn't want her.

Since Busquets was catapulted into her dual positions in the government, it has become apparent that she doesn't actually have much support within the PSM rank and file either. Hers, to be blunt, was a terrible appointment, one that was transparently motivated by a PSM determination to dominate Més. The opinion poll ratings are only destined to slip further, unless Més get a grip on where they're going.

Adding to the division within the party was the attitude of Santiago to the contracts affair and then also the Barceló trip. She was more forthright in suggesting he should go because of the Globalia "gift" of the few days in the Dominican Republic than she had been over the Jaume Garau contracts. She had nevertheless implied that more heads should have rolled than the one minister's which did. The PSM, closing ranks around Barceló, didn't take kindly to that.

So, Més have found themselves with two candidates for the presidency who are both, in their different ways, unacceptable. The party needs the cavalry to come and rescue it, and the cavalry charge consists of one person - Miquel Ensenyat, the president of the Council of Mallorca.

Ensenyat has said in the past that he wants to stay on at the Council. Having spent his time as president bolstering the role of the Council, to such an extent that it is appearing more and more like a government in its own right, his intention has been to go for re-election next year. He has also said in the past that he believes Santiago would be the best presidential candidate in 2019. Was he just being diplomatic or did he mean it?

One suspects that it was the latter, even if he now says that he would get a better result than Santiago in a selection run-off. An observation of Ensenyat is that he isn't quite the whole Més (PSM) insider deal. There is an element of distance between him and the party machinery. Nevertheless, Més - if only one faction - know that he is really the outstanding candidate. And it now seems highly likely that he will put his name forward at the primaries for selection. Busquets might struggle to beat Santiago. Ensenyat would have no such problem.

What is it about him that makes him such a strong candidate? One aspect is that distance. He gives the impression of being his own man. As such, and he has demonstrated this at the Council of Mallorca, he is able to draw people together, not divide them. His time as president hasn't been all a bed of roses, and there will be many who disagree with his policies, but he has succeeded in creating a unity with PSOE and Podemos that has been missing from the government and also at Palma town hall.

Ensenyat has his ideologies, of course he does, but they are modified by his being a sympathetic character. If he is confirmed as the Més candidate, it would be a surprise if the party doesn't experience a revival.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 February 2018

Morning high (8.28am): 9.2C
Forecast high: 17C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 21 February - Cloud, wind, 15C; 22 February - Cloud, sun, 13C; 23 February - Cloud, sun, 13C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 4.

Cloudy again. All very well the UV rating going up to three, but ... .

Evening update (20.15): Not much of a day; sun was out briefly. High of 16.4C.

The Nine Houses Of Mallorca's Nobility

There is an expression in Mallorquí that refers to someone who acts as though he or she is above his or her station; has airs and graces. It goes something like: "that one thinks he (or she) is from the nine houses".

From the time that Jaume I and the Aragonese-Catalan forces conquered Mallorca in the thirteenth century, the island was dominated by noble families who were supporters of the king. There were blood ties among these families who, by the early eighteenth century, were themselves dominated by an elite - the nine houses.

The names of these families are still present in Mallorca, although it's fair to say that they are not among the most common names: they wouldn't be because of their noble pasts. The nine were and are: Berga, Cotoner, Dameto, Salas, Sureda, Sureda de Santmartí, Togores, Verí and Zaforteza. They had alternative names or titles that reflected their status. Hence the Sureda de Santmartí were the Marquises of Vilafranca, the Togores were the Counts of Ayamans and the Barons of Lloseta, the Dameto were the Marquises of Bellpuig. In the case of the Cotoner, I recently wrote about the origin of the shield of Mallorca's newest municipality - Ariany. The shield contains the image of a cotton plant. Cotoner means cotton maker. The Cotoner were the Marquises of Ariany.

Blood ties or not, the Mallorcan nobility was constantly in disagreement, but in the early eighteenth century any disagreement was set aside. The Marquis of Vivot (Sureda) was to talk about "ties of common blood rather than ideas". The marquis had been on what was the losing side in the War of the Spanish Succession. Or put it this way, he was a supporter of the Habsburgs and their claim to the throne. Most of the elite had backed the winning cause - that of Felipe V, the first Bourbon king of Spain.

The consequences of the war were far-reaching for Mallorca. They still inform a great deal of political and social debate and argument today. Felipe set out the Nueva Planta decrees. The Crown of Aragon, of which Mallorca was a part, was dismantled. Castile and Castilian were to impose hegemony over Catalonia and the old crown and over the Catalan language.

Juan Vázquez de Acuña y Bejarano was another member of the nobility - the Spanish nobility rather than Mallorca's. His title was the Marquis de Casa Fuerte. Following the end of the war, he became the governor and captain general of Mallorca; he was to hold the post for five years from 1717 to 1722. Casa Fuerte's principal task was to establish the requirements of the Nueva Planta. This meant ensuring that there was no uprising. One means of lessening the likelihood of any insurrection against what is still dubbed by some in Mallorca as the "Bourbon imposition" was to get the key noble families onside. It was Casa Fuerte who proposed what was to be an extraordinary alliance of the wealthiest and most powerful families on the island - the nine houses, "ses nou (sometimes written as nous) cases".

Last September, ahead of the Catalonia referendum, the PSOE socialist party in Catalonia was branded with an insult. The party was said to be a traitor to the nation (that of Catalonia). The word used was "botiflers". The origin of this word - one theory anyway - is that it came from the French beauté fleur, a reference to the Fleur de Lis emblem of the Bourbons. Whatever the origin, the word took a different course. It is also said to be where "botifarres" came from; botifarres as in the sausages.

The botiflers were those principal noble families, the supporters of the Bourbon cause. Those families, Casa Fuerte reckoned, would be able to keep the less powerful nobility in check: ones who had been more inclined to back the Habsburgs during the war. The nobility as a whole had its economic interests to look after, and so the alliance grew. By the end of the eighteenth century the elite was classified according to its superiority. One name not in the original nine was among the six most superior of all - this was Despuig, the Counts of Montenegro and Montoro.

Among the nobility that was classified as less superior was the "second class without titles". They weren't marquises, counts or barons; they were just important and quite powerful. Who do we find in this list? Well, for example, there was Armengol. And in a "third class without titles" there was Barceló.

The noble classes saw their power and influence erode. The names still endure, and in some instances it would seem as if that old power and influence has moved in a different direction.