Saturday, September 29, 2012

No Comment: Columbus came from Ibiza

You will have heard of María Antonia Munar. She was the one-time leader of the Council of Mallorca who is going through a process of various court hearings and trials to do with her alleged misdeeds while in public office. Munar was, as a member of the discredited Unió Mallorquina, particularly keen on advancing claims that Mallorca might have to elevate the island's status. To do so fitted with a philosophy of Mallorcan nationalism, and one such claim had to do with Christopher Columbus.

In October 2004, Munar said in her capacity as leader of the Council: "I have a patent interest in Christopher Columbus being from Mallorca. I feel satisfied at having shown my support for Professor Gabriel Verd, and I intend to continue to do so". This quote was reported in the local press as was a note regarding a research programme, "Development of Human Genetic Research on Columbus's Origins", which was to receive a grant of nearly 54,000 euros to study theories that Columbus was born in Mallorca and "whose staunchest supporter is the historian Gabriel Verd".

At the end of this quote from the local press on a website - - there are two words: "no comment". They are intended to be critical, as they are supplied by Nito Verdera, a writer from Ibiza and also an investigator into Columbus's origins. His "no comment" was deliberately sarcastic; he has no time for Verd's theory that Columbus was Mallorcan and no time for Columbus's origins being hi-jacked for political reasons, which he was basically accusing Munar of.

Verd's theory, and it is one to which I have referred on several occasions, places Columbus's roots in the town of Felanitx in Mallorca's south-east. It is a theory with which I have some sympathy but it does have discrepancies. There again, mostly any theory to do with where Columbus came from has some discrepancy or other, even the accepted one to do with his birthplace having been Genoa. It is is the fact that there have long been some questions arising from the Genoa theory that has created the Columbus "industry" and prompted numerous counter-theories. This said, these counter-theories have often been as a consequence of political aims, though it is also fair to say that the Genoa theory has been subject to these as well; Mussolini urged Italian historians to defend Columbus's Italian nationality.

Verdera's belief is that Columbus's mother tongue was Catalan, that he was a converted Jew and that he came from Ibiza. Each of these claims has support elsewhere; Verdera is not alone in having come up with any of them. But getting official backing for his theory has proved difficult. Until now. And only sort of.

Ibiza town hall has just engaged in something decidedly odd. It has voted in favour of permitting the idea that Columbus was from Ibiza to be disseminated. It has done so on condition that it doesn't cost any money to do so, and it was only an agreement by various parties at the town hall that it wouldn't cost anything that carried the vote; the lady mayor of Ibiza had in fact been opposed to the motion.

Just one of the oddities with this decision is that it is one that comes not from the Council of Ibiza but from the Ibiza Town town hall. I confess to knowing little of Ibiza's internal political workings, but now I have found out something about them, a question arises: why is there a town hall for Ibiza Town and for other places on Ibiza when the population is only around 130,000 and there is a Council as well? The answer would appear to be to enable a town hall to devote its time and energies to an issue about which it is clearly unconvinced.

There does, in all of this, seem to be a bit of inter-island rivalry. Verdera clearly doesn't think much of Verd's theory. What Verd thinks of Verdera's I couldn't honestly say, but I would imagine that he would disagree with him. In the battle of the historians with similar names, Verd has an advantage over Verdera when it comes to official support. There was Munar's backing, while the mayor of Felanitx, Gabriel Tauler, has been beating the Columbus drum for some time, partly in the hope of attracting American tourists.

So, which of them is right? Verd or Verdera? The chances are that both are wrong and there is a great deal of history (to do with the Genoa connection) that would need to be disproved once and for all to make either of them right. Which is not to say that either is wrong in trying to prove their theories. But Columbus having been an Ibizan? I don't know, so it's best just to say "no comment".

N.B. The website link mentioned above will take you to an English version of Verdera's views. Click Part V under English.

Any comments to please.

1 comment:

Simon said...

No comment