Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Vendetta Years: Canamunt and Canavall

Pollensa's Guillem Cifre de Colonya cultural centre is named after the philanthropist who founded the co-operative Colonya bank. The Cifre centre stages many exhibitions, mostly of a more humane nature than the subject of the presentation that was given yesterday evening. This was for a book by two historians, Pere Salas and Antoni Domingo, who have researched what was one of the most turbulent periods in Mallorca's history, the seventeenth century.

One says one of the most turbulent periods, though it is hard to distinguish the seventeenth century from others in terms of turbulence. Mallorca was characterised by violence, pestilence, famine, drought, piracy for centuries. It might have now acquired a reputation as a paradise island but it must have been a God awful place to live at times.

The Salas-Domingo book looks at the warfare and vendettas between two clans - the Canamunt and the Canavall. What is staggering about this factional strife is the fact that it lasted as long as it did - for much of the seventeenth century. The origins lay with two families - the Anglada and the Rossinyol who, respectively, gave rise to the Canamunt and Canavall. They were families who had irreconcilable differences that came to a head at the end of the sixteenth century when Nicolau Rossinyol made the grave error of falling for Isabel Anglada. When the Angladas opposed this love match, the Rossinyols took offence, and seventy-plus years of violence kicked off. In fact, the roots of the differences went back much further, to the time of the conquest of Mallorca in the thirteenth century. These two families hated each other's guts and had done so for centuries.

The book establishes that, though there was violence perpetrated by both sides all across Mallorca (the two clans originated from Palma), Pollensa was the scene of some of the worst atrocities. In one year alone, 1662, nine people were murdered violently in Pollensa. And this was some 16 years after peace was supposed to have broken out between the two clans.

The Canamunt-Canavall vendetta is often styled as one between the aristocracy and others in Mallorcan society, but both the Angladas and Rossinyols were of noble background and the support they gained didn't always follow a split between aristocrat and common man. The styling of the conflict in such a way may also have had something to do with a hangover from the Germanies uprising of the sixteenth century, one that was against the nobility and which culminated in the siege of Alcúdia and is now a theme of the summer's dramatised street theatre programme in Alcúdia - the Via Fora.

More than anything, though, the vendetta showed what a lawless place Mallorca was and especially away from Palma. One of the island's legendary figures, but one who is little known, was a character called Llorenç Coll, aka "Barona", who, though a farmer, was notorious for the havoc he wreaked in parts of the north of the island. He would swap sides between Canamunt and Canavall as it suited him. He met his end when royal forces finally started to get something of a grip on Mallorca, but in truth, for most of the seventeenth century, the island was ruled by bandits and thugs.

As for Nicolau and Isabel, the story was tragic. The boy fled Mallorca, violence having been unleashed between the warring families. Isabel was to lead a life as a recluse in the family home. On the day she died, Nicolau returned to Mallorca. He headed to the church where her body lay in rest. The final part of Nicolau and Isabel's story may only be legend, but if so, then it reflected, awfully, the feud between the families. Looking at the body, it was said that the dead Isabel's hands reached out for Nicolau and attacked his face. Nicolau was found in a pool of blood, his tongue having been ripped out. Isabel's face bore a smile.

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