Sunday, July 14, 2013

Water Of The Meadow: Sa Pobla

Yesterday was the first day of the Santa Margalida fiestas in Sa Pobla. There are times when these fiestas get confusing. It's also Santa Margalida time in, where else, Santa Margalida, just down the road a bit. The Sa Pobla Santa Margalida fiestas last until 20 July, the day of Santa Margalida, and then the fiestas of Sant Jaume take over. Sant Jaume is the patron saint of Sa Pobla. One of them, the male one. Santa Margalida is the other one, the female one.

Santa Margalida came to be the female patron saint of Sa Pobla before Sa Pobla became Sa Pobla. Or rather, she was the patron saint of what was the original Sa Pobla, which wasn't where Sa Pobla is but was where Crestatx (Crestaig) now is, so over the other side of the motorway from Sa Pobla.

Santa Margalida was the patron of the sanctuary at Crestatx, a settlement of which there is evidence of there having been Roman occupation, which isn't all that surprising given the relative proximity of the Pollentia Roman town in what became Alcúdia and also of Bochoris, which is nowadays Puerto Pollensa. It is perhaps worth noting that, though Alcúdia and Palma are always cited as having been the two most significant Roman towns, Bochoris was the third most significant, and the settlement there left behind the Roman bridge in Pollensa town.

Various Roman artifacts have been discovered in the Crestatx area - ceramics, coins and so on - and so the origins of Sa Pobla can be said to be Roman. Indeed, the name Crestatx is said to come from the Latin "castra" for camp. But after this Roman period, as with Alcúdia and Pollensa or anywhere in Mallorca, little is really known about the time between the Romans being kicked out in the fifth century and the Muslim occupation starting at the beginning of the tenth century. The settlement in Crestatx at some point during this occupation also acquired the name Huyalfàs, which was later corrupted as Uyalfas or Vialfas. Huyalfàs was derived from the Arabic - "hnayar-al-fas" (or variously, huayar-alfar or huayar-alfhas) - meaning water of the meadow, a reference, one imagines, to Albufera.

During the Muslim epoch, this Crestatx settlement came under the jurisdiction of the district of Inkan, i.e. Inca, but after the conquest of Mallorca in 1229 by King Jaume I of Aragon, Huyalfàs was firstly documented in 1241 in the "Llibre Verd" (green book) of land and was eventually relocated to what now is Sa Pobla. In 1300, Jaume's son, Jaume II, decreed the establishment of the royal town of Sa Pobla de Huyalfàs. In fact, there were a number of "poblacions" (small towns or villages) created in Mallorca at that time, such as Artà and Manacor. These new towns were established on the basis that they were all equal in that they had a hundred residents, 500 acres of land and a further 1000 acres of scrubland. It would seem that Crestatx couldn't be developed in this way, which is why Huyalfàs moved.

Officially, the new town took the title of "vila reial" and was granted a charter as a "poblament" (or "pobla"), which basically means settlement and can quite easily be confused with "poble", which means town, village or people. In the new town, 32 establishments were permitted plus the building of a church, and it was this, the church, that brought Sant Antoni firmly into the Sa Pobla story.

It might be thought surprising that Sant Antoni isn't one of Sa Pobla's patron saints. The association of Sant Antoni is of course very strong and gives rise to the most important of the Sant Antoni celebrations in January each other. This association can be traced back to the original Catalan conquest. The tradition or cult of Sant Antoni was strong in Catalonia, and it was one that King Jaume I imported. On the one hand, it was a tradition that appealed to a superstition for the protection of animals, as Antoni was the patron saint of animals, but it was the cult that was to eventually spawn, thanks to legends of Antoni and demons and what have you, what there now is - the demons and the nights of fire.

The church that was built in the new town was, therefore, the church of Sant Antoni de Huyalfàs (or Uialfàs or Uyalfas) and it was finally established in 1357, this original being replaced over 300 years later in 1697.

So, this all explains something about how Sa Pobla and its saints came to be as they are, but there is a question about its name, the answer to which I don't have. Why was Huyalfàs (Uialfàs or whatever) dropped? It ceased to officially be part of the name centuries ago, during the fifteenth century in fact. Sa Pobla, the settlement, has been the name ever since, and the use of the definite article "sa" (which is Mallorquín rather than Catalan) makes a definitive statement for this most Mallorcan of towns and one with the history that it has and a history, moreover, which makes the "castellanisation" of the town's name into La Puebla (a translation which still does occur and which very much occurred during the last century) a total nonsense. It can only be Sa Pobla.

Any comments to please.

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