Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Losing The Heartland: President Bauzá

If you read the programmes for fiestas, you will always find an entry in the schedule for the "arrival of the authorities (aka the dignitaries)". Normally, this just refers to a mayor and a few of his or her town-hall acolytes. Occasionally, however, it refers to dignitaries of a higher order, such as the president of the Balearics. It all depends on the importance and standing of the fiesta in question.

Two of the most important fiestas in Mallorca - in fact, the two most important - are those of Sant Antoni in Sa Pobla and La Beata in Santa Margalida. At the second of these, staged in early September, the dignitaries have already arrived and have been perched on temporary seating before officially arriving (so to speak) and following the procession of La Beata as she faces temptations by devils and the smashing of terracotta jars.

La Beata is the self-proclaimed "most typical" fiesta in Mallorca and for this reason it attracts the dignitaries that it does; it is a must-be-seen-at event for the grand order of Mallorcan politicians. Sa Pobla's Sant Antoni is similar to La Beata insofar as it is an occasion of island-wide significance, so therefore an occasion for the great and good (sic) to attend, and is staged in a town which lays claim to being the sort of spiritual home to Mallorca's Catalanism. Santa Margalida, a town once removed from Sa Pobla (Muro's between them), might also put a bid in for this title were it not for it having a different claim - its status as a "vila", an old categorisation and one that is unique to Santa Margalida. It may not really mean much nowadays, but the people of Santa Margalida maintain its importance by referring to themselves as "vilers".

Whatever the different claims of the two towns, they share in common the fact that they are both extremely Mallorcan. The same, one could say, applies to any town in Mallorca which isn't Palma or Calvia, but nowhere else has quite the Mallorcan kudos as Sa Pobla or Santa Margalida; they are the repositories of centuries-old ruralism, tradition, culture and language, augmented by heavy doses of the religion thing in the shape of Sant Antoni and Santa Catalina.

The two fiestas have, however, posed something of a conundrum over the past couple of years for politicians-in-attendance: one in particular, i.e. President Bauzá. In both 2012 and 2013, his appearance at La Beata was confirmed only at the last minute. In 2012, he had initially been banned (or not invited at any rate) by former mayor, the battling, veteran hard man of the left, Miguel Cifre. In the end, he was invited, as he was last year. But these were invites without any great enthusiasm.

What had led Cifre to not issue an invite was what happened when Bauzá performed his Cook's Tour of Partido Popular HQs in various towns. In Santa Margalida the town's centre became a virtual no-go area because of security and after the visit there were insinuations (from a PP source) of the townspeople being violent. Cifre was mightily displeased. In Sa Pobla, during the same tour of the party faithful out in the sticks, there were jeers and disturbances when the president appeared.

Perhaps because La Beata is a rather more solemn affair than Sant Antoni, Bauzá has been able to get away with going to Santa Margalida without there being too much of a fuss. In Sa Pobla, however, and despite it having a PP mayor, he has stayed away from Sant Antoni for the past two years. Having been greeted by abuse and booing in 2012, he has headed off to the quiet of Menorca instead.

It might be thought fair enough that he prefers not to be subjected to abuse or to cause a security issue, but his non-appearance at Sant Antoni, taken together with the uncertainties that have surrounded his attendance at La Beata, amount to rather more than anxieties over what sort of a reception he will get. These are fiestas in heartland Mallorca; heartland not just in a geographical sense. If Bauzá cannot attend or if there are question marks over his attendance, then he has lost this heartland, and in the process an empathy with the heart of Mallorca has also been lost.

Mallorca seems like two places. One place is Palma and its suburbs of Calvia and Marratxí (Bauzá's old stomping ground). The other place is the rest. The now broken Bauzá-Delgado axis was representative of this separation; a cosmopolitan Spanishness at variance with and out of step with the insular instincts of the "part forana". It is a division which could be styled as the new versus the old, but this is not so. It is a division in terms of an island's psyche.

Bauzá has faced an enormous challenge because of the economic circumstances which he inherited. He was always bound to therefore come up against opposition, but handling of the islands' economy is really the least of it. Had he stuck to this, then he would not have lost the heartland. But he hasn't. And in instituting policies that he has, he has created a polarity of two Mallorcas pulling in opposite directions.

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