Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Support Your Local Magazine!: Porto Cristo

Porto Cristo, famously, has six names. Legally, because the Balearics High Court ruled as such in 1990, the name is Porto Cristo, but there remain pretenders to the name, even if one of them is merely a combination of Porto and Cristo, i.e. Portocristo, while a further one which isn't one of the six, a hyphenated Porto and Cristo, can also be used. According to the High Court, that is.

Most towns and communities in Mallorca do not have such a controversy. They know their names and no one makes a fuss about alternatives. In Manacor, the municipality of which Porto Cristo is a part, the controversy continues to bubble under the surface. It may all be a bit daft, given that most of the world appears to accept that Porto Cristo is the name and isn't in the slightest bit interested in alternatives, but such a controversy is the very stuff of local communities. Isn't it?

Well actually not. It would appear that very few people in Manacor are that bothered either. The ones who are mainly concerned are on the town council, camps divided along Porto and Cristo separationist and Portocristo combinationist lines. In the bars and cafés of Porto Cristo, they are talking about other things; pretty much anything other than that what the name of the place should be.

An indication of how little the general populace appears to have been affected by this toponymic topic can be found in the local magazine. Stubbornly it is called "Porto Cristo". It always has been "Porto Cristo" and was before the High Court was brought in to arbitrate 24 years ago. When the debate as to the name was raging at the town hall this time last year, the magazine totally ignored it. There were more important things to report on, mainly the Sant Antoni fiestas and the 125th anniversary of Porto Cristo. And yes, it was Porto Cristo. The winning logo for the anniversary had the words separated, there was no combination to Portocristo and there was certainly no suggestion that the anniversary might have been in the name of Colònia de Nostra Senyora del Carme (sort of the late nineteenth century original name but even then not really because Porto Cristo is much older) or that the magazine should change its name (there wouldn't have been much room left on its front cover if it had done).

The magazine, with its December issue, reached a landmark of its own. This was its 300th edition. It first appeared in 1983 and is a local publication with one of the longest histories of continuous publication on the island. As with other local publications - there are (or were) 38 others - it comes under an umbrella organisation, the Associació de Premsa Forana, which represents magazines and newsletters across Mallorca.

Part of the motivation behind the magazine's launch in 1983 was to establish a mouthpiece for a distinct community - that of Porto Cristo - detached from the machinations of Manacor town hall and the dominance of the town of Manacor. The magazine aimed to create a sense of Porto Cristo being its own "pueblo", and, physically removed from the town by several kilometres, it was following or perhaps leading a tendency for coastal resorts to establish their own identities. Something similar has occurred elsewhere, for example in Can Picafort. Separated from the town of Santa Margalida, it has its own magazine, unsurprisingly entitled "Can Picafort", and its own political organisations.

But, and in common with much print media, things aren't easy nowadays for a local publication. Whereas it might once have received some financial assistance, it no longer does, while advertising is that much more difficult to attract. It is a publication which serves something in the region of 7,500 people (approximately the population of Porto Cristo), though it does also reach out to smaller coastal parts of Manacor. The market isn't that great, therefore, while social media and internet make much of its stock-in-trade - photos of fiestas, sporting events etc. - potentially redundant because they have already been posted onto Facebook or what have you.

It is easy to suggest, therefore, that a publication such as "Porto Cristo" is an anachronism, but in the 300th issue the local historian Sebastià Serra said: "If a magazine disappears, the village loses an important link with reality and the everyday. If a publication dies out, then the collective memory of the people also dies out."

This may sound idealistic but even in today's environment there is a tangibility and a connection that a physical publication can make which web technologies cannot. And where the less idealistic is concerned - the hard-nosed need for advertising revenues - it might be borne in mind that there is much research which shows that local content and advertising, be they online or print, have a higher level of consumer trust than other forms. There is life left yet in the local publication, whatever its name.

Photo: The first issue of "Porto Cristo"; taken from the cover of the 300th issue, http://www.portocristo.org/

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