Wednesday, February 19, 2014

From Naviform To Nadal: Manacor

Manacor, Mallorca's third largest town, the commercial centre for the eastern Llevant region of the island, birthplace of the most famous Mallorcan ever, Rafael Nadal, but a town known less, by tourists at any rate, than its coastal resorts - Porto Cristo, S'Illot, Calas de Mallorca - and its caves, those of Drach and of Hams. It is a town, rather like Inca, which can tend to be overlooked and dismissed on account of its industrial/commercial nature. Yet there is, as with any town in Mallorca, a great deal to commend it and a great deal that is of interest to be discovered and learned.

One of the first times that Manacor loomed onto my radar was when I found the story of the ghost of the neighbourhood of Fartàritx. It turned out, or so it would seem, that this ghost was a simpleton by the name of Pere-Joan. When he died in 1820, the appearances of the ghost stopped. The ghost story is one of the more unusual ones that goes into the making of the history of Manacor, a history which is on display at the town's museum.

There have been other famous people from Manacor. Two of them also brought the town firmly into my consciousness. One of them was Antoni Maria Alcover, one of the most important literary figures that Mallorca has ever produced. Linguist, folklorist, story-teller, Alcover is something of a current-day hero for the Catalanist tradition. In terms of literature and linguistics he is on the same sort of cultural pedestal as that old mystic Ramon Llull, but he did something which Llull didn't; he co-compiled the "Diccionari català-valencià-balear". He has become known as the "apostle of the language": the Catalan language.

A very different historical figure was Simón Ballester (aka Simó Tort). In the middle of the fifteenth century, Ballester led an uprising against the governor of Mallorca. He and his men made at least three attempts to attack Palma and to get rid of the governor. The revolt failed, he fled to Menorca, was captured, returned to Mallorca and executed.

The point about Ballester, Alcover, Pere-Joan and even Rafa Nadal is that they all contribute in their very different ways to the story of Manacor and they are all representative of the richness of the past (and the present) that resides in the town and in other Mallorcan towns. Manacor may be known more for what exists on the coast but there is a great deal away from the coast that is also worth knowing and some of it is to be found in its museum.

This building is in itself part of the town's story. It is located in a manor house, Torre dels Enagistes, which dates back to the thirteenth century. The museum has exhibitions which relate to different eras, starting with prehistory and so with the Talayotic period and what indeed came before it: the Naviform era, so-called because of the way that dwellings were built in the shape of upside-down ships. The museum is remarkably good in identifying time frames. The Naviform people, who provided the first evidence of proper settlement in Manacor, were around from 1700BC. The Talayotic period came some six hundred years later, and there is plenty of evidence of Talayotic settlements dotted around Manacor, and the Talayotic people were later, from the seventh century BC, engaged in trade with the Ebusitano, merchants from Ebussus, aka Ibiza.

But moving much nearer to the present day and to Manacor's reputation as an industrial and commercial centre, the museum is staging a special exhibition dedicated to trades and crafts which have, for the most part, disappeared. The point is made that, though these were trades that were to be found in Manacor, they were ones that would have existed across Mallorca. They were trades which were commonplace, going back centuries, such as to the dairy which was certainly established in the mid-eighteenth century, and which numbered roughly forty in total - anything from healers and water diviners to makers of noodles and to those engaged in trades which survive; bookbinders, for instance.

These traditional trades and crafts didn't necessarily fall by the wayside on account of the industrial revolution of tourism. Though it is said that Mallorca was industrially underdeveloped before the arrival of tourism, this is accurate only up to a point. Manacor is an example of a town which disputes this argument. It transformed itself from the start of the last century thanks to artificial pearls and furniture.

The traditional trades serve as a reminder of times that will not return and of Manacor as it once was, but remembering their passing serves to emphasise the fact that Manacor grew to be the town it now is not because of traditional trades but because of the pre-modern ones that arrived before tourism.

* Photo of Manacor Museum from:

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