Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Most Typical Contemporary Procession

Most typical or most representative, however one chooses to translate the slogan of Santa Margalida's La Beata procession, its typicalness or representativeness is now very much more contemporary than its telling of a legend from the mists of time. It is the political-statement procession for the current day, a parade of causes and interests, and all of them ones that would find favour with the independent socialist republic of Santa Margalida, which did after all invite their standard bearers.

Santa Margalida's town hall administration is one of Mallorca's finest examples of anti-Bauzáism. It is splendidly antagonistic towards the Partido Popular regional government. Anything the government does or says, and the town hall will disagree. It hasn't always been so, but when the Suma pel Canvi stormed to election victory in 2011, a very different tone was set at the Casa Vila. The Suma, a coalition of independents and PSOE, had at its head the battling veteran hardman of the left, Miguel Cifre, who has since handed the mayoral wand to his Dave Spart protégé, Toni Reus.

The tone under Toni has not changed, and it was evident from those who attended this year's most typical procession. Among its number were the now-restored-from-hunger-strike Catalan independentist and teacher Jaume Sastre, one of the key members of the Assemblea de Docents teachers' organisation. Others included representatives from the eco warriors GOB and the Consell de Joventut de les Illes Balears, a youth organisation which was once given an award for its promotion of Catalan language and culture.

Most typically for this most typical of processions, one would expect the numbers to be swelled by very important persons of Balearic political high command. They were conspicuous by their absence. There was no José Ramón Bauzá. There was no president of the Council of Mallorca, Maria Salom; there was no tourism minister, Jaime Martínez; there was no minister for education, Joana Camps. They all thought it wise not to attend. Neither Bauzá nor Camps was exposed, therefore, to the prospect of attempting small talk with Sastre during the embarrassing period prior to taking the walk behind La Beata when they have to sit next to each other on the temporary terraced seating reserved for dignitaries. There have been deliciously awkward moments in the past when rivals have been forced by protocol to shake hands or do the two-kiss thing through clearly clenched teeth. But they would not have been as awkward as if Camps had felt obliged to engage Sastre in the double-peck treatment.

Martínez probably felt that it was for the best for him and Reus not to have had to have pressed sweaty palms together. Reus doesn't think much to the tourism law, having invoked human rights as a reason why the ordinary people of Can Picafort should be able to rent out their holiday properties to whomsoever they want to. Salom has butted heads with the town hall over various matters, such as the dump for waste in the town, access to which the town hall had threatened to block.

No, it was sensible for them all to have discovered that they had other more pressing engagements. Their absence, though, meant that someone had to draw the short straw and put in an appearance. And so poor old (young) Marti Sansaloni, the health minister, was instructed to turn up. He must have been horrified at the prospect. The town hall has not forgotten the Alpha Pam affair. The name of the Senegalese illegal immigrant from Can Picafort who died as a result of having been denied treatment at Inca hospital is still very much remembered in Santa Margalida. There are still those who believe that Sansaloni should have resigned or have been brought before a court.

Fiestas can be occasions for protest. The Festival of the Standard in Palma at New Year is an event which is particularly vulnerable in this regard, and there has been unpleasantness and violence. It is a festival which encapsulates much of the anti- and pro-Catalan sentiment on the island. The Sant Antoni fiesta in Sa Pobla is another potential flashpoint, and President Bauzá has not been made to feel too welcome. Perhaps the most serious incident was that in Felanitx at the Sant Agustí fiesta in August 2011 where tear gas was used during the supposedly humorous "palio" by which prominent politicians run a gauntlet. Bauzá has never attended it, but Salom was there in 2011.

La Beata, though, has become the most politicised of the fiesta occasions. It is unlikely that any serious disturbance would have occurred this year had Bauzá shown up (he did go last year and there wasn't trouble), but things have moved on since last year. Divisions are even more in evidence, and so they proved to be, as demonstrated by those who didn't attend.

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