Tuesday, June 30, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 June 2015


Morning high (6.00am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 34C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 1 July - Sun, 33C; 2 July - Sun, 30C; 3 July - Sun, 30C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 backing Southeast 3 to 4 around midday.

With breezes swinging southerly, the atmosphere takes on a Saharan feel, so an alert for "maximum temperatures" for today is probably not misplaced.

Evening update (19.15): Not quite as hot as had been expected. 32.9C the high. Pleasant little breeze late on too.

No Frills Excursions

Forty-Five Minutes Is A Long Time In Politics

So, though she wasn't officially yet president, Francina Armengol made her first presidential speech on Monday. Marga Prohens, for the Partido Popular, condemned it for having been, among other things, "short". It was around 45 minutes long. How long would Marga have liked? An hour, two hours, a whole day? Isn't there something about presentations, that an audience pays attention for the first fifteen minutes or so and then falls asleep until it sounds as though things are winding up, at which point the audience is wide awake again and desperately hoping that the end is indeed nigh? Forty-five minutes sound like around thirty minutes too many, especially when the whole thing could be done by sending round a circular with bullet points and skipping the whole speech bit. Tourist tax, yes. Repealing TIL trilingual teaching, yes. Building massive great retail warehouses all over the Tramuntana, no.

There again, there was a need for some nuance, i.e. some justification for Francina's Damascene conversion to many of the ways of Més and Podemos. Equivocal she had previously been on the tourist tax. Preferable it had been had the horse-trading not given Més and Biel Barceló the gift horse of tourism. As this is the stable where tourism will now reside, one of a rundown old property for which no permission will be forthcoming for conversion to, say, a boutique hotel, Francina was left with little choice but to have joined the eco-nationalists. Tourist tax it will be and it will regenerate the land, make it sustainable and Majorca will be restored to pre-industrial revolution days.

This is of course an exaggeration but my God, talk about lighting the blue touch paper and waiting. Incandescence will greet such incandescence. There will be rage, and even now the travel journalists of "The Sun" and "Bild" will be sharpening their pencils to warn of rip-off Mallorca or such like.

Francina, in the homely fashion that we were exposed to on her having become president of the Council of Mallorca in 2007 when she announced that her door would always be open, went even further this time. So homely is she now that the presidential HQ will be like "home" for the teachers. What does this mean? Will they be able to simply wander into the Consolat de la Mar, help themselves to the contents of the presidential fridge, then stretch out on the sofa and switch the telly on? Well no, but they will be assured of Mother Francina's comforting presence on the sofa while they tell her how to rewrite education legislation.

At least with TIL Francina had come up with this herself. It was PSOE policy and so not one driven by (demanded by) Més or Podemos. So much has been though. Hence, the road to the Damascus of the Consolat de la Mar is littered with transparency (a whole ministry indeed) and with democratic regeneration, part of which, it would appear, is that the islands' councils are going to be made into their own governments. Suddenly, federalism is on everyone's lips, if by everyone one means Pedro Sanchez, the national leader of PSOE, and now his Balearic acolyte. Més may not have taken kindly to Sanchez having the Spanish flag on stage with him with the other week, but they will have taken kindly to the Balearic federalism agenda. Indeed, they probably wrote it. Més have long been advocates of beefed-up island councils, and now they have two of them to run for themselves - Mallorca's and Menorca's.

You would have expected Marga Prohens to have been less than fulsome with her praise of the Armengol speech. There was in fact no praise at all, only criticism. But apart from the speech having been too short, Marga did raise one or two pertinent questions. Like, how are you going to pay to, for instance, guarantee everyone has a minimum income whether in employment or not? Resources are what resources are, she pointed out helpfully. Governments cannot live by tourist taxes alone, she might have added, but then there is all this business with the financing of the Balearics from the state coffers. This is hardcore Més and Podemos territory. Hand over the cash, Madrid, and we'll pay off everyone's mortgage. Or something like that.

So, thus spake Francina, a Zarathustra for the political new age, turning not traditional morality on its head but traditional politics. Strangely though, she said that she was not someone who was forming part of a clamour for change, even if she is about to preside over it. But then, maybe this wasn't so strange. Does she indeed believe in all this? It was a speech worked from the back by Biel Barceló and Alberto Jarabo. How long might it take for the "pact" to unravel? Forty-five minutes?

Index for June 2015

Before and after: how Mallorca changed - 15 June 2015
Bellevue Alcúdia: Spanish students' holidays - 27 June 2015
Calonge - battle in 1715 - 16 June 2015
Canamunt, Canavall and fiesta - 10 June 2015
Corruption and elections - 1 June 2015
Fiesta programmes and politics - 25 June 2015
Fiestas and cultural interest - 19 June 2015
Francina Armengol investiture - 30 June 2015
FIFA, Spanish football and corruption - 4 June 2015
Hotels rush to legalise places - 13 June 2015
Investiture of mayors - 14 June 2015
Lloseta shoes - 7 June 2015
Mallorquín, Catalan and the language argument - 9 June 2015
Manacor: fiesta mule - 11 June 2015
Més and the sofa - 3 June 2015
Miquel Àngel March - 22 June 2015
Musical tradition, Mallorca - 29 June 2015
Partido Popular rebellion against Bauzá - 28 June 2015
Political change and the Church - 17 June 2015
Proportional representation - 24 June 2015
Sa Pobla and the potato - 8 June 2015
Sant Joan, Night of Fire - 23 June 2015
Sant Joan Pelós, Felanitx - 21 June 2015
Sóller tram and uniqueness - 5 June 2015
Toni Catany Foundation - 12 June 2015
Tourism and new administrations in Mallorca - 20 June 2015
Tourism industry and uncertainty - 6 June 2015
Tramuntana mountains and tourism - 18 June 2015
Unknown saints - 26 June 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 June 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 34C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 30 June - Sun, 34C; 1 July - Sun, 31C; 2 July - Sun, 30C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 2 to 3.

Though there doesn't seem to be any alert out for high temperatures today, it would seem that they may well be particularly high. Daytime highs not anticipated to be below 30 for several days.

Evening update (20.45): Not quite as hot as had been forecast. A positively shivering 32.5C.

No Frills Excursions

Unwritten Symphony: Mallorca's little known music

Yesterday evening at the Son Mas Castle in Andratx a new symphony received its world premiere. At the southern end of the mountain range, Andratx wsae the location for "La Serra de Tramuntana", a work by twenty-year-old composer Antoni Mairata that musically encapsulates the four seasons in the mountains. The symphony, choral and orchestral, was performed by the Coro Ciutat de Mallorca and the Balearic Youth Orchestra. It was its director, Joan Barceló, who suggested to Mairata that he might like to compose the symphony.

Mallorca and especially the Tramuntana have long benefited from the promotional value that the island has derived from the world of the arts in its general sense. One of the clearest examples of this was the contribution of the painters of the early twentieth century. They, with their mostly post-impressionist styles, captured the essence, the colours, the light and the landscape of the mountains. But while painters were to prove to be of enormous benefit to Mallorca, what about the musicians?

Going back in time, the most obvious musical association was with Frederic Chopin, whose troubled 1838 winter in Mallorca, along with his lady companion George Sand, was nonetheless sufficiently untroubled to allow him to be inspired to compose. Almost a hundred years later, the Chopin Festival was established by the Mallorcan composer Joan Maria Thomàs. In the years prior to the Civil War, Valldemossa was able to attract some of the most significant performers of the era. When the war came, that was to all stop.

Today, Mallorca displays a very strong musical tradition and culture. Outstanding orchestras, music festivals other than just that of Valldemossa - Deià, Pollensa, Santanyi, for instance - are evidence of this culture, and yet the history of this musical culture is somewhat mixed. Or at least, it is not quite as coherent as, for instance, the artistic culture of the painters of the last century.

Yet, if you go back into the nineteenth century, a tradition which most definitely survives and indeed thrives today really took hold in Mallorca. The local bands of music are described as a "phenomenon" of the nineteenth century. They partly came about because of military associations, but they could draw on a far earlier tradition, that of groups of minstrels from the fifteenth century. The bands of music, aided by Belgian Adolphe Sax's invention in 1840, sprung up across the island, the oldest of them being the Philharmonic of Porreres, which dates back to 1858.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Antoni Noguera Balaguer was to become one of the more important names in Mallorcan music. He it was who wrote the contemporary musical notation for the Sibil-la chant - now with its UNESCO declaration - and he was, like other composers, heavily influenced by Mallorcan folk traditions and music, such as that of the flabiol flute-whistlers of the Cossier dancers in Montuiri. Noguera died in 1904 - he was only 44 - but around this time there was a general artistic movement in Mallorca to which the painters who came from Catalonia, Argentina and elsewhere were to add. Indeed, the painters and the musicians and others from the arts world were to gather in places such as El Terreno in Palma at the house of one of these painters - Santiago Rusiñol. They also came together under the umbrella of the "Círculo Mallorquín", a society that had been founded in 1851 and which around the turn of the twentieth century attracted composers such as Miquel Capllonch. Born in 1861 in Pollensa, Capllonch, organist, pianist and composer, is one of the great names of Mallorca's music history. Or he would be if he were particularly well known. Even in his home town, the square in Puerto Pollensa that is named after him is rarely called by his name: it's the church or market square instead.

Today is the feast day of Sant Pere, Saint Peter. One of his works was "Càntic de la fe de Sant Pere" - song of Saint Peter's faith. It might be nice to think that this would be given greater recognition on the day of Saint Peter, not just in Puerto Pollensa, where the fiestas are celebrated, but also in the various other parts of the island where Peter is the patron. But it won't, which might be considered to be a missed opportunity to create greater awareness of Capllonch.

While Chopin gets most of Mallorca's music history plaudits, there were others. They are, though, barely known. In the twenty-first century, communications being as they are, perhaps the young composer of "La Serra de Tramuntana" will go on to achieve far greater acclaim.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 June 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 22C
Forecast high: 31C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 29 June - Sun, 33C; 30 June - Sun, 32C; 1 July - Sun, 31C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3 occasionally Northeast 4 from midday.

Really isn't anything else to say other than that it's wall-to-wall sun and hot.

Evening update (19.15): Not as hot as yesterday. All things being relative. A high of 31.5C.

No Frills Excursions

The Lunatics Take Over The Asylum

Carlos Delgado. Now, you must remember him. Ex-mayor of Calvia. Small bloke, copped some flak for having been photoed with two deer's balls on his head. Where had Carlos been for the past eighteen months since resigning as tourism minister? Not a peep out of him. Then suddenly he does reappear. Lunatics, fanatics, he calls the Partido Popular rebels. Pot, kettle, black. The lunatics were taking over from the lunatics. Shut it, Carlos, the lunatics responded (or words to that effect). The only ally Carlos seemed to have was the fading PP political boss of Palma, José María Rodríguez. With friends like him ... .

Mateo Isern and Biel Company, chiefs among the lunatics, arrived on a high-powered motorbike. "I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride. Wanted, dead or alive." There was to have been a lynching. Not high noon but high seven in the evening. Algaida. José Ramón was to have been marched to the top of the Randa and strung up. In the end, the lynch mob was stood down. Get out of town, JR. And so he will. One day he will be here, the next he will not be. Like a character in "Neighbours" who suddenly disappears with a cursory explanation that he or she has gone to Brisbane, JR will have gone to Madrid, never to be seen again.

The thing is that it was all so predictable. I'm not going to say that I told you so, but I did. Even before JR became president of the government. Division, division, division, with Delgado pulling the strings. And Madrid. Joan Riera in "Ultima Hora", who has been providing a post-electoral daily chronicle of, among other things, the PP implosion, has highlighted the ideological differences. Bauzá's fall has been predicated on ideology - one of anti-regionalism, driven by the PP in Madrid - rather than on anything personal. True. That's how it started, how it had started before the 2011 election, then it got personal though. Rafael Bosch, Toni Pastor, Mateo Isern, how many more do you need?

The lynch mob should have gathered a long time ago, and they know they should have. They could see where it was all heading. And if they hadn't, they could once trilingual teaching became the cause célèbre of the Bauzá administration: JR's own death warrant. Wanted. Dead or alive. Don't be fooled. It wasn't just because Podemos and others emerged from the political woodwork. Had there not been all the personal stuff, PP mayors might now still be mayors or at least part of pacts. Ah yes, pacts. There could never have been any. Not with, say, El Pi. Personal. Pastor, Jaume Font. Someone said that if Bauzá had just picked up the phone and spoken to Font, patched things up, the results would have been different. But Bauzá was not the one who could have made that call. It had to have been someone else. The lunatics know it. And they knew it then.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 June 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 20C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 28 June - Sun, 33C; 29 June - Sun, 29C; 30 June - Sun, 32C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3, locally Northeast 4 during the afternoon.

So, something of a heatwave at present. Well, it is summer.

Evening update (19.45): High of 34.3C. Warm enough.

No Frills Excursions

Nightmare On Bellevue

It starts at four in the afternoon. The set is much the same each day. Its intrusiveness, its loudness may have something to do with wind direction. There are days when the thumping bass is incessant. Four hours of pool party each afternoon. Then, from eight until around half eleven, just before midnight, things are relatively peaceful. Before the crowds gather, that is. The coaches begin to arrive. Football chants, other singing, clapping, shouting, general hubbub. It ends around half two in the morning. The first coaches, returning from the club, come back around two hours later. It takes a further two hours for them to all return. Drunk, drunker than they were when they left - or stupefied - the shouting, the singing is ever louder. Bottles are smashed, pools are jumped into, fireworks are let off. The security, such as they are, mill around. Useless or helpless. Then, from eight in the morning, the crowds start to gather again. Many of them haven't slept, rather like everyone else. The coaches - as many as eight of them - stand with their engines running for up to an hour, no more than twenty metres away from residences, their fumes choking the morning air before they depart with their loads to take them to Palma so that they can return to Barcelona, whence they came. These are the ones who are leaving after their four or five nights. Others take their place.

This is the pattern for three weeks. Residents, other tourists (until they get moved) can sleep little, if at all. The noise can seem dangerously loud. Loud enough to be a health risk. Loud enough and, for several hours, constant. The bars may as well close. There is all-inclusive around as it is, but this is not a tourism from which they will derive any business other than from the handful of cents  commission from cigarettes bought from a machine. It is a tourism that hasn't gone unnoticed on Trip Advisor. "Rude" is putting it mildly. The behaviour is generally appalling and it is not just one or two. There are hundreds, well over a thousand at any one time. And they attract the dross: drug dealers (not the lookies; white boys) parked up by the road as they pass back from the beach.

This is the Mallorca Sin Profes (also dubbed Mallorca Island Festival) spring break vacation at Bellevue organised by Viajes Finalia, based in Barcelona. Sin Profes - without teachers. The students who come before, younger ones, are well-behaved: the teachers come with them. Yes they make some noise, but it's only to be expected and it isn't an issue. It also isn't health-threatening.

Among the "collaborators" for this vacation are the Generalitat de Catalunya, i.e. the government in Catalonia, the Balearic Government's ministry for tourism and, though it's hard to be certain from the logo, probably the Spanish Government's ministry for industry, energy and tourism. Does one suppose that these collaborators are aware of what they are collaborating with? The question needs asking of them.

At least Alcúdia town hall isn't mentioned as another collaborator (it looks as though the Council of Mallorca is though). The previous administration was aware of the situation, exactly the same, last summer. No response was ever received. The new mayor, Toni Mir, an impressive, businesslike guy, wasn't aware of the situation. He is now.

It is for he, for the town hall and for other agencies to draw their conclusions. I'm not making them for them. I'm simply informing them.

Friday, June 26, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 June 2015


Morning high (7.30am): 20.5C
Forecast high: 32C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 27 June - Sun, 31C; 28 June - Sun, 30C; 29 June - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3.

Sun. Hot. For the next few days, there is little or no variation - sun, hot; sun, hot.

Evening update (21.30): High of 32.6C.

No Frills Excursions

Saints You've Never Heard Of

If I were to mention the name Praxedis to you, as in the saint, the chances are that your reaction would be - who? As I have now mentioned Praxedis to you, I'm assuming that you are indeed now asking - who? Of course, if you live in Petra, rather better known in religious circles for the missionary who invented California, you would know all about Praxedis: she's your patron saint, whose feast day is 21 July and who is therefore the reason for your summer fiestas.

For everyone else, Praxedis would be an unknown. Hers is saintly obscurity. Like there are celebrities who belong to categories, starting at the top with A and going downwards, there are saints who are well below the A-list. In Mallorcan terms, the A-list can be said to comprise the likes of Pere, known to the rest of the world as Pedro or Peter, one of the Apostles and assured of Mallorcan saintly status because of his sponsorship of the fishing fraternity. Then there is Joan, aka John, on whose behalf the island has been set ablaze recently. Or how about Jordi (George), who doesn't register in the summer stakes but who is a big thing in April, what with the day of the book having been grafted onto his day and with his flag to be found in the odd municipal shield. Mallorca's saints: John, Paul (who shares his feast day with Peter), George and, er ... . Well, there is no Ringo, but what about Rocco or Rocky? Sant Roc, a name also of some obscurity one imagines, but a pretty loud noise in mid-August in the likes of Alaro. 

To return to Praxedis, it is said that very little is known about her, thus making her even more obscure. There's probably a good reason why she is Petra's patron, though I'm blowed if I can find it. Petra's wonderful Gothic parish church is dedicated to Peter, and the parish church is often a clue to a town's patronage, but not in the case of Petra. Maybe, in times past, the good folk of Petra (or whoever) thought to themselves - let's go a bit left field on this patron saint thing, so found a saint beginning with a P who wasn't Peter or Paul and bingo.

Petra is now so associated with Father Junipero Serra, he of Californian fame, that Praxedis is relegated to even greater obscurity, but it would appear that this wasn't always the case. An intriguing aspect of the Junipero story is that, once upon a time, he wasn't that well known in Petra. He was very much better known in America. Until 1884, the only time he was given an honourable mention was when the priest would name him among other illustrious sons of the village. So yes, he was known, he was illustrious, but he wasn't a big deal. Praxedis had the bigger gig: Junipero's name would only be honoured during her fiestas.

If it hadn't been for a seminary student by the name of Francisco Torrens, Praxedis might still assume some supremacy over Junipero. This student, who himself had never heard of Junipero, stumbled across a biography that had been written about him in 1787. He started writing articles for local newspapers and when he latched on to the fact that there had been, in 1884, some significant celebrations in California to mark the one-hundredth anniversary of his death, people started to take a lot more notice of Junipero, including the town hall in Petra: they agreed to name a square after him.

Praxedis is thus condemned to spend eternity overshadowed in her own town by the man who made California what it is today and so by someone who most definitely existed. As with some other saints, the absence of any real insight into the Praxedis back story might suggest that she was an invention, though to be fair, the fact that her remains were said to have been buried in the Catacomb of Priscilla along with those of her equally obscure sister, Pudentiana, would suggest otherwise.

There are other saints in whose names fiestas are held of similar lack of general recognition. Inca, a fairly large town in Mallorcan terms, has two saints - the twin brothers Abdó and Senén. And they were? Well, not uncommonly, they were martyrs but again not a great deal is known about them. Indeed, the Catholic Church dropped them from the global calendar of saints days quite some number of years ago and so therefore from the Catholic liturgy. Permission was given for their worship to continue in places where this had traditionally been the case, and so Abdó and Senén survived in Inca.

There are others - Santa Àgueda, the patron of Sencelles, for instance - who lurk in this saintly B-list and who go to prove that fiestas are not all about the saintly star attractions.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 June 2015


Morning high (7.15am): 21C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 26 June - Sun, 32C; 27 June - Sun, 30C; 28 June - Sun, 29C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 3 to 4 occasionally 2 to 3.

In a word, hot. But there is always a reasonable northerly cutting in to bring a touch of freshness. Over on the mainland they're talking of temperatures up to 40C. With any luck they won't make it over here.

Evening update (20.00): Nice. High of 28.9C.

No Frills Excursions

Politics Of The Fiesta Programme

"Not possible, it is fiesta." That was 29 June out of the equation. "Thursday not possible, it's fiesta." So it is. I had been seeking an appointment with the mayor. As it turns out, on account of my insistence and the pressing nature of the need to make the appointment, it is possible for tomorrow. Initially it hadn't seemed to be: new mayors do have very busy schedules; one can accept that.

These busy schedules do have to take into account fiestas. Town halls, mayors have many responsibilities but none more defines the function of a town hall than the organisation of its fiestas and its participation. And this does of course entail being shut on certain fiesta days.

Sant Pere is the fiesta for the port of Alcudia. The town has its own fiesta - Sant Jaume in July. But then the town hall is a town hall for the whole of Alcúdia. It has its days off even if these days off don't, strictly speaking, apply to others in the whole of the municipality. Sant Pere one can understand, but Mare de Déu de la Victoria as well? In fact it is perhaps even more understandable. The hermitage at La Victoria, the camp-over of the night of 1 July, the fiestas for the Mare de Déu up the mountain above Alcúdia are hardcore tradition: more so even than Pere and Jaume. Few visitors attend; they are fiestas for the people of Alcúdia. For the town hall and for the mayor there is a very well-defined role in these fiestas. On Thursday next week, as is the case each year, the mayor will lead the ball de bot folk dance before there are showers of sweets and hazelnuts. The town hall does of course need to be shut on that day, even if the ball de bot isn't until half past four. There again, the traditional arrival of dignitaries, accompanied by the band of music is at half eleven in the morning. "Thursday not possible, it's fiesta."

The arrangements for La Victoria are the same each year: exactly the same. From the climb and the whistling to the hermitage of the evening of 1 July through the fritters and mistela wine, the folk dance, the offer of camomile and the paella, they never vary. Yet there is always the programme; it is tagged on to the one produced for Sant Pere, even if it is an exact repeat of years gone by.

Fiesta programmes are themselves matters of great town hall importance. So much so that they can often not be released until late, much to the annoyance of those who would rather like to know, more in advance, what will be going on: La Victoria doesn't alter, but Sant Pere, some of it, does. There has been an added reason this year for any tardiness in the programme publication - and it will have applied to other municipalities as well - and that is the mayor's introduction and mayor's photo with the introduction. Woe betide any printer who accidentally uses the photo of the ex-mayor.

These mayoral intros, replete with the correct photo, can be rather like a football manager's programme notes, and with the arrival of a new administration they are even more so than usual. The new mayor hopes that the people will have confidence in the town hall's ability to organise fiestas and cultural acts and, after the fiestas are over, will also have confidence in the town hall to deal with their concerns. The town hall is at the disposal of the people of Alcúdia. "Molts anys. Bones festes de Sant Pere."

There is other stuff about thanking the fishermen of the port and being honoured to express the significance of the celebration of the port's patron saint, but then it goes on to speak of Alcúdia not being able to live without the sea and its role in tourism, the primary sector of the local economy. As much as it is a greeting for the fiestas it is also a political statement. Is this appropriate? Should the greeting not simply confine itself to the fiestas themselves and to their tradition and cultural significance? Perhaps, but the fiesta programme is a prime source of town hall communication. The fiestas themselves are the most visible manifestation of town hall involvement in the lives of local people; they are the town hall's face, and the face of the mayor and his or her message is a key opportunity to communicate.

It is perhaps for this reason, as much as providing information about the schedule of events, that so much attention (and money) can be lavished on fiesta programmes. They can seem to be an unnecessary expenditure, especially if the schedule never alters, but they are a statement. Produce a rotten one and it can appear as if the town hall doesn't care.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 June 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 21C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 25 June - Sun, 30C; 26 June - Sun, 29C; 27 June - Sun, 30C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 easing 3 by the afternoon.

Fine, warm morning. Fine, hot day to come. That's it!

Evening update (20.45): High of 27.6C. Quite a pleasant breeze during the afternoon.

No Frills Excursions

The Least Imperfect System

The pollsters are at it again. No sooner have the elections been dispensed with than they are out with their clipboards or making their phone calls. The latest survey is still a test of electorate opinion: one to test voter satisfaction (or not) with the results of municipal elections. The Metroscopia survey has discovered that 57% of voters are not satisfied with the choices of mayors that have been made, the result in many cases of pacts of parties, none of which obtained majorities or even the most votes.

When you get into the detail of the poll, however, you find that the satisfaction factor varies depending on the sympathies of those surveyed: 88% of Podemos voters, for instance, are satisfied with the pacts that have been arrived at. Well, they would be. They've got a mayor in Madrid, Manuela Carmena, who achieved a 17.7% share of the vote - 287,000 actual votes: the Partido Popular scored twice as much on both counts but is now in opposition.

PP supporters, as with many PP politicians, including the Balearics' own José Ramón Bauzá, are distinctly unimpressed with the current system. 92% of PP voters believe that the party which obtains the most votes should govern, even if it fails to gain a majority. Well, they would. They now no longer have mayors or regional presidents who previously had achieved both the most votes and majorities, as with, for example, the Balearic parliament or Palma City Council.

It was instructive that before the regional election Bauzá was making noises about the most voted-for party having the right to govern (or at least be guaranteed to be part of a governing coalition). When he started making these noises, it was the first time it became clear that he knew how the result would turn out, though even he could probably not have predicted how bad the result would be. For public consumption, he had been saying the PP would get 25 seats: he was five out. 

This is not the first time that the electoral system has been exposed to criticism and it won't be the last, but the chances of it being changed are diminishing; not that the chances were ever great. Mariano Rajoy has wanted to make adjustments to give the most voted-for candidates and parties (his own) a better chance, but it would have run up against a problem: the need for a qualified majority in Congress.

For better or for worse, Spain and so its elections - national, regional, municipal - are governed by the D'Hondt system of proportional representation. That the PP and its supporters might not now find this system to be entirely to their satisfaction is, frankly, tough. They knew the rules. Everyone knew the rules. Presumably, they hadn't been complaining or calling for changes when they were winning ample majorities. Defeat through the chosen system is not a reason to change the system just because it has proved to be unsatisfactory in these elections for one particular party.

Even had there been a method whereby the PP in the Balearics would have automatically been given the chance to govern, it doesn't follow that they would have been able to. Bauzá, with more seats and a higher percentage share of the vote than any other party, might have demanded the right to remain as president, but there would still have been the investiture issue: the only way he (or a replacement for him from within the PP) could have been president was through a formal pact, and the only party which could have delivered this was PSOE. It was never going to happen.

The scrambling around to form pacts might appear confusing and even unseemly but it is nothing new. What is new is that there are two alternative and fairly strong political forces - Podemos and Ciudadanos. They have made the coalition process more complicated simply by their presence, but it is this very presence that makes a PP call for the most voted-for party to have a right to govern the more desperate and even rather despicable. The PP (and PSOE) have to accept that the results were as they were because new parties succeeded in diminishing their votes. Rather than criticise the system, they need to be self-critical: they fared as they did because the voters decreed that they deserved to. 

There is no perfect electoral system, only the least imperfect. First past the post isn't perfect and arguably it is well short of being the least imperfect. Prior to the British election, the London correspondent for "El País" said that Britain had a weird electoral system, that first past the post sounds like a board game. The Spanish, the Germans and others find Britain's system distinctly odd. Britons might find the Spanish system odd, as some Spaniards now find it not to their liking, but you'll never satisfy everyone, especially PP voters.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 June 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 22C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 24 June - Sun, 30C; 25 June - Sun, 25C; 26 June - Sun, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 to 4 backing Northeast.

Some cloud early on and warm. Southerlies of yesterday shifting northerly so may feel fresher. Nothing but sun though.

Evening update (20.30): High of 31.6C. Light cloud at times through the day and so felt a bit sticky.

No Frills Excursions

The Night Of Fire: Sant Joan

There are times when Mallorca can seem as though it is awash and aflame with fiestas. We are right in the midst of one those times: a midsummer clash of two of the saintly titans - John (the Baptist) and Peter, aka in Catalan, Joan and Pere. And for the former, awash and aflame is how things are. Tonight is Sant Joan Eve, also known, depending on location, as the Night of Fire*, Night of the Witches or the Night of Magic. Sant Joan, John the Baptist, can appear to be a mere bystander to the Eve which bears his name, a coincidence of his birth (24 June) having made him a participant in the midsummer rituals of the solstice, but he is part of the Eve's equation - the awash part, the water part. John the Baptist, lest it be forgotten, not only foretold the coming of the Messiah, he also, on the Messiah's arrival, was to baptise him. At midnight tonight, if you take a swim in the sea or merely take a paddle, your ailments will be cured, your aches and pains will disappear, but above all, your sins - if you have any - will be cleansed. Taking the waters on Sant Joan Eve is symbolic of the baptism of Christ.

Generally speaking, it is frowned upon, nay prohibited, to go around having fires on beaches: a certain latitude can apply on Sant Joan Eve, however. It is the aflame part of the equation that has little to do with Sant Joan himself, which is why it is probably fair to say that he has, despite the cleansing, been made somewhat subordinate to the fire traditions. They are of pagan times, but they also have a cleansing and purifying purpose - burning something in the fires of Sant Joan will rid you of bad luck as your sins will have been cleansed by the flame. Writing a wish on a piece of paper which is thrown into the flame can also bring you luck; a variant is that pieces of paper - small flamelets of wishes - or nightlight candles are placed on the hopefully calm water before they are extinguished.

It is possible that you can encounter such ceremonies pretty much anywhere, but if it's properly sanctioned and big fire entertainment you are after, then there is nowhere which will do it better tonight than Palma. Its "Nit de Foc", Night of Fire at the Parc de la Mar by the Cathedral will feature what we are assured will be a record turnout of demons for the remarkable, the terrifying, the spectacular "correfoc": the fire-run.

Celebrations for Sant Joan are all around. They range from the full-blown fiestas of Deià, Mancor de la Vall, Muro and Son Servera to the more specific, such as the single fire night in Palma. They are, therefore, not solely confined to parts of the island where the sea is on hand to make its contribution to the festivities. Well inland, for example, there is the village of Sant Joan where, appropriately enough, they honour John the Baptist. And they do so in their own particular way. It is here that Sant Joan becomes the Night of Magic, and it is a night principally aimed at the children of the village, some of whom, dressed up as wizards and what have you, may well camp out at the Consolation Sanctuary, only to be woken before dawn in order to witness the "dancing sun": this is hardcore tradition for the solstice.

Tomorrow, Sant Joan will be visited by Sant Joan Pelós, the character who represents John the Baptist and who performs a peculiar dance which, in the case of this particular village, is one for which he is accompanied by a giant crow - the Corb de Sant Nofre. In Felanitx tomorrow evening, the best-known of the Hairy John Sant Joan Pelóses takes to the streets. Sant Llorenç has one as well, though there he has had a haircut.  

While the Sant Joan fiestas are of most immediate interest, those for Sant Pere, Saint Peter, are already underway in parts of the island: his day is not until next Monday, 29 June. Sant Pere is of particular significance to Mallorca because of his patronage of fishermen. Accordingly, therefore, he has fiestas in Puerto Alcúdia, Puerto Pollensa and Port Sóller, not forgetting the small resort in Arta of Colonia Sant Pere, originally a farming colony that was established in the late nineteenth century when there was a need to cultivate more land. Oddly enough, however, the patron saint of fishermen is also celebrated inland, such as in the tiny agricultural village of Búger and in Esporles in the Tramuntana mountains. They are staging a Zombie Night in Esporles tonight, one which, it can be safely assumed, has nothing to do with the traditions of Sant Pere or indeed Sant Joan.

Fiestas typically reach their climax with their more contemporary ritual of fire - the fireworks display. And so there will be rockets galore in Mancor and Muro tomorrow at midnight. In Deià, they will have their own night of fire with fire-running demons on the loose.

* This is the summer Night of Fire and Night of the Witches: there is another one in January, the night of 16 January - Sant Antoni Eve.

Monday, June 22, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 June 2015


Morning high (6.30am): 19C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 23 June - Sun, 31C; 24 June - Sun, 24C; 25 June - Sun, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 3 increasing 3 to 4 by midday.

Pleasant, fresh breeze early on but with southerlies dominating the breeze may make the predicted high feel hotter. Sun all the way for the whole week.

Evening update (22.00): Hot, a high of 33.6C.

No Frills Excursions

The Long March Of Miquel March

In September 1990 the Dalai Lama came to Mallorca. A principal reason for him having done so was to attend the closing of an exhibition of Tibetan art in Pollensa. He donated the Buddhist Kalachakra mandala that is now to be seen in the town's museum. When he had arrived at Palma airport, one of the dignitaries who was there to greet him was Martí March, the then mayor of Pollensa. Twenty-five years on, there is another March who is mayor of the town. He is one of Martí March's three sons: Miquel Àngel March.

There is something vaguely spiritual, other-worldly about March the son, as though he doesn't quite belong in the world of politics. But that world has been turned upside down over the past weeks. He's not a Podemos man, but he is a GOB man: for one score years he was its face. In 1988, two years before the the Dalai Lama's visit, he became the spokesperson for the environmentalists. Those who once might not have belonged in politics now do belong. Local politics - some local politics - is unrecognisable compared with what it was.

The Catalan section of "El País" ran a profile of March recently. It was like a paean, an expression or hymn of thanksgiving rooted in Greek mythology, littered with references such as to the "mythical" beach of Es Trenc (a battleground for GOB), to melancholic walks, to the playing of the flute and the drum alongside the piping xeremiers, to living in the mountains. Another world to the typical one of local politics.

GOB was once challenged - by a Partido Popular politician whose name I cannot now recall - to either put up or shut up. The allusion was to GOB's influence. If it was so determined to direct political thinking, then it should become its own party. It didn't but its former spokesperson is now a political leader. He had been approached previously but had declined offers to enter mainstream politics (insofar as there now is a mainstream). As an independent and a well-known figure in Pollensa, he was brought into the Junts Avançam fold along with PSOE, Més and the Republican Left. There was a chance to change things, he noted before the election. Change will doubtless come.

But you cannot have been GOB's leader for twenty years or have been subject to assaults from the right-wing press and not have developed a hard-nosed edge. Even the lyricism of the "El País" article recognised this. It mentioned issues that had already occurred to me: those to do with Formentor, i.e. the definition of planning, the expansion of the hotel, the Alfonso Cortina chalet. Planning - urban or rural - is a March forte. Combine this with environmentalism and plenty of attention will now be turned to the landscapes of Pollensa, to developments or not-developments. With the support of Més and that of the Alternativa (not part of the administration but a willing ally), the long march of March to the mayoral throne in Pollensa will culminate with more than just seeking, once and for all, to gain open access for the marchers to the Castell del Rei - across land owned by a different March family, the banking one. 

There will be faults to cross on the Pollensa landscapes along the way. One has already and inevitably opened up: the semi-pedestrianisation scheme for Puerto Pollensa. Tomeu Cifre's "stellar" project was not realised during his mayoral lifetime and it will now be redefined. This is not surprising. It was GOB who put one of the final spanners in the constantly delayed works by citing an urban plan of the early 1990s that the pedestrianisation had to be total, not semi. The coastal road, however (or if) it is pedestrianised, passes by the Ullal area. The project for a five-star hotel will now surely be allowed to finally drown under the negligible water content of a wetland long since mostly dried up. But here is another fault to tackle.

The Junts were handed the Pollensa administration courtesy of the Unió Mollera Pollencina, the Puerto Pollensa party. This is a party minus an ideology but defensive of business interests. There is a revealing entry on its Facebook page about luxury hotels, a link to an item in "Ultima Hora". The comment says: "Very little of this tourism is coming to our town. The lack of five-star hotels is a deficit in our hotel offer. This is a challenge for our new administration". Challenge indeed. The UMP wants new hotels. The call from business for there to be new hotels has been sounded for several years.

There will be battles aplenty. Over the Pollensa festival, for example, and the apparent lack of consultation surrounding its programme for this year and the continued appointment (by Tomeu Cifre) of Joan Valent as director. The Alternativa has kicked up a fuss over this. It will be renewed. But will there continue to be one battle for Miquel March? He is a regular Moor on behalf of the Moors versus Christians. The march has just begun.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 June 2015


Morning high (7.00am): 19.5C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 22 June - Sun, 31C; 23 June - Sun, cloud, 26C; 24 June - Sun, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3, locally Northeast 4 during the afternoon.

Sun, sun, sun. Not a lot more to say really.

Evening update (21.00): Shaped up well. Sun and a high of 29.5C.

No Frills Excursions

The Weirdness Of Hairy John

So the story goes, in the summer of 1913 the eldest daughter of the former queen, Isabel II, one María Isabel Francisca de Asís Cristina Francisca de Paula Dominga de Borbón y Borbón, came to the Mallorcan town of Felanitx. It was a hot day and she was tired because of the travelling. Nonetheless, the mayor thought it would be a good idea if his royal guest was provided with some entertainment and so a youth of hairy appearance, accompanied by the music of local instruments, was commanded to dance in front of the princess. There are various ways that you can translate her reaction. One of the least offensive is that - suitably unamused in a royal fashion - she demanded to know who the jerk was who was doing the dancing. Royal personage or not, reaction to María Isabel etc. was unfavourable to say the least. The good people of Felanitx were outraged. From that time on, the hairy youth has not danced for anyone, other than for the people of the town.

It quite clearly isn't still the same hairy youth, but the hairy character is the same. He was and remains Sant Joan Pelós: Saint John the Hairy. So important is he that the Council of Mallorca is proposing that he be declared to be in the island's cultural interest. Hairy John has been around for centuries (since the seventeenth approximately) and this coming Wednesday, the feast day of Saint John (the Baptist), he will be prancing around in Felanitx once more, wearing his strange mask and then handing out carnations to the spectators. His whole demeanour, his whole idiot-dancing style, plus the flowers make him a dead ringer for a flower power hippy of the late 1960s, but hippy Hairy John, with his centuries of tradition, had long pre-empted the Summer of Love.

He isn't the only Hairy John. Pollensa has its own Sant Joan Pelós, but rather than come out at midsummer, this one makes an appearance for Corpus Christi. In keeping with the 24 June feast day, the Johns of Sant Llorenç and, unsurprisingly, the village of Sant Joan, do their bit at roughly the same time as the Felanitx John. The character is supposedly a representation of John the Baptist but its exact origins aren't clear. General consensus of opinion has it that it is all to do with a one-time pagan ritual and with an ancient sundance fiesta.

The fiesta of Sant Joan, for John the Baptist, for midsummer, for fire, for the solstice is a deep-rooted one in Mallorcan tradition, but as with other fiesta traditions it owes much to modern-day revivals. Though Sant Joan Pelós in Felanitx has more or less had a continuous presence in the town, he has only shot to real prominence in the last twenty years or so. And with this prominence has come the interest in the various trappings of the Hairy character, such as the Latin inscription - "Ecce Agnus Dei" (behold the Lamb of God) - and the carrying of a lamb.

The tradition is one that does appear to have been subject to new interpretation or perhaps a revival of something that goes back well beyond the start of the last century. Gabriel Llompart Moragues, a Mallorcan folklore historian, uses oral history to report that of the Sant Joan Pelós dance in Felanitx of the 1920s there was no recollection of a lamb having been held. It is speculated that while one hand carried the cross with the Latin inscription, the fact that the other was also placed on a hip was representative of the fact that at one time in the dim, distant past, the hand had been used to carry a lamb. Agonising over analyses of Mallorcan traditions is, at times, as much of a tradition in Mallorca as the traditions themselves.

What is clear is that, although at the very end of the nineteenth century Sant Joan was celebrated across the island, certain manifestations of the fiesta, notably the Hairy John dance, were confined to relatively few places. Another notable Mallorcan folkloricist, Antoni Maria Alcover, reported on the fiesta in 1899. He was attending the Sant Joan celebrations in Son Carrio, i.e. in Sant Llorenç, and said that Sant Joan Pelós performed his dance, accompanied by two demons. They headed for the monks' residence and apparently the monks had never seen the dance before. At the time, at the end of that century, very few people would in fact have seen it. Even back then there were attempts at revivalism. But when people did see it, they found it all, well, a bit odd. Perhaps the reaction of María Isabel etc. in 1913 was to have been expected, therefore.

Alcover makes a critical point, though. These attempts at revival were based on a tradition which he described as "primitive". For this reason, the dance was considered to be weird. The primitive weirdness is what was retained through the last century, albeit the dance fell in and out of fashion in those few places where it was performed. Nowadays, such weirdness is what makes the dance, what gives it the cultural interest that the Council of Mallorca is determined to preserve by making the declaration. There will be a lot of odd stuff going on for Sant Joan this coming week, but nothing will be quite as odd as the Hairy Johns.

* Photo from an old entry on Klaus's Photo Blog: http://mallorcaphotoblog.com/2009/06/25/the-dance-of-sant-joan-pelos/

Saturday, June 20, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 June 2015


Morning high (5.15am): 19.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 21 June - Sun, 30C; 22 June - Sun, 29C; 23 June - Sun, cloud, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3.

Another splendid day awaits. All is well on the weather front through the weekend and into next week.

Evening update (21.30): High of 29.4C. Just about right.

No Frills Excursions

New Mallorca Government And Tourism

Things are not fully done and dusted yet - certainly not at the regional government or the Council of Mallorca - but the tourism industry is beginning to get a taste of what the new age of the island's politics has in store for it. Or doesn't have in store. For example, what are we to make of the apparent downgrading of tourism by the new regime in Palma? Tourism, under the Partido Popular, was a specific responsibility of the deputy mayor Álvaro Gijón. Now, it is to be rolled into a combined department with the economy and finance, while the councillor with the tourism portfolio will not even sit on the council's governing board. Moreover, this councillor, Joana María Adrover (PSOE), seemingly has no experience of the tourism industry.

When the council's spokesperson, Neus Truyol (Més), was explaining the first day's work of the new council, she said that they were "very clear as to the centrality of tourism in Palma, but gradually there has to be change to the tourism model." They may be very clear, but her statement was not, while there are certain issues which do require immediate clarification, such as Palma 365. This was an initiative with which Gijón was closely associated. What's the plan for it going forward? Is there one?

One aspect of Palma's tourism for which there does appear to be clarity is the so-called "bikini law". The council's fourth deputy mayor, Aurora Jhardi (Som Palma, i.e. Podemos), who is responsible for public services, has said that the controversial civic ordinance that was introduced last year will be repealed and will be done so as a matter of urgency. An aspect of this was the rule about not wandering around in bikinis (women) or only shorts (men) away from the frontline. It would seem that at some point this summer the rule will be scrapped.

Then there is the Palacio de Congresos convention centre. Despite the most recent internal legal services reports having established that the award of management of the complex by Barceló is sound, there is to be yet another set of reports. Neus Truyol says that new reports are required to ensure that the council would be acting within the law. Meaning that the most recent reports suggest that it wouldn't be? Més, it might be recalled, was the party which was the fiercest in its criticism of the award and had even gone so far as to hint that the Palacio might be demolished.

At regional and Council of Mallorca levels, the divvying up of tourism responsibilities has yet to be decided. As for the government, the absence of Podemos from the executive might allow some in the industry to breathe a sigh of relief, but as we are led to believe that PSOE has accepted a number of Podemos proposals for the new government's programme, does this mean that the eco-tax will be introduced? Més certainly want it to be, though it should be remembered that Podemos, though in favour of an eco-tax, had said that it was something which should be examined in order to assess its economic impact. PSOE have been less committed to the tax.

The Council will almost certainly now rubber-stamp its assuming responsibilities for tourism promotion. Under Maria Salom of the PP, the Council had rejected this, partly on the grounds that it would reintroduce duplication of effort. Thus far, only Ibiza of the four island councils has accepted the responsibilities, the Bauzá government having sought to devolve them to the councils. A sticking-point for Menorca and Formentera has been the financing. It might now be that the new regional government will increase this, and Més has long advocated that the councils should assume greater tourism responsibilities (not just for promotion). In some ways, this might not be a bad thing if there is the funding in place, but it would leave up in the air the role of the Balearics Tourism Agency, which is part of the regional government's tourism ministry.

Friday, June 19, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 June 2015


Morning high (5.45am): 18C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 20 June - Sun, cloud, 29C; 21 June - Sun, cloud, 25C; 22 June - Sun, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 4, temporarily North around midday.

Clear skies at dawn and a good, sunny day to come. Occasional cloud anticipated over the weekend but otherwise fine. General outlook into next week is good with temperatures rising slightly.

Evening update (20.15): Decent. A high of 29.8C.

No Frills Excursions

Fiestas In The Cultural Interest

The outgoing vice-president for culture and patrimony at the Council of Mallorca, Joan Rotger, has announced that the island's commission for patrimonial history has recommended that a series of fiestas should be declared as being officially in the "cultural interest". These would need to be ratified by the incoming administration but it would be highly unlikely that it would veto them: culture and patrimony are right up the street of Més most certainly and neither PSOE nor Podemos would take issue. The fiestas in question are Sant Antoni in Sa Pobla, Sóller's Es Firó, Sant Joan Pelós and the "cavallets" of Felanitx and the cossier dancers of Alaró and Manacor: it is perhaps more accurate to refer to fiesta traditions where the latter are concerned.

What do these declarations entail? On the face of it not a lot. Being in the cultural interest places obligations on relevant authorities - town halls principally - to ensure the maintenance of the fiestas in their traditional forms and also to promote them. They are declarations of a protective type akin to protection of historic buildings, but protecting a building is easier or at least more obvious, given that it is something tangible; fiestas aren't. Nevertheless, the thinking is that there shouldn't be tampering with these traditions, so that they remain as they always have been. But as is sometimes the case in Mallorca, tradition can be a movable feast. There are traditions which simply aren't that long.

Sant Antoni in Sa Pobla is a case in point. The fiestas themselves have been around for centuries - since the fourteenth century in fact - but certain aspects are very much more recent. Demons have been present at Sant Antoni for a very long time, but the fire-spitting, trident-whirling, running demons of the present day are an invention of the final quarter of the twentieth century. Moreover, they are fire-running demons whose spectacular was developed not in Sa Pobla but in Catalonia.

Of course, it will be argued that this has been a modern-day adaptation of the long tradition of fire rituals at Sant Antoni, and the argument is perfectly valid. But were fire-running demons to suddenly be banned (and unnecessary alarm was caused by the European directive on pyrotechnics a few years ago, which suggested they might have been), would this represent a breach of the cultural interest? It all depends upon how tradition is defined and how old something has to be in order to qualify as a tradition.

There is, one guesses, a sort of politics of fiesta behind these declarations. They reaffirm the Council's role as protector of the island's culture and so also reaffirm one of the purposes for its existence. Yet are these declarations needed?

Again, if one takes Sant Antoni as an example, here are fiestas which have long had higher interests bestowed upon them. Even back in the days before the fire-running demons appeared and when the Franco regime was often ambivalent towards fiestas, Sant Antoni was, in 1966, declared as being in the national tourist interest. It was a declaration that amounted to very little as tourists have never attended them in great number, but it was nevertheless an indication of the cultural importance attached to them.

But at the direct local level, there have - also for centuries - been organisations that have sought to guarantee the continuance of fiestas and their traditional elements. Sa Pobla has one (as do many other towns and villages) and it is the Obreria of Sant Antoni. Originally established to ensure the upkeep of the church, its role has broadened over the years. It is the arbiter of what goes on at Sant Antoni: demons, big-heads and what have you, they are all subject to the Obreria's supervisory role.

There has also been a movement in mostly all towns and villages to establish local cultural associations. These have become their own definers of tradition and its policing. Sarau Alcudienc in Alcúdia is a good example, and this definition of tradition includes elements that are comparatively novel. S'Estol Rei en Jaume, the parade of historical figures, was one of the main reasons for Sarau Alcudienc coming into existence at the end of the 1970s. The parade would now qualify as a "tradition" despite its relative youth.

Back in Sa Pobla, there is the Albopàs association (Albopàs being Sa Pobla backwards). It has a wider role than Sarau Alcudienc, as demons, pipers and other aspects of Sant Antoni and the town's fiestas are all part of this one association. It is a keeper of the tradition.

These are associations which play a highly significant role in their towns and they are not ones, having recovered tradition or developed it in certain ways, which are about to allow it to be corrupted. Why is a cultural interest declaration needed therefore? Well, there is always the promotion.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 June 2015


Morning high (6.00am): 19.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 19 June - Sun, 30C; 20 June - Sun, cloud, 25C; 21 June - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West-Northwest 3 to 4, easing 2 to 3 by late afternoon.

A fine day beckons, getting quite warm again, though a dip in highs is forecast over the weekend: sunny, nonetheless.

Evening update (21.45): Pretty good. High of 29C.

No Frills Excursions

Saving The Tramuntana: Tourism confusion

Movements have occurred in the Tramuntana mountains. Their landscape has altered. Only partially but significantly, topped and tailed by Pollensa and Calvia. The mountains' political landscape has been given a gloss of red but also of green, and it doesn't come any greener than in Pollensa. Here, the new mayor is Miquel Àngel March, the former and long-time spokesperson for GOB, Mallorca's eco-enviro group/watchdog. In Calvia the earth has not moved quite so dramatically in swallowing up the Partido Popular - an old-school socialist sort is in charge - but new-school socialism, as with Més, the eco-nationalist variety, hovers in the background.

There are nineteen municipalities which are embraced - either wholly or in part - by the mountains, over a third of all of Mallorca's municipalities. Each has its interest in the Tramuntana, each has its say about conservation, preservation, management and tourism. But rising above them are the peaks of the Tramuntana consortium and the Council of Mallorca. Their landscapes are also altering, along with their personnel, and at the Council this change might involve its presidency falling to the former mayor of one of the smaller municipalities: Miquel Ensenyat of Més, the ex-mayor of Esporles.

The mountains are thus far from immune to political change. On the face of it, in conservation and preservation terms, the mountains might be said to have got a result. One-time GOB here, eco-nationalists there: how green tinged with red are their valleys. And for the Save the Tramuntana campaign, the movement of the political furniture might also represent a result. The mountains will be saved.

Did you know that there was a Save the Tramuntana campaign? Well there is. And you can sign its petition, its civil manifesto at Change.org*. But why do the mountains need saving? Wasn't the UNESCO declaration - the World Heritage Site - all to do with saving? Yes, but according to the campaign organisers, the guidelines and objectives for making the Tramuntana "a sustainable natural and cultural landscape" are not being met because of a "lack of political will (and) the difficulties of co-ordination between the different administrative organs". "Designations have been used more as a tourist attraction than a guide to protect our environment." (Designations include the UNESCO declaration.)

The campaign is principally concerned with the effects of tourism. It says: "The Serra de Tramuntana must not repeat the excesses committed elsewhere on the Mallorcan coast. We do not want the opportunistic short-term attitude nor the institutional indifference to give way to mass tourism and the inevitable and irreversible destruction of our values, our landscape, our traditions and the Mediterranean way of life".

Mass tourism? In the mountains? Possibly so. But the mass is not the mass of overcrowded beach resorts, unless this is supposed to refer to, for example, Puerto Sóller. The Tramuntana in Calvia does not extend to the resorts there, while Puerto Pollensa is just outside the Tramuntana zone. I'm guessing it is more a reference to the volume of tourists, while the campaign also refers to activities - motorbiking for example - which are "abuses" and that threaten the mountains with being turned into a "theme park".

The organisation of the Tramuntana, post-UNESCO declaration, doesn't appear to have been terribly effective. The campaign has a point here, but has this been because of a lack of political will and difficulties of co-ordination or does the whole management of the Tramuntana within a tourism framework suffer from the lack of a clear vision as to what is wanted from the mountains?

A point about the UNESCO declaration is that if there are abuses which threaten conservation and preservation, the status of World Heritage Site can be and will be taken away. A further point, and one expressed to me by a leading authority on tourism marketing, Professor David Carson, is that the declaration was the worst thing that could have happened to the Tramuntana. Why? Because it imposes so many constraints that tourism development is hindered. It isn't as if the declaration is against tourism development - it most certainly isn't - but it has to be done in line with principles of conservation and preservation, which apply to land, buildings, people and ways of life.

With the change in the political landscape, a more sympathetic attitude towards the campaign's objectives may be obtained. But again, one comes back to what the vision actually is. The campaign calls for "a model of quality tourism ... without being elitist." Would this be in line with the Més desire for greater sharing of the spoils of tourism? And would it therefore not be as it is in Pollensa? In a profile of Miquel Àngel March, it says that he is from a town which is the "capital of the tourist elite in Mallorca". What do we want from the mountains?

* www.salvarlatramuntana.com.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 June 2015


Morning high (6.30am): 19C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 18 June - Sun, 29C; 19 June - Sun, 25C; 20 June - Sun, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 2 to 4, easing North 2 by the afternoon.

The morning after. Some patches of rainwater still observable after yesterday's storm. There is a chance that there will be some rain again this morning, but otherwise things will be returning to normal with settled, sunny weather in store through the rest of the week.

Evening update (20.00): Cloud lingered for a fair time. Mainly sunny later. A high of 26.4C.

No Frills Excursions

Political Change And The Church

Discussion of the political upheaval brought about by regional and municipal elections across Spain as well as Mallorca has focused primarily on the circumstances which contributed to this upheaval; there has been less discussion as to what it will actually all mean. In Mallorca, consideration of the consequences of change has been specific, such as the likelihood of an eco-tax being introduced. Important though such policy is, it is not a consequence at a fundamental level. What does this political change mean for institutions? There will be, we are assured, greater participation in political decision-making. If so, then the public will provide town halls and regional administrations with their input. How great this might be, however, remains to be seen.

The impact on political institutions, because of programmes of participation, has been the principal area of discussion, but what of another institution - the Catholic Church? It has hardly been mentioned, or hadn't been prior to the elections. It might be argued that this is because of its diminished role, but this diminution is greatly exaggerated. Sure there is greatly lower church attendance than was once the case. Certainly the church can no longer count on anything like majority support on issues such as abortion or homosexuality. But the church still plays a key role in society. Lower attendance at church does not mean that society has turned its back on Catholicism, and surveys prove the point; a majority of Spaniards still consider themselves to be Catholics.

This said, there is a great deal of difference between strict conservatism and secular Catholicism. The secular nature of society was emphasised in the Constitution which, at the same time, guaranteed religious freedoms, and secularism, whether the church likes it or not, is what now dominates society. It has been to the Partido Popular's great discredit that it has not appreciated this in its attempts to undo liberal advances, especially those of the Zapatero administration.

As new town hall regimes get their feet under the table, it has been instructive to note that in two cases - Alcúdia and Felanitx - one of the first priorities has to do with summer fiestas. In Alcúdia, the administration under the regionalist El Pi and PSOE socialists has the organisation of the imminent Sant Pere fiestas to concern it, but there is more to the fiestas than just the arrangements for the late-night parties or the kiddies' entertainment. There is religion as well; the fiestas are after all, though it might be forgotten, religious occasions.

Alcúdia's new mayor, Antoni Mir, has not expressly said anything about the relationship of the town hall with the local church, but the Felanitx mayor, Joan Xamena, most certainly has. A member of the Més Mallorcan socialists-nationalists, Xamena has been talking about the town's Sant Agustí fiestas. The town hall, which is now a pact of the Més Bloc, PSOE and El Pi, will not be attending any religious acts - processions or mass - during the fiestas. Felanitx town hall, he has made clear, is a secular administration.

The relationship between church and town hall is a curious one. Though religion itself may no longer dominate lives in towns and villages, the physical presence of the church does. There is and can be no avoiding the colossal nature of the church building. It is, therefore, right at the heart of communities, but to what extent is the parish church (and other churches) viewed as only an architectural treasure by these local communities? Secularism might suggest that this is how it is perceived, but I am not convinced that this is so.

There has long been a debate as to this relationship. One side of the argument, in keeping with what Felanitx's mayor has said, is that a town hall, as a secular authority, should not show any religious inclination, and constitutionally there is no reason why it should. A mayor and councillors swear allegiance to the statute of autonomy in the Balearics and to the king; not to the Catholic Church. Where there have been overt displays of participation in religious ceremonies by mayors, there have also been strong denunciations. This has been the case, for example, in Granada. By contrast and in other instances, for example in Valladolid, the mayor has established that councillors can attend ceremonies but only in a private capacity.

Participation in religious acts is not the only way in which relations can cause some controversy. There is also the tax status. Town halls have been eyeing up ways of extracting tax from which churches are generally exempt. If Spain, at its national election, were to move politically in the way that many municipalities have, there could be fundamental changes awaiting the Catholic Church. And in Mallorca it could face another one. The next president of the Council of Mallorca may well be from Més. He would also be the first gay man to be its president.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 June 2015


Morning high (6.15am): 18C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 17 June - Cloud, sun, 28C; 18 June - Sun, cloud, 24C; 19 June - Sun, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 3 to 4.

Bit cloudy this morning. Likely to be some rain and storm around at some point. May also be some rain tomorrow but things will settle down before the weekend.

Evening update (20.00): Well, there was some rain and storm. A hell of a lot of both and they went on for some considerable time. A high of 25.7C but there were lows down towards 16C when things were at their heaviest. 

No Frills Excursions

A Day In Mallorca Three Hundred Years Ago

This coming Saturday at 9am an excursion has been arranged. It will take the trippers from the Cami Jesus in Palma to the south-east of the island. It has been arranged by the association of friends of the Museum of Mallorca and those going on the trip will hear about Cala d'Or - the name which "Don Pep" Costa Ferrer gave the one-time Cala d'Hort - and will visit Cala Llonga, the "curious" church of S'Horta, Felanitx and then, having had some wine, some ensaimada, some meats and sausages (courtesy of the local co-operative), they will be back in Santanyi to take in S'Alqueria Blanca and finally Calonge.

This is not an excursion that one suspects will attract many, if any tourists, but it is a day out which, nonetheless, would prove highly illuminating for anyone (including tourists) with an interest in Mallorca's history: would do, except that it will all be in Mallorquín no doubt.

Though the excursion is on 20 June, its purpose is to mark an event which happened 300 years ago on 16 June 1715. The title of the excursion is "Calonge 1715, a battle to save dignity". On that day 300 years ago the battle of Calonge took place. It was one that had far-reaching consequences for Mallorca.

The War of the Spanish Succession finally put paid to the kingdom of Mallorca, which had only been a notional kingdom for centuries but had retained a title of administrative kingdom tied in with the Crown of Aragon and ultimately with the Crown of Spain. The war brought an end to this. The Crown of Aragon was abolished and the kingdom of Mallorca definitively and for all time disappeared along with it.

The dismantling of the Crown of Aragon, the removal of privileges that Catalonia had and the creation of a centralised Spanish state were the consequence of the Nueva Planta decrees of the first Bourbon king of Spain, Philip V. They were also his revenge. The Crown of Aragon, and so Catalonia, Valencia and Mallorca, had sided with Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor, during the war. Once Spain was left to its own devices at the end of the war, Philip, with French help, set about the submission of Aragon and the creation of a single Spanish state. The war was, and I quote one source, "a world war of a colonial character with the subjugation on the part of Bourbon Castile, with the decisive military support of the French army, of the Catalan Nation". The far-reaching consequences have never been forgotten: they inform the current-day arguments regarding Catalan and nationalism of the Catalan Lands.

Nine months before the battle of Calonge the city of Barcelona had finally fallen, having been under siege by Bourbon troops for more than a year. The advance on Mallorca was, in effect, a mopping-up operation to eliminate any remaining resistance to Philip. The south-east of Mallorca had played a significant part in the siege, as Felanitx was a major supplier to the people of the city who were trapped by the Bourbon forces. Felanitx and other parts of Mallorca were Barcelona's food suppliers, a fact that was reflected in a saying of the time - "the Mallorcan pantry is coming".

When Barcelona fell in September 1714 it was clear that Mallorca was going to be a target. The Marquès Josep Antoni de Rubí i de Boixadors had been made the new viceroy of Mallorca in 1713. He decided that the island would not surrender. Instead, it would defend itself. In early 1715 there were demonstrations of support for this stance and against the Bourbons. Ceremonies of blessings of flags occurred in Palma and various villages, Felanitx included. The Marquès de Palmer was placed in charge of the south-eastern region of Felanitx, Santanyi and Campos. Felanitx could count on 400 men to counter any attack. Palmer got hold of 300 new shotguns.

On 11 June a force of 30,000 troops set sail from Barcelona. An initial assault on Santa Ponsa was, remarkably enough, rebuffed. The force split into two. One was to land in the bay of Alcúdia, the other in the south-east. On 15 June the Spanish-French army landed at Cala Llonga, Cala Figuera and Cala Ferrera. The next day the full artillery landed. The invasion had begun and at Calonge a small army of six hundred confronted the Bourbon forces. The battle didn't last long.

There were of course deaths and there was also plunder, but it would seem that there wasn't great bloodshed. The Marquès de Rubí surrendered on 2 July in order to spare Palma. The repression started immediately, though references to genocide are greatly exaggerated. The battle of Calonge had been one for dignity and in some respects - 300 years on - there is still a battle for that dignity.

Monday, June 15, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 June 2015


Morning high (6.45am): 17.5C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 8
Three-day forecast: 16 June - Storm, 26C; 17 June - Cloud, sun, 23C; 18 June - Sun, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 2 to 4. Storm anticipated in the afternoon.

Sun coming through as cloud seems to be breaking up first thing, but there is an alert in place for a storm later on and a similar weather warning for tomorrow. Cooler as a result but more settled sunny conditions due to come in by Thursday.

Evening update (21.00): A high of 27.4C. Another afternoon storm today. Quite heavy. More to come tomorrow.

No Frills Excursions

Before And After: Mallorca Observed

The photo was taken in the 1960s. By today's standards, its colour was not well defined and indeed the colour was partly unnecessary as much of the land was, in any event, grey. It was an aerial photo of what was to become the City of Lakes in Alcúdia. The greyness, with tinges of brown but an almost total absence of green, was marked with the boundaries of plots. Here were to be buildings: hotels, apartments, villas, houses, restaurants, bars, shops. There were few landmarks on the photo. The Boccaccio apartments were there; they had arrived some time before the hotel of the same name. What were to be named the Ciudad Blanca apartments by the beach could be detected. Otherwise, there was little that stood out.

Today, if there were to be a similar photo, you would probably be unable to distinguish the Boccaccio apartments. They aren't much to look at anyway, but a claim can be made for their history, one that is longer than most of the City of Lakes. As for the Ciudad Blanca apartments, not many people realise they are apartments or that they were the first apartments to be built in this part of Alcúdia (right at the start of the 1960s). Are they not just a part of the hotel with the same name? Well no, not really. They occupy the same large plot but they were there many years before the hotel was built.

Had a photo been taken some thirty years before, the view would have been different. The reclamation of Albufera - the greyness of the photo can be attributed to the ash from the power station that was used for this reclamation - had only been partial. It might have been possible to see the old golf course, the old pumping station, the road that ran parallel to the coast. There wouldn't have been other roads, except for one or two tracks. There wouldn't, for example, have been the rudimentary street of the 1960s photo that was named after one of those who had been responsible for the first phase of Alcudia's transformation in the 1930s - Pedro Mas y Reus. And had there been a photo some thirty years before this, there would have been nothing, save for the track that was the coastal road and vast acres of wetland.

The reason for mentioning the Alcúdia photo is that it was taken at a time when the change to the landscape was only just beginning. This was to be a change that was absolute. The City of Lakes, the Venice of Mallorca as it was claimed it would be, was the largest single urban tourism development undertaken in Mallorca. Much of the island's coastal areas was subject to similar development, but not on the scale - for a single project - as was the case in Alcúdia. The photo represents a transitory phase in the before and after: it is one of the more striking of the "befores" or "in-betweens", if you prefer.

There is an abundance of photographic records of how Mallorca once looked. Much of this, especially because of social media, has been brought into the public domain. Resorts, as they were, are there for all to see. But these photos become most striking - poignant even - when they are compared with the current day. That track is now a main road. That field is now a hotel. That small shop which once sold milk is now a hypermarket.

I have recently been involved in a project about the Tramuntana mountains. A key point about this is the fact that, despite human intervention over many centuries, the mountains have not been harmed. Indeed, where this intervention has occurred, it has been beneficial in giving the mountains the characteristics they now have. But then, mountains are mountains. They are not, generally speaking, conducive to mass urbanisation. They are also obstinately irremovable.

The same cannot be said for wetlands, fields, dunes, forests of the sort that once proliferated in greater abundance than they now do. This is not a criticism, it is a statement of fact: something (or some things) had to give way in order that Mallorca could have its tourism, its economic development and its industrial revolution.

For all that today's tourists benefit from this transformation, there are many who are fascinated by how things were. It is an interest driven by curiosity rather than sadness necessarily. Before and after is fascinating. It is why talk in the past of a tourism museum for Mallorca should have been much more than talk. But there is, by way of compensation, that abundance of photographic evidence now available. And there are also co-ordinated projects designed to demonstrate the before and after. Jaume Gual is a photographer who has been involved in such projects. Urban scenes, rural scenes, he specialises in Mallorca's before and after.

"El Paistage Observat", the landscape observed, is a collection of art held by the Council of Mallorca and photos by Jaume Gual. It shows how painting and photography contrasts but also how scenes now contrast. As part of the PalmaPhoto season, the exhibition is at Palma's La Misericordia Cultural Centre.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 June 2015


Morning high (6.30am): 19C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 9
Three-day forecast: 15 June - Sun, cloud, 26C; 16 June - Storm, 20C; 17 June - Cloud, sun, 23C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 4 veering North-Northeast during the morning. Possible storm in the afternoon.

Fine, clear-skies morning, but there may be cloud around later and turn out to be rather like yesterday with a bit of a storm brewing by the afternoon - the forecast out at sea is for a likely storm. Maybe Thursday before things settle.

Evening update (20.00): Storm and a bit of a downpour early afternoon. Otherwise pleasant enough. High of 28.8C. Yellow alerts issued for storms for tomorrow and Tuesday.

No Frills Excursions

The Day Of The Wand

Garrick Ollivander knew a thing or two about wands. "The wand chooses the wizard ... it's not always clear why," he informed the young wizard. For those of you who may have been living an hermitic existence for the past several years or have become one of those foreigners who has gone so native that the only tales you will consider are those in Mallorquín of Antoni Maria Alcover (in which case you won't be reading this anyway), let me tell you who Garrick was - Harry Potter's wand supplier. Garrick was right. It most certainly isn't clear why a wand ends up with who it does.

Yesterday was the day of the wand. Some might call it a baton, a rod, a staff or just a pointy stick. But the mayoral "vara" (which is really a rod and is the official term) is in fact a "varita" (a wand) for the very simple reason that it has magically ended up with a mayor and no one is entirely sure how or indeed why. Some wavers of the wand are doing so without having secured municipal administrations which guarantee them majority support, but they were handed the wand thanks to the ceremonies of investiture: solemn occasions when parties with no intention of entering into an administration nonetheless willingly permit the wand-waver to ascend to the mayoral throne.

The chaotic post-election bargaining that has gone on between the various parties in the villages and towns has now at least come to an end. But it is only the beginning. How on earth are some of these municipalities going to operate when there are coalitions comprising such disparate philosophies as there are and, in certain instances, cannot depend upon majorities to effect local legislation? It is easy to perhaps blame Podemos for all this mayhem, but other parties have been similarly puerile. The only one to emerge with real credit is Més. Its leader Biel Barceló was in effect telling PSOE and Podemos to behave themselves and to allow a three-way coalition for the regional government. Més has not imposed the sort of conditions that other parties have for coalitions. It has been almost statesmanlike amidst squabbling akin to the playground.

You do at least have to hand it to Podemos. They said they wouldn't accept PSOE as leaders of administrations, and they have more or less stuck to their guns. But, is this really what people voted for? For a party to decline places in administrations because of differences it might have? If you vote for a party, do you not do so on the pretext that you want it to be in government? Podemos - "We Can" - is more like "Well, we could, if it wasn't for them".

In Palma, however, the Soms of Podemos have indeed said they can. And will. It took some doing, and once more Més, in the form of Antoni Noguera, were the diplomats who got everyone to see sense, but the compromise will see the wand metaphorically split in half. Two years of a PSOE mayor, two years for a Més mayor, and the Soms' bloke will be the administration's spokesperson for the duration.

Trying to make sense of how these administrations are formed is about as difficult as understanding the election system which gives rise to them. Eoin Morgan, England's one-day cricket captain, said on Friday that he didn't understand how Duckworth-Lewis works. The same can be said of the electoral and post-electoral system here: it is a Duckworth-Lewis of arcane obscurity. While there is so much desire in this new age of participatory politics for transparency perhaps it could start with making the election system a touch more transparent - as in being even vaguely understandable. This all said, it has allowed for its moments of schadenfreude; none more so delicious than in Calvia. What was it the Partido Popular's José Manuel Ruiz was predicting before the election? A landslide? The only slide has been that of his party. Out of the town hall. Duckworth-Lewis has rained on his parade and all the pre-election barbecues etc. designed to attract support that wasn't there. Bye, bye.

There again, Ruiz may be able to get his own back. Calvia is a good example of the wand-waver only - as yet - having a majority in order to confirm the bestowing of the wand. Alfonso Rodríguez can admire his newly acquired varita, but if the Yes Maybes of Sí Se Puede and the open ones of the Open Left decide to say maybe not and close the door, then he could be stuffed. Unlikely, as a formal coalition may yet emerge, but Calvia goes to show how uncertain the post-electoral scene is.