Friday, December 09, 2016

A New Day For Mallorca

How many experts and historians does it take to change a day? As many as a day is long possibly. They haven't actually said. They being the special commission set up by the Council of Mallorca to decide on a change to a day, if indeed a change had been required. It would appear that it had been required. They've changed it.

The Council's commission has been agonising over what day should be Mallorca Day. There currently is such a day - 12 September - but for certain reasons, it was generally considered to be inappropriate. The principal reason was the person who decided that 12 September should be the day - the disgraced former president of the Council, Maria Antonia Munar. In the grand tradition (the new one, that is) of stripping away manifestations of the corrupt, 12 September has fallen victim to the persecutors.

In case you need reminding, 12 September in 1276 was the day when Good King James II (Jaume II) was crowned and issued a series of privileges to the people of Mallorca. As such, it had some legitimacy as Mallorca Day. But many considered it an invention, rather like the Council of Mallorca had itself been invented in 1979, eighteen years before Munar issued her 12 September decree. There were others who questioned the whole necessity of there being a day. What actually was and is its purpose? All about identity, a Mallorcan identity, and also all about promoting the importance of the Council. Thus, a day was required.

Since 1997 the day has failed to grip the island. A Palma-centric occasion, it isn't a holiday and little attention has been paid to it. Nowadays there is the odd giant wandering around, as there typically is for such celebrations, the Council opens its doors and invites the public (citizens) to wander round, and in an attempt to add island-wide meaning, various cultural sites also open their doors. And that, save various speeches, is about it.

Why make such a fuss about it then? Well, Munar is a very good reason for doing so. Or that is certainly how it has seemed. But experts and historians have been required to analyse the claims of 12 September and of alternatives. By involving experts and historians, the politics of a change are somehow neutered. But one didn't need to have been either an expert or a historian to have come up with the new day that they have - 31 December. Nor did one have to have been so naive as to have believed that there wasn't a fair degree of politics involved.

31 December was the obvious choice. It marks the day in 1229 when Jaume I began the process of Catalanisation of Mallorca by ejecting the Muslims from Palma. Obvious though it was, there were counter-arguments nevertheless. One was that it will clash with Palma's Festival of the Standard (all about Jaume I's intervention). Sharing the day could potentially dilute the impact of Mallorca Day. But as there isn't much to dilute in any event, the argument doesn't exactly stand up.

There were one or two rival days for the experts and historians to mull over. The day of Sant Antoni - 17 January - was one. The most important of the island's fiestas and a saint whose worship was expressly introduced and cultivated by the Jaumes, it did have some merit. But a national day that is based on a fiesta in Sa Pobla? That would never do. Palma wouldn't stand for it. The main rival to 31 December was therefore 24 April, the day in 1979 when the Council of Mallorca was constituted. This alternative was overtly political as an expression of the Council's political purpose. Who, though, would pay it any attention? Would islanders suddenly embrace Mallorca Day in a way that they haven't until now? Hardly.

Podemos were all for 24 April. PSOE were up for it as well. Their reasons differed. For PSOE it was all about the establishment of the Council. For Podemos it provided a day which didn't involve the celebration of anything monarchical. Jaume I was, after all, a king. That, according to the Podemos world view, would never do. It is also said that 24 April would avoid associating the day with "Catalanist acts". That doesn't mean being anti-Catalan, it is about the use of 31 December as a day when the politics of nationalism (and the rival politics) clash. There is this clash anyway.

In the end, Podemos relented, though they still hope that 24 April can be included in the calendar. Two Mallorca Days had been offered as a compromise. There was insufficient "consensus" for this bizarre idea, and quite rightly so. 31 December it is to be. Certain politicians, experts and historians can cheer the decision. Most of the island, especially that which isn't Palma, will stifle a yawn.

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