Thursday, December 15, 2016

Renaming Mallorca's Airport

There are any number of airports named after famous people. Generally speaking, they honour someone of particular merit who deserves to be associated with the airport's location. Occasionally, though, the naming causes a fuss. This was the case with Ian Fleming International Airport in Jamaica. Many a local felt that a Jamaican should have provided the name. The Bond writer got it on account of his Goldeneye Estate, which is next to, yes, James Bond Beach.

Names like Liverpool John Lennon brook little argument, except among those on the McCartney side of the divide. But the international fame that Liverpool acquired through Lennon (and the other fabs) was thorough justification. While that city has (or had) other candidates, they might have proved more contentious. It couldn't have been Liverpool Bill Shankly or Kenny Dalglish without having upset the blue side of Stanley Park who would have pressed the case for Liverpool Howard Kendall or Dixie Dean.

Generally speaking, the names are of modern provenance, but not all. No doubt to the disgust of Balearic historians who insist that Columbus didn't come from Genoa but was the son of either Felanitx or Ibiza Town, Genoa's airport is Cristoforo Colombo. It might be hoped that no one suddenly comes up with absolutely incontrovertible evidence of Columbus's Felanitx origins because this might make some pause when it comes to a new name for Palma airport.

A proposal for renaming the airport isn't the consequence of all the nonsense regarding the name of the city - for the moment, it is officially Palma, but will doubtless revert, officially, to Palma de Mallorca when the Partido Popular assume power once more at both town hall and regional government levels. The airport is known and will continue to be known, for the sake of international codes, as Palma de Mallorca. But it has an alternative name as it is, i.e. Son Sant Joan.

This name has a great deal of antiquity. Strictly speaking, its spelling is incorrect. It should be Son Santjoan, as it comes from the Santjoan family who came to Mallorca at the time of the conquest in the thirteenth century and acquired land: one possession was the Son Sant Joan where the airport now is. Other than the name of the possession, the Santjoans don't have any great claim on Mallorca's past, and the family line in fact died out in the seventeenth century.

The alternative name (or one in addition to Son Sant Joan) which is being proposed is Aeropuerto Ramon Llull. The person who has made the proposal is the Council of Mallorca's president, Miquel Ensenyat, and he has done so at the end of the "year" of Ramon Llull and at a time when he has been assisting the case for Llull to be named a saint and a doctor of the Catholic Church. Ensenyat also believes that the use of the Llull name would elevate Mallorca's cultural status and therefore be in line with, for example, Florence being Amerigo Vespucci or Pisa being Galileo Galilei (no mention of Genoa's airport, one notes).

Ensenyat of eco-nationalist, Mallorcan socialists Més appears to have the backing of the PP's Maria Salom, newly the national government's delegate in the Balearics. She says that she likes the idea and will raise it with the national ministry of development (and so also with Aena, the airports' authority). She does recognise that there are likely to be technical issues, though it should be noted that Madrid's airport was renamed following the death of the prime minister who led Spain through its initial democratic transition. The full name is now Aeropuerto Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas.

Should they rename the airport after the mediaeval man of mystery? I can think of no particularly good reason why not. Indeed, having often said that Llull isn't anything like as widely known internationally as Mallorcans might like to believe, it could have some benefit. There again, would anyone ever refer to it as Ramon Llull or be aware of the name or know he was? As it is, who outside Mallorca ever refers to the airport as Son Sant Joan? It's Palma (or Palma de Mallorca).

It would be more a case of domestic consumption, one fancies. And in this regard there would be support, if a poll of nearly two years ago is anything to go by. At the start of 2015, the Diario de Mallorca journalist Matias Vallés made a prediction that Mallorca's hoteliers would look to have the airport renamed Aeropuerto Rafael Nadal. A subsequent poll of readers offered four names - Llull, Nadal, Joan March (the widely despised Franco's banker) and Antoni Maura, the only Mallorcan to have been prime minister and one who verged on dictatorship before it had actually come into fashion.

Unsurprisingly, there wasn't a great deal of support for either March or Maura. Overwhelmingly (76% of the vote), Llull was favoured; Nadal got 17%. So there you have it, Llull it will be. Or may be.

No comments: