Wednesday, March 08, 2017

A Former Adopted Son: Count Rossi

The Civil War continues in Mallorca. It continues to be revised. Its protagonists are being expunged. They are being deprived of positions of honour. In Sineu and Felanitx, Francisco Franco Bahamonde has ceased to be a favourite son - "hijo predilecto". In Sant Llorenç, Franco will no more be an adopted son. On the other side of the coin - the Republican side - Palma recently made Alexandre Jaume i Rosselló an illustrious son; he was executed at the same time as Emili Darder, also an illustrious son, and the Alcudia businessman, Antoni Ques.

Son Servera and Alcudia have their own revisions. They concern the same person. He had a nickname - the Lion of Son Servera. In Son Servera they intend removing the title of favourite son. In Alcudia they have done away with adopted son. The council meeting on Monday agreed this. Arconovaldo Bonaccorsi is no longer an adopted son of Alcudia.

Bonaccorsi had two nicknames. Conde de Leon y Son Servera. This was one for Spanish (Mallorcan) consumption. The other was Conde Rossi, Count Aldo Rossi. He granted himself both names. A striking, somewhat maniacal-looking character with red beard and tangled hair, he was as fascist as it could have been. Mussolini was to provide him with the opportunity for glory. The Conde Rossi arrived in Mallorca in late August 1936. Disorganised Nationalists, members of the Falange and the Guardia Civil were to come under his command. The Italian air force, which was to use the one-time golf course in Alcudia as a landing strip, assisted him. The Republicans were defeated. Mallorca was secured. The course of the Civil War was being determined.

Estimates vary as to how many Republicans were murdered during Bonaccorsi's pacification of Mallorca. His "dragons of death" could have killed 3,000. Perhaps the number was as low as 700. The French and the British were appalled. For balance's sake, it was pointed out that some 1,500 Nationalists and priests had also been murdered. For balance's sake today, the Balearic law for remembering the Civil War and its aftermath - the law which has enabled the exhumations of mass graves - was ultimately revised to refer to all victims of war. The Civil War continues.

The diplomatic outrage of the French and the British was to have an impact. Bonaccorsi was recalled to Italy before the end of 1936. His old friend Mussolini was also concerned by Bonaccorsi saying that Mallorca was to be Italian. The fact was that there was some notion that the island could have become a semi-independent entity under Italian influence if the Republicans had won the war. History discarded that possibility.

The role of the Italians and of Bonaccorsi was absolutely crucial in how things panned out in Mallorca. In the early days of the war, the rebels (i.e. the Nationalists) faced enormous problems, especially as the Republicans controlled the Mediterranean coast of Spain and most of the fleet. A Falangist, Captain Juan Thomas, was to be important in negotiating with the Italians, aided by the Germans who took him by boat to Italy. Come the middle of August and Thomas was able to inform the Marquis de Zayas, the leader of the Falange in Mallorca, that those negotiations were going well; these were negotiations for planes.

The Italians needed convincing by a show of money. Three million lire had to be deposited at the Italian consulate in Palma. There was little problem raising the money. Who else was to assist than Joan March, still an illustrious son of Santa Margalida but holding onto the honour by his long decayed fingernails. Three bombing seaplanes were on their way.

Even so, the rebels needed a real leader. Zayas recognised the need for one, so did Captain Margottini, commander of the destroyer Fiume, which was anchored in the bay of Palma. "The biggest problem is the lack of courage of the leaders." Enter Arconovaldo Bonaccorsi, and soon after his entrance came the delivery of more planes - two CR-32 biplane bombers and then three triple-engined SM-81s.

After the retreat of Captain Bayo on 3 September, Mallorca was secured for the Nationalists, but it was Bonaccorsi who sought and received the plaudits. Three days later there was a parade in Palma. Long live the hero, the people cried. The Count Rossi rode his horse at the head of the troops. He was more than content to be seen as the man who liberated Mallorca.

And so this was how, along the way, he came to be both a favourite and an adopted son. But because the Civil War continues, he no longer can be. The strange thing is that it should have taken so long for the war to be revised, for the names to be removed, for their honours to be dishonoured. Arconovaldo Bonaccorsi, formerly known as an adopted son of Alcudia.

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