Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Nickname Which Became A Resort

They put up a plaque in Can Picafort the other day. It was to Llorenç Fuster Quintana. Llorenç died in 1899. There was another Fuster who passed away sixteen years before: Jeroni. Both had the nickname "Picafort". I'm guessing that Llorenç must have inherited it.

The story of Jeroni is central to the story of Can Picafort. He did, after all, give it the name. While he had the nickname, his shack was seemingly known as Picafort. Something to do with the strength of mosquito bites, supposedly. And quite believably. In the nineteenth century those bites could kill. There is in fact a completely different explanation - cholera - and also more to the story of why Jeroni went to live on the uninhabited coast of Santa Margalida some time in the mid-nineteenth century (probably the 1860s).

It's normally said that he was of humble stock and couldn't afford to live in the town. Well, he was from humble stock, but it would appear that he was given a job. He was the coast watchman. He was there to look out for clandestine activity. Smuggling, in other words. And Santa Margalida was to become famous for the biggest smuggler of them all - Joan March, he of Banca March fame.

Llorenç must have been a relative because the plaque is more or less exactly where the shack once stood. Jeroni had four children and is said to have been aged 105 when he died: a remarkable age for those times. He would indeed have been of fairly advanced age when he took that watchman's job.

There were actually two shack-type houses. The other was the residence of Llorenç Dalmau. His nickname was "Barret" (hat). He lent his nickname to the Clot d'en Barret, which is in the same area. It's also near to the Mar y Paz Hotel (Apartments).

Before Can Picafort there were two estates - Son Baulo and Santa Eulalia (aka Eularia). Son Baulo, it is often overlooked, was really what came first. It was partially developed as a garden city in the 1930s. In Can Picafort there was very little development. Nowadays, Son Baulo tends to be treated as part of Can Picafort, which it is in administrative terms, but part of it went into the development of Can Picafort in the 1960s. Can Picafort was really the estate of Santa Eulalia, and some might even today refer to the beach as Playa Santa Eulalia.

The Mar y Paz sits in the area of the resort where a notional boundary lies between Can Picafort and Son Baulo. It has a notable role to play on 15 August every year. It is from the Mar y Paz where they dive in to swim after the ducks. It's a symbolic choice, given the legacy of Jeroni Fuster and Llorenç Dalmau and also because it was the Son Baulo end which gave Can Picafort the ducks' swim.

The swim, also known as the release, dates back to the 1930s. It is normally said that the ducks (real ones, which they no longer are) came from the Son Baulo torrent and were gifts of a landowner to workers who had to swim for them. Well, a different version is that they also came from a Santa Eulalia landowner. Moreover, it wasn't poor workers who were necessarily swimming for them. It was young people in general.

This discrepancy is just one way in which the tradition of the duck swim has failed to ever truly be established in totally accurate fact. There isn't even any mention of it in what is otherwise an extensive history of Santa Margalida that the town hall produced some years ago. There's no question that there was a duck swim, but there is nothing definitive either as to exactly when it started or its continuity. Did it take place every year?

This matters to an extent because of the ambitions that remain for reviving the swim with real ducks. The law is most unlikely to be changed from being able to prove one hundred years of uninterrupted use of animals in a fiesta event, but if the threshold were to be lowered - which is what some would like in Santa Margalida - there would still be a problem of verification. Very little has ever actually been documented about the swim.

But it was around in the early 1960s; that's for sure. At the start of that decade, there were 173 residents in the whole of Can Picafort (including Son Baulo). There were, however, over 300 dwellings - chalets, villas, cottages. This was somewhere which grew because of summer holiday homes, most of them owned by Mallorcans, though there was also some foreign ownership: I know a German family whose chalet dates from that time. And there were other Germans.

The duck swim was therefore the highlight of the holidays in August. It is why it still is a highlight, because of all the families who have continued to summer in Can Picafort. The ducks are now plastic, but the tradition remains in the resort that takes its name from a nickname.

* The image is of the famous poster for the 2008 fiestas. The boy wearing the Power Rangers' mask was an acknowledgement of those who had released real ducks the year before, which was the first year that ducks were prohibited. They had worn Power Rangers' masks.

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