Saturday, September 30, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 September 2017

Morning high (6.35am): 14.6C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 1 October - Cloud, sun, 24C; 2 October - Cloud, 25C; 3 October - Sun, cloud, 26C

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

Expected to cloud over this afternoon. There may be some rain overnight and into tomorrow morning.

Evening update (19.15): Did cloud over. High of 27.5C.

British Press Anti-Tourism Falsehoods

It was the Daily Bulletin what did it. Or rather it was readers of the Bulletin website what (who) did it. The Sun, bless it, came up with a report which was headlined thus: "Adios! End of an era as Brits ABANDON Majorca after hundreds of ‘arrogant locals’ demand holidaymakers go home." (Note, by the way, the shouty capitals for abandon.)

This was The Sun picking up on last Saturday's massification demo and spinning it into one of its regular let's-have-a-pop-at-Mallorca stories. There were photos of the demo, which would have been very easily obtained from Twitter, and then there was the report itself about those Brits abandoning Mallorca. As I read it, I began to think hadn't I read much of this somewhere else. I had. The comments in the report, upon which it was mainly based, were lifted straight from reader comments on the website. They had come from three people who had left their remarks. Three people. One of whom had referred to arrogance.

It was cheap stuff on behalf of The Sun (and there was no acknowledgement as to the source; indeed The Bulletin had no idea the comments were being used). That paper, though, is in something of a war with others in the knocking-Mallorca circulation game. We have, for example, The Express with its absurd "anti-tourist riots" that it has been highlighting in recent weeks, when there have been no such thing. Indeed, The Express had virtually the same headline as The Sun regarding the demo and it also used those same limited reader comments in the Bulletin, except it threw in "hate" towards Brits, which was its own pure invention.

This "hate", though, is revealing. It takes us to Brexit and to the stances of papers in the UK. For many Brits, Mallorca is their experience of Europe, and Europe is the hated target for the manic Brexiteers, such as The Sun and The Express.

The demo last Saturday, and this will have escaped both papers, did have legitimate messages. They were about the nature of tourism: of the way in which wealth is or isn't distributed; of employment; of impacts on the environment, on society and on resources. All of which was perfectly valid. There were 3,000 people, most of them young, voicing the type of idealism that the young do.

The problem with the demo, though, was that it just played into the hands of the likes of The Sun. Or maybe this is what its organisers had wanted. The Sun's report, far more so than that in The Express (and thereby probably lies its own tale), was reproduced all over the place and spread across social media, generating a total and utter distortion of the reality of so-called anti-tourism.

Friday, September 29, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 September 2017

Morning high (7.08am): 14.8C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 30 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 1 October - Cloud, 25C; 2 October - Cloud, 25C

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

Sun, sun, sun today. The new month may see a shower.

Evening update (20.00): High of 26.4C.

An Environmental Rock And A Hard Place

When it comes to the environment, you just can't win. The current government in the Balearics is probably the most environmentally aware and environmentally determined (in terms of policy) that there has been. This consciousness extends beyond matters of land use. Climate change is of such importance that it has its own government department. The virtues of clean energy are being demonstrated by a conversion to the use of solar for government buildings, by testing electric buses, by subsidising town halls for the installation of electric vehicle charging-points, by investing in more rail electrification, by betting the electricity shop on a scheme for solar to power the Balearics.

The government's environmentalism can at times seem to go too far. It wasn't the government as such which ordered the demolition of the chiringuitos at Es Trenc (it was in fact the national government via the courts). But now they've gone, the local administrations have latched on to regulations like the space that sunloungers have to be from the dunes and those for utility supplies to the demountable chiringuitos (if they actually materialise). When it comes to the next election and to an evaluation of this government's legacy, the Es Trenc Nature Park will be deemed one of the triumphs. This is a government committed to the environment, but it is caught between a rock and a hard place of environmental policies. Whatever it does environmentally, there is traditionalist or environmental opposition.

If the agricultural world ever needs to protest, it typically does so by sending out the tractor boys. Palma has its farming areas but they aren't anywhere near the promenade and the Passeig Sagrera. Tractors will nevertheless appear on Saturday. The farmers are part of a countryside alliance that will be demonstrating outside government HQ.

The farmers and the government (for which read the environment and agriculture ministry) have had an uneasy relationship. The minister Vicenç Vidal has not, to be fair, had the greatest of luck. Mother Nature has done what Mother Nature does, which is to affect the land because of climate and plague. Vidal might argue in a joined-up governmental sense that policies for climate change have in mind drought and floods, but these are not policies for the immediate past. The farmers still feel they weren't compensated sufficiently. The agriculturalists are now seeking tourist tax revenue for replanting trees lost to the xylella plague.

Vidal can't control the weather, he can apply some control over xylella, and he most certainly can potentially control the worst affects of heavy rains and floods. The farmers are not alone in criticising the environment and agriculture ministry for not doing more to keep the torrents clear so that flooding (hopefully) doesn't occur. Town halls have had their say as well.

But what has got the farmers, hunters and owners of rural fincas so agitated that they are protesting is the government's expansion of zones for the special protection of birds (ZEPA). In a nutshell the rural community feels that its rights and interests are being interfered with. The association for the defence of the rural world says that it has done a pretty good job over the years when it comes to bird protection, alluding to hunting for population control purposes, but hunting is far from being the only issue. Larger protection zones could mean, for example, a broadening of restrictions on harvesting, the burning of vegetation and phytosanitary control, i.e. measures to avoid plant disease and pest.

So, there is a traditional agricultural lobby that is opposed to a particular strand of the government's overall environmental policies. While the government insists that there is compatibility, this certainly isn't always clear to those sectors affected, such as the farmers. ZEPA, meanwhile, is lauded by the environmentalist lobby - GOB in particular, as would be expected because of its origins as a bird protection group. And ZEPA features highly in the government's grand energy project for eliminating emissions - the creation of photovoltaic plants.

In Llucmajor there are three separate projects for these plants. Each one raises contentious environmental issues. One, for the finca of Sa Caseta, affects a zone that the town hall considers to be for agricultural, ecological and landscape protection. For a second - S'Águila - there is a ZEPA report pending. The third is the most emotive of all. Sa Marina, says GOB, is a magnificent agroforestry area that has escaped the changes that have occurred in other parts of Mallorca's rural world. The group wants there to be a ZEPA, and if there were to be, it could seriously inhibit any plans for a photovoltaic plant.

GOB is accusing the government of wanting to turn this whole part of Llucmajor into one giant solar farm, but the nub of the issue is that these plants have to go somewhere. And mostly any location that is identified will have some environmental consideration. The government really can't win.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 September 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 15.1C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 29 September - Sun, cloud, 25C; 30 September - Cloud, sun, 26C; 1 October - Sun, cloud, 25C

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

Another fine early autumn day on the way.

Evening update (21.30): Very good. High of 26.3C.

Deià, The 35th Municipality Of Mallorca

On 7 November next year, Deià will have a fiesta. There isn't normally a fiesta on that day but, as luck would have it (or maybe not), the principal fiesta of the year falls on a Sunday in 2018: this is the fiesta for Sant Joan on 24 June. As town halls can - no, as town halls must - declare two local holidays per annum, Deià has opted to have one of them on 7 November (the other will be Boxing Day, which is an optional holiday).

So, what's the significance of 7 November? Is there a saint lurking in the background who needs celebrating? Nope, there's an altogether more secular reason. On that day in 1583, Deià split from Valldemossa and acquired the status as its own municipality.

It was during the reign of King Felipe II when the go ahead was given for this independence, and it followed almost fifty years of litigation. Valldemossa had been determined to keep hold of Deià; Deià thought otherwise. Finally, a ruling was made. If it hadn't been made, then it is possible that there wouldn't now be the 53 municipalities that there are in Mallorca. There again, there weren't 52 municipalities in 1583. The administrative map of the island has changed greatly over the centuries. Ariany became number 53, and that - to Petra's great loss - was only as recently as 1982. And Ariany is a long way removed, historically, from the formation of municipalities.

The origins of the municipality on the Iberian Peninsula are disputed. One theory is that they were an extension of local administration from Roman times. Another is that they came from the era of the Concilium Visigodo, the Visigoth system of organisation in a manner akin to church dioceses from the late sixth century to the early eighth century. A further one has it that they were more improvised than planned, as had been the style of the Romans, and stemmed from specific needs, such as defence. What is certain is that there wasn't a particularly uniform approach. This was to really only emerge in the High Middle Ages, roughly around the twelfth century.

As far as Mallorca was concerned, the concept of the municipality didn't really exist until after the Catalan conquest. During the Muslim era there had been administrative regions, but the Catalans (or rather the Aragonese) were to graft on a system that was more or less the same in the Catalan lands as it was in mediaeval Castile and Leon. One of the main differences, courtesy of the language, was how it was all referred to.

Immediately after the conquest of 1229, alternative systems of administration were tried out. By 1241, King Jaume, wishing to ensure that dues were being properly paid to him, put a couple of trusted Aragonese in charge. These were Assalit de Gúdar and Blasco de Sinos. What they were looking after was the "bailía de Mallorca", the bailiwick of Mallorca. The word "bailia" came from old French, "bailie", and in the Catalan of that time, one of those two gentlemen looking after the shop for Jaume - Blasco de Sinos - was given the title of "batlle". In English, we would call him a bailiff. In current-day Mallorca (Catalan usage), the "batle" is the municipal mayor.

As things were to evolve, thanks in no small part to Jaume I's boy, Jaume II, the municipal organisation in Mallorca was founded on the "vila". By the turn of the fourteenth century, there were a host of these that were established by royal decree and privilege. The nascent municipal organisation of Mallorca was taking shape. There were thirty-three basic municipalities plus Palma, which was the very first (1245). One of these, Campanet, was to - its historical consternation - rolled in with Sa Pobla for a time before autonomy was re-established in 1372. And at the head of these municipalities was to be the batle, the village sheriff or bailiff.

This arrangement endured for almost three centuries, which is when Deià came into the story. Its determination to be rid of Valldemossa rule was to be the only disruption until there was a sort of administrative overhaul in the 1830s and 1840s. The likes of Capdepera, Fornalutx, Lloseta and Llubi were to become autonomous. Poor old Petra, well pre-dating Ariany's departure, said goodbye to Vilafranca in 1843.

In 1925, there was a repeat of this exercise, though not on quite the same scale. Consell, Lloret, Mancor de la Vall and Ses Salines were spun out of, respectively, Alaro, Sineu, Selva and Santanyi. All that remained was Ariany, and they had to wait another 57 years.

It is sometimes suggested that there should be a streamlining of local government in Mallorca. Why not amalgamate some of these municipalities? Well, history suggests the reverse. And in Deià, they for certain won't be linking up with Valldemossa any time soon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 September 2017

Morning high (6.24am): 15.2C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 28 September - Sun, cloud, 25C; 29 September - Sun, 25C; 30 September - Sun, cloud, 25C

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

A settled pattern for today and the next few days. Sunny, bit of cloud, pretty warm.

Evening update (20.30): High of 26.7C.

Governing By Gibberish

One of the very few things to be said in Donald Trump's favour - to be honest I can't put my finger on another one - is that he doesn't mince his words. Yet these words often appear in random and uncoordinated sequence, the rantings of someone so over-impressed with himself that he clearly believes he is above any criticism for sounding as despotic as the likes of the nutter in The Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. Trump the hard man speaks it like it is. God, how Putin must be laughing his socks off, and he, unlike Trump, is a genuine hard man who doesn't require similar personality disorder peacocking. Meanwhile, Americans rail against remarks that are beneath the office of a president.

Things really have come to a pretty pass when the president of the world's major power is as imbecilic as Trump. It wouldn't be so bad if his claptrap wasn't as dangerous as it is. There again, and here one might suggest is a favourable point, it is the total counterpoint to vacuous gibberish to which we are normally used. One thing's for sure, you won't ever get Trump wasting entire speeches in saying absolutely nothing while regurgitating mantras about sustainability in every other sentence (such as his sentences are).

Courtesy of Mallorcan politicians, political institutions, organisations and associations for this and that, my every day is spent reeling under a bombardment of sustainability. How often do I think - will you just shut the fuck up about sustainability? Often is the answer.

Let me give you just one recent example. It comes via a circuitous route of reportage from the Council of Mallorca. Apropos the creation, or rather non-creation, of new shopping malls, the Council wishes it to be known that it is pursuing a policy of "sustainable land development that secures the welfare of the people, preserves natural resources and establishes order in the retail sector".

The Council also wants the citizens to appreciate that land use decisions (sustainable ones) in respect of out-of-town developments cannot be made according to economic criteria. This, despite the fact that it also says that it is listening to the demands of the small retailers, those who don't have whacking great warehouse stores on a municipal outskirts' industrial estate. So, the Council is all for sustainability, has no regard for market forces and yet contradicts itself at the same time by acknowledging the small retail market sector. This, however, will be because of the Council's aim for "harmonious development". Well, at least it makes a change to sustainable development.

It really isn't difficult to come across these examples. Perhaps we should play a game, take bets on how often sustainability is referred to on a daily basis. We would have needed to have gone for a high number last week, and that was because of European Mobility Week. Sustainability, in transport terms, had rarely had it so good, and one of the island's key sustainers is Palma's transport councillor, Joan Ferrer. The citizens were able to see what an alternative, sustainable model of urban transport can be because of there having been no cars in the blue zones. Yes, and the citizens could also have seen or have been parked in one of the damn great queues to get into an underground car park. What nonsense he was talking, though this didn't stop both he and mayor Antoni Noguera popping up to say that 1.5 kilometres more of cycle lance were essential for sustainable mobility.

It isn't only politicians who spout this gibberish. Business can do it just as repetitiously and effectively. Take the hoteliers. Always wise to a good marketing ploy, they don't miss a sustainability trick, which is why Monday's official opening of the Palacio was - in Meliá's words - a sustainable event. Trees are to be planted to compensate for the CO2 emissions generated by the opening. What!? Although there are many who are lamenting the going of Inma Benito as the hoteliers president, I can't say that I am. Inma hasn't traded so much in gibberish as gobbledegook: MBA-speak that one (i.e. myself) can go through time and time again and still be none the wiser. And I have an MBA.

The higher up the political food chain one goes, the greater the claptrap and the vacuity gets. We do of course have, in case you have still failed to appreciate the fact, a sustainable tourism tax instead of just a tourist tax. And it'll be sustained for as long as Més and PSOE sustain themselves in government. Indeed, Francina Armengol has mastered the art of being a president by having spent more than two years saying a great deal and at the same time absolutely nothing, unless of course it has been in sustainable terms. 

So, well done, DT. At least we know what you really mean. Well, just about.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 September 2017

Morning high (6.32am): 21.8C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 27 September - Sun, cloud, 25C; 28 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 29 September - Sun, cloud, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5.

Hmm, where's that come from for late September? Overnight and early-morning "tropical" temperature. Cloudy and clearing later.

Evening update (20.30): High of 25.8C. Took a while for the sun to come out. Good when it did.

Up For The Craic: Tourism Demos

While some fifty or so associations, organisations, platforms, groups, minor political parties and movements were failing to massify the streets of old Palma on Saturday, another survey was being added to the saturation of tourism saturationist discourse. Gadeso, for which we should all be very grateful as they are are good at gauging public opinion, had undertaken its second tourism and saturation survey. It is headlined "placing limits on tourism?".

The demo, rally, march, whatever you call it, mustered some 3,000 or so people; on average around sixty people per entity. Did it represent a watershed moment? Will there now be an irreversible drive towards "de-growth" and a declining reliance on tourism? Have the people of Mallorca definitively spoken and told their political masters that they must take more "courageous steps" in breaking the economic monoculture of tourism?

People go on demos partly for the craic, especially if they are young. I know I did. If the National Students Union demanded turn-outs in London against whatever was the latest reason to require a turn-out, off we would go and wearily tread the tarmac in the general vicinity of Westminster. There were doubtless earnest and idealistic reasons why we would do this, but there was also the impulse to join in because protest was what young people and students did. It was a rite of passage.

Not everyone who was on the march on Saturday was young. Not everyone would have gone along for the craic or because of a youthful determination to demonstrate and thumb a nose at authorities (or an entire industry in this instance). There were very valid reasons for the demo, but they have tended to get rather lost in all the publicity given to the odd act of vandalism, perpetrated, one suspects, by youthful protesters who may also find spraying graffiti to be a good craic.

The point is that a march such as Saturday's proves little, other than that some 3,000 people turned up and that this number was biased in favour of a younger age group. Gadeso, on the other hand, can provide a better flavour of what the people of Mallorca (and the Balearics) might really be thinking, those who wouldn't necessarily dream of taking part in a demo. So, what does the survey find? Well, two-thirds of those polled either believed that the islands cannot accommodate the high numbers of tourists at present (these numbers are unsustainable) or that more tourists don't equate to there being greater wealth and well-being.

In essence, therefore, there is a majority view that there should be limits on tourism. And one way of potentially establishing limits is via the tourist tax. The increase in the tax drew a 69% positive response. Public opinion, at least where Gadeso is concerned, does therefore lend some validity to the more public display of issues related to tourism that was on show on Saturday.

But what about tourism and its economic contribution, assessed at 45% of direct Balearic GDP? The latest survey didn't ask this, but a previous one - back in July - at least alluded to it. That survey revealed that only 48% of those surveyed believed that tourism activity was the basis for well-being. Which isn't the same thing as disputing tourism's importance to the economy, but is an indication that for all its importance it doesn't translate into providing a sense of benefit to a majority of the population. And this does rather back up one of the claims of those who were demonstrating: tourism fails to provide adequate wealth for all.

Because of this, there are the demands for less tourism dependence and for diversification. Gadeso asked what sectors should have priority for diversification. More than 50% voting was in favour of new information and communications technologies (ICT). Lesser priorities were energy, diversification of the actual tourism product, health and marine research, artistic and cultural creation, and agriculture and food (only 18%).

These suggestions do at least offer some means of filling the void that is the whole debate on tourism, i.e. there are no strong and sound proposals for alternatives, and there certainly weren't any on Saturday. It's all well and good shouting about less dependence and greater diversification, but what do either mean? And what, to be totally realistic, can be achievable in the short, medium and long terms?

In 2016 there was almost eight per cent growth in the ICT sector. It is one that has been championed for a long time, but it takes equally long to get to a point where it is a minor contributor to GDP, while it shouldn't be overlooked that in the Balearics it has a bias towards tourism applications.

The 3,000 on Saturday weren't necessarily wrong but nor were they providing any solution. Being up for the craic is one thing. Being realistic is another.

Monday, September 25, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 September 2017

Morning high (7.00am): 17.6C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 26 September - Sun, cloud, 24C; 27 September - Sun, cloud, 25C; 28 September - Sun, cloud, 25C

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

At present, all looking pretty decent for the week - sunny spells and cloud, no real risk of showers, breezes moderate.

Dave's Days Of Independence

Weeks don't really get much better for a staunch Mallorcan left-wing eco-nationalist than last week's did for David Abril, Wild Man Més. The party's political council was letting it be known that next month's general assembly will be presenting some sort of roadmap for Mallorcan independence within thirteen years, an aim that Dave, as joint parliamentary spokesperson and Més über-strategist, is only too delighted to push.

Meanwhile, he was being pulled up by the PP for having described as "neo-fascist" a PP summit that was scheduled for yesterday in Palma and which Mariano Rajoy would be attending. The PP's Biel Company called for him to resign and the party took the matter to the parliament's governing board. It boldly, with the exception of Més representatives, decided that it rejected Abril's observation. He was doubtless totally unconcerned by the reproach and perhaps more put out by Company having said that he spoke for a "minority party" that wishes to disrupt the tranquility and common sense of Balearic citizens.

But tranquility was clearly on Dave's mind when he came up with the wheeze for all sunloungers and chiringuito bars to be banned from the island's beaches. The tranquility would be such that the few remaining tourists who had not been deterred by Mésite anti-saturation fervour would resign themselves to having to go somewhere else to pay 20 odd euros for the privilege of not sitting on a towel right on the sand.

This was really the latest in a list of initiatives that Dave has been coming up with to lay the foundations for that independence roadmap. In addition to acquiring powers for managing the island's beaches from the Costas (under the control of neo-fascists no doubt), Dave has previously, for example, floated the idea of the Balearics having their own police force. It would be in the style of the Mossos in Catalonia, where all last week's shenanigans would have been manna from sovereignty heaven for Dave and what might be termed Agenda 2030.

Dave, whose oeuvre "Repensem Mallorca (rethinking Mallorca): de l’especulació a la construcció de la dignitat" (2015) might be said to act as a strategy document for Més (tourism policies and all), was once a member of the United Left. He abandoned this party, sometimes described as being communist, along with the motherly Fina Santiago. And she, Fina, looks set to run as presidential candidate for Més in 2019. In fact, and adding to Dave's good week, this was as good as decided last weekend.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 September 2017

Morning high (7.02am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 25 September - Cloud, sun, 28C; 26 September - Cloud, sun, 24C; 27 September - Sun, cloud, 24C

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

A fine, sunny Sunday. Nice afternoon for a wine fair in Binissalem.

Evening update (19.15): Very good. High of 29.3C.

Anti-Tourism: Is It All About Palma?

So, they held the demo against so-called tourist "massification" in Palma yesterday. You would expect a major demo - around fifty associations/organisations and perhaps some 5,000 people (in the end more like 3,000) - to be in Palma and not elsewhere. But is all this anti-tourism stuff essentially a Palma-driven thing?

Around and about in Alcudia and Pollensa there is no sense at all of any anti-tourism sentiment. This doesn't mean that people don't have misgivings, but manifestations of this sentiment are absent. There will be at least two groups from the local area taking part this evening - the Alternativa per Pollença party and Moviment Alcudienc - but then everywhere on the island has similar types of political party or local protest organisations. At least with the Alternativa one can say that it has been consistent in its views of over many years, which have been to defend quality of life and the environment, to challenge some at times daft policy and to attack corruption and lack of transparency. The Alternativa was pretty much like Podemos before Podemos was ever heard of.

Most of us can probably point to examples of "massification" or saturation. Cycling in the spring is one such. It causes a whole load of people to get aereated, it does make the roads more difficult, but on balance it is positive. The general level of traffic is another as are the resultant difficulties with parking. This is perhaps most evident in Playa de Muro - Section 2, the part from the bridge to the forest. In years gone by the numbers of parked cars used to only ever reach saturation point on Sundays. Now, there is saturation mostly every day in high summer.

So, there are examples and there will be gripes, but is all this protesting nevertheless mainly a phenomenon that has emanated and is emanating from Palma? That is where the most important politicians gather, it is where half of the island's population live, it is where they have views on things which aren't the same to those in the "part forana".

Alcudia has the odd cruise ship, but so few are they and so low are the overall passenger numbers that they have no impact at all. In Palma, of course, it's a different matter. It might be recalled that it was cruise ships which were a major factor in sparking off all the saturation discussion - saturation of Palma, nowhere else.

The strains being placed on accommodation are a potential source of anti-tourism sentiment. It was no great surprise to learn this week that Pollensa has the highest number of illegal rental places per head of population (as advertised on Airbnb) in the whole of Spain. It was more of a surprise to discover that Alcudia ranks fourth. Those adverts will now of course be fewer. Palma, as in the government, has seen to it that this should be so. By and large I agree with Palma for once. If a proper balance is restored between residential and tourist accommodation, then the government is right. The trouble is of course that the government has gone too far and seriously risks jeopardising tourism and related businesses: far less so in Alcudia because of the hotel capacity, much more so in Pollensa.

And this is the nub of the issue. Whatever Palma thinks, however Palma acts, it can seem blind to the fact that municipalities such as Alcudia and Pollensa are so dependent on tourism. One understands demands for less dependence, for greater economic diversification - and God knows, I've made enough of them myself over the years - but Palma appears to wish to deem, through rhetoric and regulation, what is good to satisfy the ideologies of its politicians but which is prejudicial to other communities.

The demo took place. There were demands for "de-growth" and what have you. But notwithstanding the presence of the Alternativa and the Moviment, it was still Palma's demo, an expression of aloof separatism which is unrecognisable with the realities of our local communities in the north of the island.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 September 2017

Morning high (6.36am): 16.7C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 24 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 25 September - Sun, cloud, 27C; 26 September - Cloud, 25C

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

Still all pretty good and set fair. A pleasant weekend.

Evening update (20.30): Took a while for the sun to get its hat on, but when it did ... high of 27.2C.

Saint Tecla And The Miners Of Biniamar

They're celebrating one of those mysterious saints again this week. This one is Saint Tecla (or Techla): Santa Tecla, as she is known locally, because she is a she. Or rather was.

Tecla was supposedly from Iconium (now Konya) in Turkey, was born in 30AD and was a follower of Paul the Apostle. Supposedly is correct in that her story is best known from the Acts of Paul and Tecla, a second century work that is lumped in with other Apocrypha of the New Testament, i.e. works and stories of dubious and doubtful origins (apocryphal) not considered to form part of the Bible.

Real or unreal, she led a highly charmed life. Having been influenced by Paul and his musings on the nature of virginity, she survived, among other things, being burnt at the stake, attempted rape (on more than one occasion) and being eaten by wild beasts. She spent 72 years in a cave in what is now Silifke in Turkey. Or more likely didn't.

Anyway, by the fourth and fifth centuries Tecla's status was such that she commanded almost equal status with the apostles. She was an exemplary virgin martyr who apparently inspired others. Subsequently, and this is the case today, she became patron saint of Tarragona, where her worship had existed in times before the Muslim occupation of Spain. They will therefore be having a fair old fiesta for her in that Catalonian city. Her day is today, 23 September.

Techla/Tecla doesn't feature prominently in the saintly fiesta scheme of things in Mallorca with the exception of the village of Biniamar, which is part of the larger village of Selva. How, therefore, did she end up with the role of patron of this little village of some 350 people when the rest of Mallorca pretty much ignored her patronly potential?

It owes absolutely everything to Tarragona and in particular the archbishop of that city. In March 1230, just a short time after invading Mallorca and dismantling Muslim rule, King Jaume I was highly generous in his distribution of Mallorcan territory to the diocese. Tarragona was rewarded for its part in the invasion so that the archbishop (Espárago de la Barca) ended up with a fairly impressive Mallorca real-estate portfolio. This included a quarter of Inca, Mancor de la Vall, Caimari and Moscari (other Selva villages), Selva itself and Beniamar (aka Biniamar). Oh, and there was also the island of Cabrera.

The archbishop and Jaume had a longstanding relationship. Although he probably wasn't his uncle as such, this was how Jaume apparently referred to him. Pope Innocent III was to make the archbishop the principal advisor to Jaume during his youth. In 1228 the council of Barcelona came to the decision to conquer Mallorca. The archbishop was a central figure in this decision being arrived at. He came up with men and money to help Jaume's invasion.

The archbishop, it would seem, made Biniamar his power base. He installed a mayor to dispense justice and as importantly to look after his feudal powers. Moreover, the cult of worship for Santa Tecla in Tarragona was to be embedded in the village. This is how she came to be the patron.

What did the archbishop gain apart from just land? Well, in Biniamar there was its olive oil. The village of Caimari nowadays insists that its olive oil is the finest you can get in Mallorca (and makes this claim for its olive oil fair each year). There will have long been inter-village rivalries in this regard. The smaller villages of Selva all have their proud claims for one thing or another, and Biniamar in a sense has the loosest relationship with Selva and the other villages. It is more or less in Lloseta, far closer to that village than it is to Selva itself.

The archbishop would have also been made aware that Biniamar had a centuries-old mining tradition. This was something it shared with other villages in the area, such as Selva and Lloseta. Much later, in the second half of the nineteenth century, mines were opened which bore names such as "La Buena" and "La Esperanza". The good and the hope only partially materialised. At the time of the start of the Second Republic in 1931, Biniamar was associated with the Selva Mining Union.

Mining was tough, dangerous and low-paid work. The Catalan protest singer Lluís Llach was to write: "The miner sings at the bottom of the vast hole. No one listens. This much he knows. Only the walls of that cave so large. With tears as they turn to mud." The Biniamar miners might have sung to Santa Tecla. Her patronage doesn't extend to mining, but one of her miracles was the sudden opening of a new passage in a cave for her to escape persecutors. If the mines collapsed, they would have needed a miracle.

Friday, September 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 September 2017

Morning high (6.45am): 15.8C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 23 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 24 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 25 September - Sun, cloud, 26C

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

Much like yesterday. Mostly sunny and still pretty warm.

Evening update (20.00): Sunny it was. High of 26.9C.

Ignoring The Spanish: Imserso

A figure one hears for the yearly number of tourists in the Balearics is in the 13 million region. In precise terms for 2016 it was 12,994,712, the figure given in the tourism ministry's annual report. This is, however, a misleading number as it applies to European and non-European tourists and not to Spanish tourists. That figure last year was 2,377,209, making Spain the third most important tourism market (there were 4.6 million Germans and 3.7 million Britons). So, the true figure for tourists was 15,371,922.

It is curious that the Spanish are so often disaggregated from the tourist equation and treated as though they are separate. As they constituted more than 15% of all tourists last year, they can hardly be ignored, and yet the impression is often given that they are. It might be, however, because they are less appreciated in terms of what they contribute. In the same annual report are our old friends the tourist spending statistics. And what do they reveal? Well, the plus-15% Spanish market equated to only 10.6% of the total spending. On average per day, the Spanish tourist forked out a mere 85 euros, which were 51.10 euros fewer than the foreign tourist average.

This difference may well of course have something to do with how that spending is worked out. It includes the cost of the actual holiday. But Spanish tourists do come on packages, even if this cost will tend to be lower than for tourists from abroad. Nevertheless, a daily margin of more than 50 euros is a significant amount.

Nationalities have an anecdotal tendency to be characterised by what they apparently spend. We hear, for example, that the British have slipped in the spending stakes. Yet, according to the figures last year, the British, the Germans, the Italians, the French and the Swiss all spend around the same amount (there's no more than 4.50 euros between the highest-spending Swiss and the lowest-spending Germans and French in this mini league table).

Spanish tourists, both anecdotally and according to the tourism ministry's numbers, are generally considered to be at the low end of the spending rankings, if not rank bottom. While this is, as always, a pretty wild generalisation, there is one category of Spanish tourist for which it is generally accurate, and that is the Imserso tourist.

By contrast to other Spanish tourists, the low-season Spanish pensioner holidaymaker is given a high level of attention. It can seem disproportionately so, given that Imserso is, according to the hoteliers, barely worth opening for. Yet each year when it comes around, Imserso fills the column inches in ways that Spanish tourists otherwise never do.

This said, the attention tends to be one driven from within the tourism industry. Politicians, when by and large failing to acknowledge Spanish tourists' existence in  summer, do not compensate for this by going on at any great length about Imserso. This could well be, as the hoteliers are also at pains to point out, because Balearic political institutions - the government, most obviously - don't involve themselves unduly with Imserso. It's a different story elsewhere: Benidorm, for instance, with its significantly greater level of hotel occupancy in the low season than any resort area in Mallorca can lay claim to.

The governmental indifference to Imserso only shakes itself into anything vaguely like enthusiasm when ministers can point to hotels being open and therefore people being employed. Even greater enthusiasm can be reserved for the airport arrivals and declarations that things are therefore clearly "better in winter". Yes, so they are, and they are better in part because of Spanish pensioners who, let's be blunt, might not normally figure in ministerial requirements for "quality tourism". This isn't because the OAPs are rolling around drunk next to Balneario 6 or along Punta Ballena but because they just don't spend anything.

Accordingly, the indifference will mean that those Imserso pensioners who might book for Mallorca will pitch up in February (which is when the hoteliers mainly expect them) and find to their horror that they have to fork out two euros a night tourist tax. Or, perish the thought, three euros if they're in a three-star superior. They'll be hoping that Més Menorca get their way and that the tourist tax rise in the low season will be frozen.

In fact, given the existence of the tourist tax one wonders why the Imserso brigade isn't simply booking itself into Benidorm, which can boast being a tourist-tax-free zone. Perhaps they were trying to, which might help to explain the queues outside travel agencies when the holidays went on sale earlier this week. Astonishingly enough, there were videos of these queues appearing on tourism media websites.

So, as I say, there is some attention paid to Spanish tourists but only to the pensioners. Some attention, but otherwise ignored.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 September 2017

Morning high (6.15am): 15.9C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 22 September - Cloud, sun, 26C; 23 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 24 September - Sun, cloud, 26C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 2 to 4 backing Southeast in the afternoon.

Should be a decent enough day.

Evening update (20.00): High of 29.3C.

Nationalising The Beaches

It was a few years ago now. Residents in Playa de Muro were denouncing the over-occupation of part of the beach by sunlounger and parasol sets. There were more than there should have been, and the residents invoked the rights of the citizens in respect of the use of the free public domain that is all Spanish beaches.

The residents' action came at a time when Playa de Muro (and Can Picafort) were the scene of the occasional sunlounger war. Mornings would dawn and damage to sunloungers could be seen. They were being slashed overnight. Repairing them cost a pretty centimo or two. Nothing was ever proven, though the suspicion was that these acts of vandalism were due to differences between competing concessionaires for operating the summer sunloungers.

These concessions were and are pretty good business. A tendency to over-occupy made the business that much more profitable. It was suggested that bidders would in fact make allowance for fines they could anticipate for putting out too many sunloungers. Even with the fines and the charges demanded by the town hall for the concession, six months (or however long) of sunloungers turned in and continue to turn in handsome profits, so long as they've not been eaten into by the cost of repair.

Another part of Playa de Muro's beach (not the one the residents were worried about) is virtually impassable because of the sunloungers. There is a corridor behind them; otherwise it's a walk with the sea lapping over your feet. It's not like this in other parts because the beach is either deeper or there are no sunloungers: in front of the nature park dunes or those stretches which have only residential accommodation and no hotels.

When David Abril of Més announced the other day that his party is seeking to remove sunloungers (and chiringuito bars) from all beaches, my thoughts turned to the situations in Playa de Muro. Over the years they have encapsulated arguments regarding the free space of the beach public domain, the business to be had from beach "exploitation", and beach overcrowding because of the sheer scale of sunlounger occupation.

I don't entirely disagree with what Abril was saying. There is something less than satisfactory about the business exploitation (privatisation, if you want to call it that) of what is meant to be free space. There is also something almost unseemly about the way in which sunloungers on certain stretches of beach can be packed so tightly together and in such number.

Not, however, that I can agree on some sort of blanket ban, while the agreement with Abril only goes so far. It might be greater if one didn't detect that behind the proposal is a further whiff of Més zeal for let's call it (to be kind) touristic reorganisation rather than anti-tourism. And that, moreover, this is a zeal dressed up as environmentalism and even nationalism (of a Mallorcan variety, that is).

Abril will know that in the general scheme of things sunloungers are used by tourists rather than by residents and that there have been those arguments about over-occupation made by residents. He is potentially therefore touching another raw nerve of sentiment and promoting a citizens' yelp against tourism (and saturation).

On the environmental front, we have had the situation at Es Trenc this summer with the demolition of the chiringuitos. This was in fact because of a court decision that applied rules in the national coasts law. It wasn't driven by local eco-politicians but they most certainly latched onto it. To now put up the temporary chiringuitos (if they do indeed appear next summer) will mean overcoming complications as tangled as being able to license an apartment as a holiday rental. Moreover, the chiringuitos' enforcement was a reinforcement of the triumph one of Abril's Més colleagues, environment minister Vidal, had secured with regard to the Es Trenc Nature Park. Més had achieved what had been demanded for years at a beach which is more symbolic of Mallorca's virginal coastline than any other.

Fundamentally, though, underpinning Abril's proposal is Mallorcan nationalist fervour. This nationalism is a Més philosophy, and Abril advocates it more strongly than most. Within the context of the ongoing debate (such as it is) on tourism saturation etc., he has now given greater prominence to the beaches and made an allusion, as have others with like minds, to a time past when there were no "installations" on beaches and when the sands were all romantically rustic and dunes hadn't been flattened and built on.

The justification for his demand is nationalist in that it calls for Balearic powers of control of the beaches. The central government via the Costas Authority has the supreme responsibility for the Spanish nation's beaches, and this is what Abril is seeking to alter. Beaches and sunloungers now enter the nationalism argument, and of this there is a great deal more to be said. Més envisage "our own state" by 2030.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 September 2017

Morning high (5.23am): 15.7C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 21 September - Sun, cloud, 28C; 22 September - Cloud, sun, 26C; 23 September - Sun, cloud, 26C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 4, temporarily South. Swells of one to two metres.

A chance of a spot of rain. Mainly cloudy with sunny spells. Clearer by late afternoon.

Evening update (20.00): No rain. Middling sort of a day. High of 25.9C.

One In Eight: Awash With Rentals

One holiday apartment for every eight residents. The statistic is quoted in an article that was published in El País last week. The information came from Airdna, which isn't some type of Airbnb watchdog but is in fact an Airbnb's data analytics business. The website sounds like Airbnb such is the virtue made of, inter alia, its "rentalizer", the first automated valuation tool for short-term rentals.

Among various statements on the website is this: "Short-term rental earnings are blowing away the returns seen in any other real estate investment category. Savvy investors are purchasing properties where lodging supply is low, travel demand is high and regulation is favourable. Learn how to identify the perfect Airbnb investment opportunity." Another states: "Our sophisticated technology picks up every intricate data point on every Airbnb listing in the world. Whether you want to analyse short-term rental rates in Mallorca or regulatory impacts in Manhattan, Airdna has the most comprehensive and longest spanning data set."

How strange it seems that an American website should select Mallorca to be one of two places highlighted under "unmatched global Airbnb coverage". Perhaps it was for alliteration purposes - Mallorca and Manhattan. Perhaps not.

El País was clearly taking Airdna at its word. What better data analytics can there be? They must even outdo those used by Terraferida in mapping Airbnb interests in Mallorca. The article's headline referred to the Spanish municipalities most awash with holiday rentals. The original Spanish was "inundado". The translation could also be flooded, inundated or swamped. It couldn't be saturated but it's not so far off. The municipality with one holiday apartment for every eight inhabitants is the most awash of all. Any guesses?

A few weeks ago I came up with an estimate of how many illegal holiday rentals places there might be in Pollensa. On the basis of what El País (Airdna) says, I wasn't far wrong. Around 11,000, though it was probably a bit on the high side. Pollensa has some 16,200 residents - 16,222 according to the 2016 figure. It therefore has more than 2,000 holiday apartments. That is an absolutely staggering number. So much so that I find it almost hard to believe. Based on the most recent figures I've seen, this would mean that around 18% of all dwellings in Pollensa is an illegal apartment, and that's before you add on the licensed villas and houses.

But that's how it's reported, and almost as staggering is the municipality in fourth spot - Alcudia with one for every twelve residents. That would translate to around 1,600.

Four years ago I took part in a public debate about holiday rentals. To my right were Alvaro Middelmann, a one-time president of the Mallorca Tourist Board (among many other things), the lawyer Javier Blas, and a lady from the tourism ministry whose name I now can't remember. She was in something of a minority in her defence of the then Partido Popular's legislative approach to holiday rentals. I asked her at one point what planet her boss, Jaime Martínez, was on. I was in favour of far greater liberalisation of the rentals' market. The tourism ministry and government were not.

If you want to know why I've changed my view, then look at those numbers. I don't believe they are anything to celebrate. Bear in mind that these are just Airbnb properties, though it is quite possible that they have also been on other websites. Or were on them. The figures quoted by El País were for July. There has been frantic deleting since then.

But more than the numbers it is those quotes from Airdna. They encapsulate everything that Airbnb has distorted and every way that Airbnb has allowed itself to be distorted in growing so phenomenally as a business. Savvy investors, short-term rentals earnings, and people still talk about the collaborative, sharing economy? Who are they trying to kid?

Manel Casals is the manager of the Barcelona Hotels Guild. You would expect him not to be a fulsome advocate of holiday rentals, but when he said in an interview recently that the collaborative economy is a ridiculous invention (the translation could also mean comic invention), then he wasn't far wrong.

I have sympathy, and I've said it before, for those apartment owners who had been renting out either legally (by the tenancy act) or not up until the time Airbnb suddenly exploded (and it hadn't at the time of that debate). It might have satisfied the views I held only four years ago if Airbnb had not come along and destroyed the chances of legalising so many apartments. Those chances would have been significantly greater than they now are because of how the government has acted - has been forced to act.

"Analyse short-term rental rates in Mallorca"; it says it all. The collaborative economy wasn't a comic invention. It was a decent one before it became ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 September 2017

Morning high (6.47am): 16.8C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 20 September - Cloud, sun, 24C; 21 September - Sun, cloud, 28C; 22 September - Sun, cloud, 25C

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

Rain possible this morning, though that was the case yesterday and none materialised. Otherwise, sunny spells.

Evening update (20.15): No rain. Quite pleasant. High of 25.5C.

A Return To 2010?

Can I take you back to the summer of 2010? It was a World Cup year. Spain won. England didn't. On the streets the locals (Mallorcans or indeed Spaniards) went wild. The English, still smarting from the 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Germans and from the Frank Lampard goal which was but wasn't, had by and large thrown their lot in with the natives. Residents and tourists alike; they were all suddenly Spanish (Mallorcan).

It is worth recalling that summer 2010 was slap-bang in the period of economic crisis. In May of that year I wrote a piece which predicted the end of tourism life in Mallorca. Some had suggested that it would be on 24 September. I opted for 24 July. Why was I so confident? Because everywhere was doom-laden. The end was nigh; two months left, I concluded.

As things were to turn out, 24 July passed without the final day of tourism judgement releasing hellfire and damnation. The locals were still recovering from their 11 July World Cup hangover, but otherwise tourism life had survived this summer apocalypse. Survived, but only just. At the start of the following month, the tourism ministry announced that it was rolling out an emergency plan. It was one aimed in particular at the British. What was the emergency? The number of tourists, that was what. Over the first half of the year British tourism had slumped by eleven per cent. The ministry's emergency entailed forking out 1.5 million euros on getting Brits to book last minute and into October.

The Brits weren't the only ones to have been affected by crisis. But other core tourism markets - the Germans and Scandinavians - hadn't felt the impact anything like as much. Those other markets also didn't have to contend with a highly unattractive pound-to-euro exchange rate. As a consequence, hoteliers were beginning to rethink things. The rethinking was reflected a year or more later. Meliá unveiled the grand plan for Magalluf's transformation, an aspect of which was to be a lower reliance on the Brits and attempts to attract other markets, such as the Germans and Scandinavians.

That summer really was rather difficult. Thomas Cook was forced to issue a profits' warning. It wasn't the only tour operator to feel the pinch. The last-minute bookings emergency campaign that the ministry had in mind was assisted by offers of up to 60% off in September. Even in August you could get 40% off. Certain hotel associations representing resort areas were saying that as much as 30% was unsold in July and August.

If the summer eventually proved not to have marked an end, it had marked a beginning. It was that shift away from a British dependence. All those Brits who had temporarily become Spaniards and had cheered when Andres Iniesta scored with four minutes of extra time left were not to find that their loyalty was being totally unappreciated; just that loyalty was not being taken for granted.

But 2010 was forgotten as crisis eased, geopolitics intervened and there was no more need for hotels to have to close by early September (which happened that year). And so our attention now turns to 2018 and what, where some are concerned, will be another rather difficult summer but for very different reasons. Yet there are predictions of a further record year. How can this be, given tourist tax doubling, higher prices, bad exchange rate (where the Brits are concerned, if not others)?

The record is being forecast because of the length of the season. Building work is going to have to be completed very punctually, as hotels in the main resort areas - Playa de Palma, parts of Calvia, Alcudia - are planning on opening at the start of March, even though the Easter week isn't until the end of the month. The eight-month season, at least in some cases, is with us. Will there need to be a late-summer campaign as there was in 2010? It doesn't look like it, besides which the current government is not one for doing any promotion of a summer variety.

From a British perspective, there will be voices that pooh-pooh the possibility of another record year. True, not all visitors from other countries will be enamoured of a doubling of the tourist tax, but 2018 doesn't appear to be shaping up like a repeat of 2010. And even for the British, their economy, despite Brexit, isn't in the state it was eight years ago. More than anything it is the domestic economy which impacts on consumer decisions to take holidays or not.

Each year we have the same type of debate about tourism - good or bad seasons. Even if 2018 isn't a record and numbers do fall, it will really only be a downward correction on what have been two or three extraordinary years.

Monday, September 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 September 2017

Morning high (7.10am): 16.9C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 19 September - Cloud, sun, 22C; 20 September - Cloud, sun, 24C; 21 September - Sun, cloud, 28C

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

So, yellow alerts out for probable rain and storm. Showers possible tomorrow as well, less so on Wednesday, with the rest of the week looking generally good.

Evening update (20.15): Well, so much for the so-called storm. Reasonable enough all day save for a slight shower in the afternoon. High of 29.3C. 

Greeks Alarmed About Tourist Saturation

Against the background of talk of tourist limits, control of holiday rentals and tourist "massification", it is useful to note what is going on elsewhere in the Mediterranean. There seems to be a view among those who are rejecting the Balearic policies - tourist tax, rentals' legislation - that other destinations don't have the same issues and will be welcoming floods of more tourists next year: those who will be abandoning Mallorca.

There really does need to be a greater understanding of these other destinations. Take the Greek islands, for example, and the context of Greece's politics, with the Podemos-style Syriza in power, curiously supported by the highly conservative right-wing Independent Greeks.

Santorini is a case in point. It has a population of 25,000. It receives some two million visitors per year. The island's mayor, Anastasios Sorsos, wants the Greek government to declare the island "touristically saturated". Santorini simply can't cope. Its roads can no longer support more traffic. The use of resources has been stretched to its absolute limit.

There is to be a cap placed on the number of cruise ships. The environment ministry is being asked to ban any development away from the main urbanised areas. There is a drive to limit hotel capacities and to prevent there being new businesses that offer tourist services. There is an environmental lobby as concerned as any in the Balearics

Prices are increasing, accommodation is ever more difficult to find for employees and for professional groups, such as doctors. There has to be an end to private holiday rentals, especially those via the likes of Airbnb. They are "wreaking havoc" and not just in Santorini.

Does it all sound rather familiar? Well yes, it does. And the point is that Mallorca is far from being the only tourist destination where issues exist regarding saturation. Taleb Rifai, the secretary general of the UN World Tourism Organisation (WTO), has highlighted his concern with growing tourismphobia. He cited Dubrovnik in Croatia as an example because of saturation through holiday rentals and cruise ship passenger numbers.

2017 is supposedly the year of tourism sustainability, a year decreed by the WTO. This sustainability is espoused by political regimes such as those of the Balearics and Greece, yet it is coloured, as Rifai, notes, by populism that generates an antagonism within society. He is stepping down as secretary general. His successor, the Georgian Zurab Pololikashvili, faces great challenges, and one of them is tourismphobia. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 September 2017

Morning high (7.20am): 15.5C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 18 September - Cloud, sun, 26C; 19 September - Cloud, sun, 22C; 20 September - Cloud, 22C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 4 veering North 2 to 3 in the afternoon.

Sun today - hooray! Tomorrow might be rainy - boo!

Evening update (19.00): Good - a high of 26.8C. Yellow alerts for tomorrow - rain and storm.

Promoting Mallorcan Wine

Are you an enotourist? I don't mean are you a tourist in search of a one-time member of Roxy Music, I mean eno as in wine for oenophiles. Enotourism can also be oenotourism, vinitourism or, rather more clearly, wine tourism.

If you are an enotourist, then you may well recognise yourself from this little statistic. When you are gadding around sampling wines, you are also spending in a more healthy manner than the normal tourist (insofar as there is such a thing as a normal tourist). You spend, and you will of course know this, an average of 156.60 euros a day. Moreover, you spend this over the course of 2.65 days.

Aren't statistics wonderful? Although when the Wine Routes of Spain come out with this stuff, it is rather more believable than most tourist spending stats. A wine buff wouldn't be a wine buff if he or she didn't have a reasonable amount of spare disposable to splash out. After all, the enotourist when not on tour wouldn't be picking up a bottle of plonk for 2.50 at the local supermarket. Wine purchasing would require a special trip to a bodega and a well-credited plastic card in order to fill the car boot with a case or several of something distinctly superior to the 2.50 bottle.

Strangely enough, according to the Wine Routes, only 12% of that 156.60 goes on visits to bodegas. But this is just the cost of the visit. A further 19% is coughed up for wine itself. So, slightly less than 30 euros is spent per day on wine. But for 2.65 days, the total outlay is almost 80 euros. Which, one supposes, is a reasonable amount for one tourist to be spending. The only problem is that there is no information as to how many wine tourists there are, which begs a question as to how one can determine who is a wine tourist and who is a tourist who likes wine. Or maybe it doesn't matter.

Let's just conclude, shall we, that wine is a useful niche in the overall scheme of tourism things. And on mainland Spain there are any number of wine routes that can be followed. They are to be found in different parts of the country, the majority in the north and the others down towards Valencia and others in Extremadura and Andalusia. But when one says country, there is part of Spain which doesn't feature. Any guesses?

Seven years ago, the Chamber of Commerce in Mallorca produced a highly detailed report into tourist product niches. Enotourism was one of them. Whereas the report was able to give a number of tourists for many of these niches, enotourism was not among them.

Being able to identify and quantify any niche does help with the marketing, but with wine it is perhaps the case that the tourist is something of all-rounder. One only has to look at what else that 156.60 per day is spent on: bars and restaurants attract the highest spend, while there is also shopping, visits to museum and a sundry amount for "others". Most enotourists don't classify themselves as wine buffs. Wine, one might conclude therefore, is a tourism hook rather than being the sole tourism purpose.

This isn't altogether surprising. A different niche, and a more identifiable and quantifiable one, is the golfing tourist. And he or she spends more on the likes of restaurants than on golf. Which goes to prove perhaps that alternative low-season tourism is one that operates on the basis of a menu of options. Even cyclists, who are erroneously considered as a stereotype, spend money on gastronomy and other interests.

In the case of wine, though, it goes to the core of the government's agrarian slant to so-called sustainable tourism. Wine production is one of the most profitable if not the most profitable use of land. But just how well marketed is wine as a tourism niche? And how much support is there for it from the government? Although Mallorca doesn't feature among the Wine Routes of Spain, there are routes and there are companies dedicated to wine tourism. The government, though, seems to treat wine as it does most other niches. It lumps them together, talks vaguely about tackling seasonality and that's about that.

Wine tourism is important to the wine trade in Mallorca. It is known that it helps to boost wine exports, with Germany the biggest market. Yet the actual contribution to exports is modest, and the price of wine is staggeringly high compared to those regions where there are wine routes on the mainland - almost nine euros per litre, a price not helped by the high cost of grapes. Production will never be at the level on the mainland, bodegas will for the most part be boutique but they form part of an industry that could do with some more coherent promotion.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 September 2017

Morning high (6.21am): 16.4C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 17 September - Sun, cloud, 25C; 18 September - Cloud, 24C; 19 September - Cloud, sun, 22C

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

Could be some more rain around today. Getting better later in the day. Tomorrow looking fine.

Evening update (19.45): There was more rain around today. Quite a bit of it in areas. Sun came out late afternoon. High of 21.1C.

Will Es Murterar Become Another Power Station Ruin?

There is a sight which is distinctly incongruous when one is walking in the Albufera Nature Park. Look in one direction and looming above the vegetation is the chimney of Es Murterar: the power station abuts one edge of the nature park.

It has been there for forty years, an ominous presence looming over the tranquility and environmental sensitivity of Albufera. Once upon a time the coal trucks went through Puerto Alcudia in order to deliver their loads. Since the Bellevue bypass was built, the trucks have been in convoy passing at the foot of the Puig de Sant Marti. I've not personally noticed but I am told that coal dust flies and settles. Even covered, the trucks can allow particles to escape.

And for all these years there has been the Es Murterar roar. At times there can seem to be no rhyme nor reason for this bellowing. Guests at the Lagotel in Las Gaviotas are among those who have noticed it and have therefore complained about it.

There is something else which is incongruous: Balearic energy policy. A region blessed with ample sunlight (as well as other potential sources of renewable energy) can manage a mere two per cent of electricity production from renewables. There are parts of Spain where it is one hundred per cent.

The Balearic government, which has for so long spoken about renewables, now has a clear plan. In the fight against climate change there will be zero emissions by 2050. One trusts that this won't be too late. Much earlier than this - by 2020 - two pollutant groups at Es Murterar will be shut down; basically, this means that half the production lines will disappear within three years. The previous government, that of José Ramón Bauzá, had targeted 20% renewable production by 2020, a goal in line with EU ambitions. Good words and of course nothing happened. It was always possible to hide behind the shield of austerity and economic crisis. Alternative energy costs money and requires investment.

There is also a cost involved with the progressive closure of Es Murterar. The regional government is attempting to calculate it. If the costs are reasonable, says Balearic energy minister Marc Pons, then the national energy ministry will look upon the plan favourably.

A further cost is the one that affects the workforce. The government says that there will be job relocation. It has in mind the photovoltaic plants either planned or under way. One of these is by Es Murterar; others are in Manacor, Llucmajor and Ciutadella in Menorca. The workers don't believe the government. They reckon that there is little realistic chance of relocation. They want a slower process. They accept that coal cannot simply carry on, but the government's timeline is, in the word of the workers, "precipitous". They believe that the plan for Es Murterar is being designed with elections in mind. These elections are less than two years away.

Up to 800 jobs, both direct and indirect, could be affected. One also has to wonder about the impact on the port. Salvem el Moll, which has been agitating about the coal shipments (considering them to be not entirely legal), will doubtless be delighted, but the eventual loss of coal will be bound to have an impact on the port's commercial operations. There again, it is surely a price that not only has to be paid but should be paid. The economics of energy transition can never be wholly benign for all business or indeed all jobs.

Endesa agrees with the workers. The plan is too hasty. As a company it anticipates an end to its coal plants by 2035. It has an alternative - an investment scheme to modify the most polluting groups. The current politics of renewable energy will probably scupper this.

And eventually, what will become of Es Murterar? The roar will be quietened. It will fall silent. No more will the coal trucks rumble along the bypass, inadvertently releasing particles. Es Murterar will then sit there, like Alcanada has ever since Es Murterar was commissioned. Will they be arguing over its future at the end of this century?

Friday, September 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 September 2017

Morning high (6.52am): 21.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 16 September - Rain, sun, 23C; 17 September - Sun, cloud, 25C; 18 September - Cloud, 22C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 5 to 6.

Rain and storm probable. Improved forecast for Sunday. Tomorrow looking a tad iffy.

Evening update (20.15): Grey but dry until early afternoon, then the deluge and thunder and lightning. Sun briefly threatened and obviously thought better of it. High of 22.8C.

The Curious Advocacy Of Tourist Wealth

How much should the tourist tax be per night? The maximum rate in the Balearics as from next year will be four euros. This is for four-star superior and five-star accommodation. These are the hotels where the rich go, though defining richness isn't easy. There are "well-off" folk who travel five star, but they're not in the rich class.

The Netherlands is a country with a reputation for pragmatism and tolerance. Its capital Amsterdam reflects this, its famous red light district as much as anything. For many tourists, so it is said, the red light district is where they go. If they spend money, then they spend it there. The city's restaurants, it is noted, don't benefit to the extent that they should, which is surprising given the volume of rental accommodation. Though the city is addressing this by restricting the number of days that properties can be available for rental.

Amsterdam, as with other European cities, attracts an enormous number of tourists. Like those other cities (and also with resorts) there are tourists who are valuable to the local economy, those who are less valuable and those who aren't of any value. The latter category can in fact create a negative balance. Their contribution, such as it may be, is less than an approximated cost of having them use services. In addition, they add to a perception or to the fact of overcrowding without giving something or giving enough in return.

There is talk in Amsterdam of increasing the tourist tax. A figure of ten euros per night is being discussed. And it is being referred to as a deterrent tax, though deterrence would owe a lot to how long a tourist stays. Two or three nights? Thirty euros? Would it be that much of a deterrence? Resorts are different. Tourists stay longer in resorts than they do in cities.

Dutch tolerance, where tourists are concerned, seems to have been stretched to the limits. Which is why this tolerance is evaporating. A tourist tax rate of ten euros, deterrent or not, would be discriminatory; it would discriminate on the grounds of personal wealth.

There are parts of Europe, Switzerland is a good example, where tourism is expensive with or without any taxes. If you ever look at price comparisons for hotels, you will often find that Switzerland is, generally speaking, more expensive than other countries. The Swiss have never encouraged a low-contributing style of tourism. Historically it has always been a country for the wealthy visitor.

Switzerland has some relevance to Mallorca. When the founding fathers of tourism at the turn of the twentieth century were seeking to shape their new industry, Switzerland was a model that they were able to consider, as was the French Riviera. Here were places where tourism genuinely existed and they were the preserves of the wealthy of Europe (and the USA).

The Assemblea 23-S, the grouping that will stage the "massification" demonstration, has alluded to those days. They were ones, once tourism started to develop in Mallorca, when only the rich could afford to travel. Only the rich had time on their hands. The rich didn't have to worry about the non-existence of paid holidays. Accordingly, Mallorca built hotels that were for this wealthy class. Yes, there were pensions but by and large, and into the 1950s, the tourism infrastructure was designed for the wealthy European who didn't travel in enormous numbers.

There seems to be a desire, here in Mallorca, in Amsterdam and elsewhere to turn the clock back. That tourism of the rich was in a sense the legacy of the Grand Tour, when only aristocratic young men (less so women) broadened their cultural horizons and paid good money for doing so.

This desire is not solely the preserve of the left but predominantly it is. In this respect it a curious philosophy. The tourism agitators in Mallorca seek to defend (with legitimacy) the earnings and conditions of the working class, though how defensible this would be, were tourism-sector employment to decline, isn't too clear. The island's working class is defended, but what about the working class from elsewhere? There is an absence of brotherhood in the demands of the Mallorcan left. There is also a total forgetfulness. The British working class first came to Mallorca thanks to the British Workers Travel Association, which was linked to the Labour Party. The Holiday Pay Act of 1948 was to help.

Vladimir Raitz, the founder of Horizon, considered tourism in socialist terms. A holiday for the ordinary man, woman and family. A holiday to open up experience of other cultures. A holiday to assist in the pursuit of post-war peace and tolerance.

Those were times when ideals as much as business were important. Times obviously change and they do so in curious ways. A left-wing advocacy of the rich. How odd.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 September 2017

Morning high (6.55am): 17.6C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 15 September - Rain, 24C; 16 September - Rain, 22C; 17 September - Cloud, 26C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southwest 4 veering Northeast 5 to 6 in the afternoon.

Starting out ok, but rain likely in the afternoon. Tomorrow there are alerts for rain, storm and wind. The weekend looks wet, and so does the start of next week.

Evening update (20.00): High of 31.5C. Very good but now, in the evening, cloudy and windy.

Remembering The Days of Romantic Travelling

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, romantic travellers and European aristocrats (an Austrian one in particular) discovered the romantic charms of Mallorca. An island hitherto unremarkable in the general scheme of Mediterranean things began to acquire a reputation. Those romantic travellers would arrive by boat, soak in the sight of the Cathedral, appreciate the light and the climate, and be taken by stage coach to mountain retreats, not least those of the Archduke Louis Salvador.

In the mountains those travellers could enjoy glorious vistas. Those who were friendly with the Archduke could visit Son Marroig, the stately pile perched on a cliff top overlooking the Tramuntana coastline. From the lookout, designed to the Archduke's instruction, they, as he did, could contemplate the rock with the hole in it - Sa Foradada - and the sheet of blue which at the horizon competed with a vast canvas of more blue (assuming the weather was ideal, that is).

The Archduke, despite his aristocratic upbringing, understood much of this island. In fact he would have understood more about it than anyone else. The Archduke, in some respects, invented Mallorca and indeed the Balearics. And among the subjects that the encyclopaedic Archduke turned his research attention to was the island's agriculture. He could hardly have avoided it. Agriculture was about all there was.

Mallorca was far from unique in this regard. Agriculture was still a dominant if not the dominant sector for parts of Europe, in particular those which the Industrial Revolution had ignored. The steam train was to arrive only a few years after the Archduke had in the late 1860s. The Industrial Revolution slowly made itself felt.

The Archduke knew about the steam trains, just as he knew about agriculture. His detail was such that he could note the price and output of produce. His inventories were as assiduously compiled as were those by governmental emissaries who were occasionally dispatched to this remote island in an attempt to understand why it was part of Spain.

But the Archduke was interested in more than just monetary values and the weight of crops. He witnessed the agricultural condition and the appalling condition of the farming labourers. There was grinding poverty, wholly inadequate wages, intolerable hours. And there was also pest. When phylloxera struck the vines in 1891 it was just another blow for agriculture. Emigration and the promise of greater wealth and better standards of living deprived the island of much of its agricultural workforce.

Move forward to the late 1950s and Mallorca and Spain were economic basket cases. Mallorca was actually rather better off than many parts of the country, and this owed much to its banking sector. In the fields the lot of the agricultural worker was still far from wonderful. Agriculture had enjoyed but also endured the Franco regime. Enjoyed it because of the stability of autarky that guaranteed the employment required for economic self-sufficiency and the supplies from the cooperatives. Endured it because of a lack of investment and innovation. Self-sufficiency placed a premium on staple crops above more profitable ones. Autarky had been economic insanity. Spain was on its knees before the Americans intervened, Opus Dei technocrats guided the regime towards a different economic model, and tourism (and foreign exchange) were discovered.

On 23 September there is to be a demonstration against the "massification" of tourism. The different groups which have lent their support to this demo have produced a "manifesto". This refers, among other things, to the days of the romantic traveller and the European aristocrats. It implies the existence of an idyll, which was far from the case, especially for the agricultural working class. There is another reference - to the "imposition" of tourism by the Franco regime and by local "caciques", a term used here in broad terms to mean businesses, such as banks.

The image that the Assemblea 23-S, the umbrella title for the demo's organisers, is conjuring up is one of its own false romanticism. It appears to hanker after a past before tourism was imposed on a "predominantly agrarian economy". If so, then its vision is as insane as autarky had been.

It ignores utterly the fact that a Mallorcan development of the "industry of the foreigners", which was how tourism was described at the turn of the twentieth century, owed a great deal to the insufficiency of agriculture. It ignores a further fact that agricultural workers were offered an alternative source of employment by the boom in tourism in the '60s. Yes, big mistakes were made through the environmental destructiveness of so-called Balearisation, but new employment was created and a new society began to emerge - one that was more cosmopolitan, more modern.

Agricultural work was every bit as precarious as work in the tourism sector. It still is. Wages are low, seasonality is a factor, the weather is another. Yet the Assemblea, characterised as much as anything by parochialism, would seem to be willing an imposition of this old economy. Romantic?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 September 2017

Morning high (6.55am): 16.3C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 14 September - Sun, cloud, 30C; 15 September - Cloud, 25C; 16 September - Cloud, 23C

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

Should be a nice enough day - plenty of sun. From tomorrow afternoon, we appear to be in for at least a couple of days of rainy weather affecting Friday and Saturday.

Evening update (20.30): Good. High of 30.3C.

Snow In July: The Vermar Tradition

The president of the Binissalem Designation of Origin regulatory council said the other day that the grape harvest is expected to be 25% lower than last year. The quality, however, will be exceptional. Will, therefore, the grapes being hurled around at the town's sports centre this Saturday lunchtime be of sufficient hurling quality? Maybe they are the low quality ones. Grapes that can afford be hurled. Let's hope so. If the harvest is a quarter lower, the last thing you can do with is a good grape or many being chucked about in joyous grape battle abandon. Grape battles are, in theory and probably in practice, not ideal for wine production.

At least when it comes to the grape-treading competition, you would suppose that some productive use could be made of all the stamping in barrels that will occur in the Plaça Església on Sunday. The purpose of the competition is, after all, the pursuit of the most juice. Or maybe they just leave it and drink it as grape juice.

The Vermar is one of Mallorca's prestige fiesta and fair occasions. The actual wine fair can seem almost secondary to all that proceeds it: the battle and the competitions. But without wine there would of course be no Vermar fiestas, no celebration of the grape harvest, no place for Binissalem right at the centre of the Mallorcan wine map.

These are fiestas that created tradition where tradition didn't exist. The "vermadores" and the "vermadors", the harvest maidens and the harvest young masters, were inventions of tradition once the Vermar emerged from the confines of an essentially private wine buffs event at Can Gelabert. These young people, granted roles of honour for the fiesta, will preside over the offer of the grape must - "most novell". Maybe this is a productive side to the grape-treading competition. The offer, with due ceremony, is made to Santa Maria de Robines, Our Lady of Robines, and also the parish church. Robines was the old name of the centre of power, a farmstead along with two others, one of which from Muslim times was Beni Salam.

Prior to this offer of the grape must there is a solemn mass, but the Vermar has never really been a religious fiesta. As with its acquired traditions, such as the vermadores and vermadors and even the grape battle, any religion was grafted onto that private function of 1965, one organised by the writer Llorenç Moyà. He, Moyà, was characteristic of the way in which men of culture (they were normally men) helped to shape traditions, fiestas and festivals. Other prime examples are Alexandre Ballester in Sa Pobla (even though he was originally from Inca), who was active with the demons' culture, or Miquel Bota Totxo, who was instrumental in the founding of the Pollensa Music Festival.

The centenary of Moyà's birth was recognised in Binissalem last year. Although accepted as one of the greats of Mallorca's literature in the twentieth century, the recognition he received during his lifetime was not as great as it might have been. And after he died in 1981, that recognition lessened still. His "revival", though, is such that he was honoured last year and that a book about him has been published. It was presented on Monday at the Can Gelabert Casa de Cultura, the venue for that gathering which was to spawn the Vermar fiestas. The image for the fiestas programme features a black and white profile of Moyà and some grapes.

The Vermar, therefore, has become a tribute to one man. It is surely unique among fiestas in this regard. And the fiestas have developed into an occasion for the arts that provide even more recognition of Moyà's contribution. Among this artistic endeavour is a glosador "combat". Typical of many a fiesta, the glosador verses have taken on a greater poetic depth at Binissalem. The first prize last year was for verses which referred to "one evening in July when it was on the point of snowing, a puput (hoopoe bird) walked to harvest with an owl and a camel dressed in fine silks". It went on to mention flies that carried on their wings the vines from Biniagual (a part of Binissalem) and a fool who looked at prices for going to Jerusalem because there was a bull from Bethlehem half sick from phylloxera with wine from Binissalem.

The phylloxera was the pest that devastated the vines in the late nineteenth century, a natural disaster still firmly embedded in the popular collective memory. It was one from which Binissalem was to eventually recover. And in 1965, Llorenç Moyà laid the foundations for the firm re-establishment of Binissalem at the heart of the island's wine trade. The Vermar fiestas rightly recognise and honour Llorenç Moyà.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 September 2017

Morning high (6.19am): 20.6C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 13 September - Sun, 28C; 14 September - Sun, cloud, 29C; 15 September - Cloud, 30C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5.

Another rain alert out. Expected to be mainly cloudy and clearing by late afternoon.

Evening update (20.15): Some spitting rain at times. Nothing more. Grey sort of day. High of 24.2C.

Celebrating Defeat: Independence And Nationalism

Might yesterday have been the last time that the Catalans celebrate their "national" day on 11 September? Could 1-O become the new 9/11? A victory, possibly Pyrrhic, to replace three hundred years and more of hurt. In Catalan legend, there was a tragedy in 1714 every bit as great as planes that were crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center.

It was Felipe V who was responsible. It took 300 hundred years for the next Felipe to ascend to the throne. The Bourbon dynasty in Spain was the creation of Felipe V. The Bourbons occupied Catalonia, took away its institutions. The Bourbons occupied Mallorca as well and cast the island adrift from the old Crown of Aragon. The Crown was dismantled by the Bourbons, an act of geopolitical regicide. Felipe VI stands to be the Bourbon monarch who witnesses the Catalan redemption: Catalonia lost and found.

If only there hadn't been the War of the Spanish Succession and the eventual consequences for Catalonia. But there was that war and there were those consequences. National days aren't typically celebrations of defeat. In Catalonia the national day remembers the fall of Barcelona. There are those who will argue that the Catalans have lived according to a culture of victimhood ever since. In Mallorca this sense of the victim is likewise said to characterise Catalan sentiment and its fellow political travellers - Republicanism and the odd claims of sovereignty.

In times past, the act of defiance, nay disobedience by Carles Puigdemont and his government would have meant only one thing. Times change. A Bourbon army will not march on Barcelona. Instead we have mayors being instructed to make polling stations available, some mayors saying they will do no such thing, the Madrid government issuing its warnings of dire consequences, and a sense that Catalan nationalism has descended into social division - contrary to the integration it has so long espoused - and even into racism directed towards the lazy Spaniard who seeks to oppress and steal a "nation's" riches.

It is said that, based on a 50% turnout, there will be a 72% majority in favour of independence. The Catalan government is not giving any indication as to what the turnout will need to be in order to validate the vote. Fifty per cent would do. What are the other fifty per cent thinking? Are they indifferent? Or do they assume that regardless of what happens on 1 October nothing will actually happen? Perhaps they are right to do so. What would be the outcome? A rogue state (nation) within a nation and within Europe. A nation defined by an act of unconstitutionality and with no recognition internationally. A vote for independence would be on the basis of a wing and a prayer. Yet it may not fly. Like experimental flight of more than a century ago it will lift off briefly and then crash to earth, caught by the branches of a tree, thrashing around in prayer of rescue. It is bizarre, even if it is understandable.

Meantime in Mallorca, the Republicans, the Pan-Catalanists and the advocates of sovereignty gather in a Palma square. Some two hundred of them lend support to Catalan independence. Members of Més, harbouring a desire of insular nationalism (Més envisage a Mallorca "republic" by 2030), join the small ranks. Numbers at a rally are not true indicators of sentiment, but they are indicators nonetheless. Mallorca harbours no desire for this nationalism, except in the view of Més and minority groups, and certainly not one that delivers itself into the clutching arms of the Catalan Lands.

Weirdly, the Crown of Aragon persists. It has a coordinator to tie together associations in Aragon, Valencia and the Balearics but not Catalonia. The coordinator accuses the Catalan government of seeking to impose Catalan language, culture and identity. Under the "lie of linguistic unity", that government wants to end what were the kingdoms of Aragon, Valencia and Mallorca, where they have their own languages. How truly odd, especially as the Kingdom of Mallorca was but a shortlived independent phenomenon that was emasculated more than 650 years ago.

But this oddness, both in defence of Catalan independence and Mallorca as a relic from the past Crown of Aragon, is the legacy of history that cannot be shed. Old battles and old wars are constantly being refought, though now the battlegrounds are schools turned polling stations, if mayors agree, they are print shops preparing the voting papers and they are the Constitution, the model for democratic Spain. Ah yes, Spain. It is not Catalonia, and Catalonia is not Spain.

A modern, a sophisticated prescription might be federalism, of the kind advanced by PSOE, which has no more wish for Catalan independence than the Madrid PP government. But federalism sounds too cosy when compared with the stridency of nationalism, with the three hundred years of hurt, with the occupation by the Bourbons and with the celebration of defeat.

Monday, September 11, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 September 2017

Morning high (6.36am): 17.5C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 12 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 13 September - Sun, cloud, 28C; 14 September - Sun, cloud, 30C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 4 increasing 4 to 5 during the morning.

Should be a fine, clear and sunny day. Tomorrow there is a risk of showers at times.

Evening update (20.00): Nice. High of 31.6C.

Coordinating Podemos

Podemos is at least true to its ambitions for job creation. Jobs for its own, that is. Periodically, a Podemos type emerges that no one has heard of and would not have been heard of had it not been for the job opportunities that Podemos empowered simply by being Podemos. When all else fails, and everyone's out of work, form a political party and there'll be jobs for the boys but especially - because Podemos is a feminist organisation - the girls.

The latest among the ranks of the Unheard-Ofs is Cristina Gómez. And she is? Well, she actually has a pretty important gig - in Menorca terms at any rate. She's vice-president of the Council of Menorca. In line with all things that are citizenly correct, Cristina heads something known as Som Bases IB. We are the bases (Balearic Islands). These bases are the Podemos rank and file, of which even its leaders are theoretically members. Egalitarianism walks hand in hand with feminism as Podemos heads towards the Promised Land. Which is not, however, being part of the Balearic government. Or is it?

Were there bookies taking bets, they would probably have installed Oberkommandant Laura Camargo as the front-runner to become the new gen sec of Podemos in succession to the obsequious Jarabo. This would be on the grounds that she has actually been heard of. Indeed a great deal has been heard of her. Not, it should be pointed out, that The Boot Girl wishes to be general secretary. Yes, she craves leadership in an egalitarian, citizens' democracy fashion, but not with that title. It's far too sexist: no secretary girl for Laura. She would prefer to be the The Coordinator, which sounds a somewhat ominous position in a scary film-noir/sci-fi/Bond-movie style. When she eventually abandons politics, Laura could do worse than contact David Lynch.

Ambitions being as they are, Laura has been having a word with Cristina. That's because Cristina has also been eyeing up the Jarabo role. It's not known how she would like to be referred to were she to be the new Jarabo, but the chances are that she won't be given the opportunity. Laura and Cristina are said to be 90% aligned in terms of policy for the citizens, though Cristina has pointed out that "no agreement of any type exists". Whatever. Which of the two will go forward for the citizens to select, if there is agreement? Well, this will require the "bases" to first decide, but 90% alignment suggests a 90% probability that it will be Laura.

The unification of the two campaigns would be important in thwarting the ambitions of the third candidate - María Asunción Jacoba Pía de la Concha García-Mauriño (to name but one). Mae for short, or Granny Mae where some are concerned, is also from Menorca. Or rather she isn't. As with many of the Podemos political intellectualati in the Balearics, she's a mainlander. Just like Alberto Jarabo or Laura. Mae represents Menorca, which is different to actually being Menorcan.

So, there is something of a battle for the hearts and minds of the Menorcan citizens, and it is one between Granny and Cristina, all designed - she will hope - to bolster Laura's wish to be The Coordinator. Granny can count on the support of Jarabo, which mae (sic) or may not be an advantage. When the grand citizens' assembly in October convenes in order to anoint Jarabo's successor, it will be a clash between the anti-capitalist Camargo faction and the less anti-captialist wing represented by Alberto and Mae.

Francina Armengol can probably rest easy in the knowledge that Laura (and Cristina) don't want to enter the government. They would prefer to remain on the outside, not actually taking any responsibility for their actions, such as holding the gun to the government's head and threatening to shoot if the tourist tax hadn't been doubled. The Alberto-Mae wing, on the other hand, fancies a spot of ministerial function. Under this circumstance, who knows, perhaps Mae might oust Biel as tourism minister. That would be fun.

Who will succeed Alberto? Well, don't discount the influence of the Madrid Supreme Intellectualati. Pablo Iglesias isn't, you may be surprised, among the anti-capitalists. They were in fact trounced when they were in the mix to challenge him to lead the party. Granny will have been hob-nobbing with Pablo. She is, after all, a deputy in Congress. Madrid may determine the outcome, just as Madrid and the mainland have guided the fate of the citizens of the Balearics until now, courtesy of the likes of Alberto who aren't native but have gone so. And in fact, last weekend one of Pablo's right-hand (left-hand?) women, Carolina Bescansa, was in Palma for a show of strength with Mae. Laura was no doubt seething.