Thursday, September 28, 2017

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.

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