Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Changed Perspectives: Tourism Nostalgia

The Pollensa Fair this weekend will be wallowing in nostalgia. There is to be a journey into the past. Back we will all go to the 1960s and 1970s and to the years of the tourism boom. I think Pollensa's doing itself a disservice. Once upon a time, before anyone had uttered the word boom or before jet planes had truly heralded its start, Puerto Pollensa was Mallorca's "other" tourist centre; Palma and its one-time suburbs such as El Terreno having been the main one. Puerto Soller was a rival of sorts, courtesy mainly of the French, but Puerto Pollensa was the focus - such as it was - for the touristically minded for much of the inter-war period.

Nevertheless, the boom times are what the fair intends to share. The programme gives a flavour. Old black and white images reveal an era when taxis used to park on the road that is now the pedestrianised Passeig Anglada Camarasa and when people would take themselves off to beaches (the photos look like Formentor) where striped beach tents would be erected. The photos in fact conjure up a feeling of pre-boom, and are the people tourists, as in foreigners? Hard to tell.

Nostalgia for those days has never been stronger than it now is. The proliferation of images which exist on the internet has helped to fuel this nostalgia as well as a natural curiosity and interest in how things were. Those images can be perplexing. Perspectives that one takes for granted are deconstructed through the absence of the familiar. For Pollensa's neighbour, Alcudia, a photo appeared the other day on social media. In the background were the old power station and the pier that was to become the marina. But what were the buildings in the foreground? Where were they? Where are they? Without the landmarks one now knows - simple ones like road layouts and a roundabout - it was difficult to reconstruct the perspective.

In Pollensa, as with other coastal tourist parts of the island, there is a current-day perspective of the past that goes beyond mere nostalgia. It is the memory of how things were. There are those who can of course still remember. Pollensa was to be spared much of the barbarity of Balearisation, but it nonetheless underwent its own transformation and it continues to alter. There was no greater nostalgia than when they removed the ice-cream kiosk, a relic from decades past and a time of touristic innocence. Perhaps this nostalgia, captured on old images and to be displayed at the town hall this weekend, is in fact a conscious attempt at resurrection or at least of an indulging in a paradise lost. One should never maybe exclude an impulse for nostalgia as politics, written large on the banners lamenting massification.

This aside, I still fail to understand why the idea for a tourism museum in Mallorca has never taken off. It is now ten years ago that I wandered into a tent at the Alcudia Fair on which was emblazoned the legend "Museu del Turisme". It was seemingly a project of the Mallorca Tourist Board and the government. It never went anywhere. The omens, with hindsight, hadn't been good. It was a nice tent, shame about the content. There was nothing of any note inside.

Nowadays, thanks to the at times contrary perspectives offered by some of our politicians, one wonders if the history and development of tourism is something they wish to promote. But why not? They can talk - and do talk incessantly - about culture and heritage. They are prepared to devote tourists' money to the preservation of the island's industrial heritage, but the island has never had a more important industry than tourism. It is part of the heritage and of the culture. Why is it not more deserving of celebration and funding?

This tourism past is littered with eccentricities and oddities that expose the unexpected. I have a series of images of old pages from the Majorca Daily Bulletin which I stored when researching the paper's fifty years. One of these pages - either from 1963 or 1964 - contains a list of "holidaymakers in Majorca". It's bizarre enough to think that there might have been such a list, but what is especially peculiar about this is where these holidaymakers were from. Yes, there were people from Britain, but they were matched in their number by Americans. They had come from New York, from Baltimore, from Miami, from Philadelphia, from Los Angeles.

But there again, it wasn't so peculiar. Temple Fielding, who lived in Formentor, had been instrumental in opening Mallorca up to the American market. The American visitors were part of an almost forgotten tourism past in the early years of the boom. At the Pollensa Fair, it would be nice to think that they've remembered this. I somewhat doubt that they will have.

* Photo is from the programme for the Pollensa Fair, Ajuntament de Pollença.

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