Most people have this perception of Mallorca primarily as a holiday destination. The sun, the Mediterranean Sea, beaches, golf courses, chill-out lounges and Michelin-starred restaurants suggest an image of leisure and merriment. It seems difficult to acknowledge that there are darker aspects of Mallorca as well, and that there were some sinister moments in its history.
Not many people can imagine that concentration camps existed during the Thirties right in the middle of Mallorca, and even in the centre of Palma. One might have heard, perhaps, of thousands of French soldiers being interned in a concentration camp type prison on the island of Cabrera, but that was a long time ago (in 1809) and also, a relatively long way away. But here, in Mallorca?
Makeshift prison camps were built between Portocristo and Manacor in 1936-37 as soon as the Republican movement was defeated, at the outset of the Guerra Civil. Mallorcans talk of these camps as campos de concentracion. There is also talk of a concentration camp installation in what is known as the Balnearí de Sant Joan. At the same time, there existed a Campo de Concentración Palma de Mallorca. Ca’n Mir, a wood merchant’s place in Palma (see photo centre) was converted into a prison for political opponents, and so was Ca’n Sales (see photo above), also in Palma, the latter one for female prisoners only. The Castell de Bellver was used for Republican prisoners as well and, in particular, its underground caves.
Today there is not much evidence left of those grim installations. A plaque has recently been put up by the Ajuntament de Palma, commemorating the death of Matilde Landa, an inmate of Ca’n Sales who committed suicide there over her plight (see photo bottom), and of course, one can find scratchings and graffitis on the rock formations underneath the Castell de Bellver, if and when access to these cave dwellings is allowed.
The photo (bottom) was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 14th, 2009. The time was 14:34:29. The photos (top) and (centre) were borrowed from the Internet. Thanks are due to fideus.com.
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