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Washerwomen

Things have changed a lot in Mallorca over the last thirty, forty years.

For instance, doing the laundry in Mallorca, in fact in all of Spain, was a communal activity and being done in public until not all that many years ago. The pueblo‘s females would congregate at the rentadors (public laundry troughs) perhaps once a week to wash their dirty linen, to soap the clothing and to rub and twist the different pieces. To complete the linen’s washing, it had to be spread in the sun and be sprayed from time to time with ash water. We are told that all of this was made in a spirit of cheerfulness, with gossip being exchanged and songs being chanted to give fervour to the exhausting work.

Private houses in Mallorca did, by and large, not have running water or bathrooms installed until the late Nineteen Sixties. Washing machines were not much in use until perhaps the Seventies. But since prosperity arrived in Mallorca with the demise of the Franco period and the onset of tourism, everybody in their right mind had a bathroom installed at home as a symbol of their economic affluence, complete with running water and perhaps a washing machine. Rentadors were soon abandoned and became obsolete. From now on, gossip had to be exchanged at the market, the butchers or at the hair dressers.

Rentadors are now not much more than picture postcard motives, often lovingly restored and giving testimony of how things were in the past. The laundry place (shown above) can be found in Santanyí. Other rentadors of equal charm are in place in Valldemossa, Santa Margalida, Ses Salines, Sóller, Deià and Randa, to name but a few.

I tried to find a historic photo of the chores of the Mallorcan washerwomen but could not. Instead, I offer you a painted image. Es rentadors des Jonquet was painted in oil by Llorenç Cerdá Bisbal (1862-1955). The artist from Pollença studied at the Academia de Bellas Artes de Palma, the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Madrid), and spent some time in Rome (1885-86). In 1953, Cerdá was proclaimed Hijo ilustre de Pollença.

The photo (top) was taken in Santanyí, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 2nd, 2010. The time was 10:55:09. The image (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of paraisobalear.com. and juankar.

Muchas gracias.

1 reply »

  1. Somewhere on the island, ( I can’t remember where) there is still one old lady still washing clothes daily in a rentador. She washes clothes for other people in the village.

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