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The Sant Joan Pelós Freak Show

Spain, a country traditionally immersed in the Catholic faith, celebrated Corpus Christi last Thursday and yesterday, San Juan (Saint John the Baptist). In Mallorca, San Juan is called Sant Joan. In Felanitx and in Pollença, Sant Joan is called Sant Joan Pelós. Despite the difference in name, it all amounts to the same saint. And it all is a welcomed social gathering, an excuse to be merry, to feel connected to local traditions and to have a drink or two.

There’s an anecdote I wish to share with you, concerning Sant Joan Pelós and Felanitx. In the Summer of 1852, the Spanish Reina Isabel II de Borbón (Queen from 1833 to 1868), visited Mallorca, aged 22, on her way to Menorca. Obviously, her main stop in Mallorca would have been in Palma but, she also came to Felanitx for a brief sojourn, for whatever reason. Wanting to impress and entertain the young Queen, the Felanigenses (citizens of Felanitx) presented their ample local traditions, i. e. Cavallets, Gegants, Xeremiers, Ball de Bot, Caparrots, Dimonis as well as Sant Joan Pelós. On seeing the masked saint dance, shaking his long maned hair, the Queen is said to have insisted he be removed from her sight, calling him a Mamarracho (freak). I have been told that her wish was granted.

It may be for reasons totally unrelated to this episode that it took 136 years before another Spanish monarch came to visit Felanitx. This time, in 1988, some large parts of rural Felanitx had been declared areas of natural disaster caused by some fierce torrential rain resulting in severe flooding and some serious destruction of roads, bridges and livestock. The Queen was Reina Sofía, the wife of Spain’s King Juan Carlos I.

If you want to see Sant Joan Pelós wave his long hair whilst dancing, you might want to make your way to Pollença tomorrow, Sunday, June 26th. There, a Corpus Christi procession will be held after the church service, including Sant Joan Pelós and the Águilas (eagles). If I get there in time and manage to capture the scene, I’ll show you a photograph of Sant Joan Pelós and the Águilas on Monday. Insha’Allah.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 24th, 2011. The time was 18:35:35.

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