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The Rule of 2 Leguas

In the old days, distances in Mallorca were measured in Leguas. There was a Legua Real for distances on land and a Legua Marítima for distances at sea. The old Legua Real had a length of 6,687 metres. For distances on sea, the Legua Marítima had a length of 5,573 metres. The Legua has an equivalent in the English measure of a league, even though they are not equivalent distance.

You may have noticed, or you will discover once you study a Mallorcan map in some greater detail, that there is a strange rule of distances that governs Mallorca’s pueblos and their distance from one another. All towns and villages seem to be roughly 2 Leguas Reales apart (some 13 km), give or take a bit. It may be 12 km in one case and perhaps 14 km in another, but in general, almost all Mallorcan urban places appear to be equidistant.

See for yourself. Llucmajor to Campos: 13 km. Campos to Santanyí: 12 km. Felanitx to Manacor: 13 km. Inca to Santa Maria: 14 km. S’Aranjassa to Llucmajor: 12 km. Sa Pobla to Santa Margalida: 12 km. Llucmajor to Algaïda: 10 km. Montuïri to Algaïda: 11 km. Andratx to Es Capdellà: 11 km. Alcúdia to Pollença: 11 km. And so forth. You can take your own pueblo and check on the distance to the next village up the road.

As always, there is a reason for this strange rule and this close proximity: the donkey cart. In the old days, farmers had to bring their goods to the nearest market, or from one pueblo to the next one. And 2 Leguas Reales was roughly the distance that a normal, that is, slow donkey could pull a cartload of goods in one session. That would be from here to the market in the morning, and then from the market back home in the afternoon.

I once had a Mallorcan friend, Joan Estepol, whose father was a horse dealer. When Joan was a boy, he accompanied his father to the market in Sineu, to sell horses and mules. They lived in Felanitx and they had to walk twice the distance, i. e. 4 Leguas Reales from Felanitx to Sineu, or 27 kilometres. The journey took them two days, there and back. Luckily, for Joan and his father, the market was only held once a week. Joan is dead now. I rather miss him and the stories he told me about life in the old days.

The photo was taken near Llucmajor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 1st, 2011. The time was 14:12:50.

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September 2011


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