Weaving and industrial fabrication of textiles were a big industry in Mallorca at the end of the 19th century with perhaps a dozen factories sharing the market between them. Can Ribas was one of the biggest such factories with production facilities in Palma de Mallorca, Sóller and Esporlas. Amongst other lines of fabric, Can Ribas specialized in the production of sturdy cloth for uniforms and other products for the military. In Palma alone, there were three or four large Can Ribas weaving factories, amongst them the one in the barrio of Soledad (see photos) where cloth was spun from the 1880s and exported to the Americas, to Britain, France, Germany and mainland Spain. Can Ribas was also the largest producer of Robes de Llengües, a weaving process similar to that of Ikat. The Telas de Lenguas fabrics form part of the island’s cultural heritage and this is the only line of textiles that Can Ribas still produces to this day, in Esporlas.
The Can Ribas factory in Soledad closed its doors during the 1970s and was then used as a large warehouse for salvaged demolition material such as doors, windows, beams, shutters, kitchen and bathroom fittings, roofing, railing and what have you. The reclaimed building elements were particularly in demand by proud foreign finca owners from Northern Europe who had come to Mallorca to try their hand at Mallorcan farmhouse chic.
Some three or four years ago this old Can Ribas cloth factory was acquired by Palma’s Patronat Municipal de l’Habitatge, a municipal housing trust, with a view to build 160 protected housing units. Construction work commenced in 2009 but does not seem to have progressed much since the change of government and city council, earlier this year. I suppose the squeeze in matters of funding may well have found another victim.
Still, Can Ribas is well worth protecting. Perhaps one day matters will sort themselves out. It can’t be all bad, for ever. There is always hope.
The photos (top and centre) were chosen from my archive. They were taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 25th, 2009. The time was 17:36:40 and 17:41:56, respectively. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of diariodemallorca.es and Estop Fotos Aéreas.