Blessing of the Animals

Sant Antoni animal blessings Santanyi

Mallorca’s annual Sant Antoni celebrations include a ritual called Beneïdes (blessing of the animals). The origins of this tradition are probably pagan when in the countryside one suffered the weather and the elements for one’s survival. The role of farm animals was significant and help was begged from the deities for the creatures’ protection.

Nowadays, only rural Mallorca still depends on farming and agriculture, even though the dependence is much reduced these days. Still, Beneïdes is an important date in the calendar of the rural community. During the celebration, farm and domestic animals are paraded to the local parish church to benefit from the Sant Antoni blessing. The saint is the patron saint of animals. Dogs and horses, sheep and geese, rabbits and cats, birds and donkeys, sometimes even rats or snakes make an appearance in the act of these celebrations.

The photo was taken in Santanyí, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 17th, 2013. The time was 15:54:52.

Blessing of the Animals

The Massive Downpour of 1989

In early September 1989, twenty-three years ago last week, the South-East of the island was surprised by a ferocious Gota Fría, bringing torrential rain and utter devastation with it. Entire stretches of road were swept away, trees were uprooted by the thousands and dragged away, three people were killed when a hotel basement in Portocolom was flooded, hundreds of animals drowned and chaos ensued everywhere. The area around Felanitx and Cas Concos des Cavaller was declared a disaster zone and Reina Sofía (the Spanish Queen) flew in from Madrid to visit the affected area and talk to some of the victims. Rain fell at 06h00 in the morning at a rate of 125 litres per square metre within just 30 minutes. That’s about the same amount of rainfall that one could have expected to fall in one whole year. I had never seen or lived through anything like it in all my life, nor had most Mallorcans.

You may know the mountain of San Salvador, the Felanitx monastery. Believe me if I tell you that twelve rivers originated from that one mountain (many of you would call it a mere hill, at 510 m of altitude) after that rain. One of these rivers passed through Cas Concos, demolished an old country stone bridge and took oak trees of a considerable age with its raging force all the way to the beach of Es Trenc, some 29 kilometres away. Ten days later, no rivers were left, only torrentes, dry riverbeds.

Today’s photo shows the external wall of the Felanitx cemetery. This cemetery filled up, then, like a swimming pool until the Marès built walls could not contain the masses of water any longer nor support the water’s weight. The very walls shown in the picture collapsed in the process and an avalanche of mud and debris swept onto the surrounding fields, including the corpses of four recently buried people. The cemetery of s’Horta was similarly wrecked.

I’m telling you all this because now is the time of the year when the Gota Fría might visit this island. Be alert.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 23rd, 2012. The time was 13:23:37.

The Massive Downpour of 1989

The Slow Decline and Fall of Bullfighting in Mallorca

There was a bullfight event in Palma’s Coliseo Balear the other night (Thursday) with three Toreros. The event will have been the only corrida this year in the island capital. There won’t be a bullfight in Felanitx this year either, for the third consecutive year, and Inca has also cancelled its annual bullfight. The anti-taurine movement may slowly get the upper hand in Mallorca after all. There were close to one hundred animal rights protesters outside Palma’s bullring on Thursday night making their voices heard, whistling and shouting insults at the pro-bullfight spectators. The bulls, it seemed, were not perturbed, even though in the end not a single bull survived the spectacle.

One bullfight was staged in Alcúdia earlier this year, and another one in Muro. That was it, as far as I know; three bullfighting corridas in a whole year when in the past there may have been ten or twelve. Times they are a-changing.

The photos (top and centre) were borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of diariodemallorca.es and the photographer, Manu Mielniezuk. The photo (bottom) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 26th, 2012. The time was 19:36:48.

Muchas gracias.

The Slow Decline and Fall of Bullfighting in Mallorca

Langostas and Bogavantes

I like lobsters. They are somewhat dinosaurian in appearance, don’t you think? It pleases me every time I see them on offer in Palma’s Mercat de l’Olivar, for instance. But then I get confused because I don’t know what Langostas are as opposed to Bogavantes. Do I like both crustaceans, or which one is which? Do they both get caught here around the island of Mallorca, or do they come from the Atlantic Ocean?

Bogavantes are known in the English language as the European lobster or Common lobster (Homarus gammarus). The ones sold in Palma’s markets are predominantly caught in the Atlantic waters around Galicia, even though they live along the Moroccan coast as well, and in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. They are the ones with the big, fat claws. They are commonly sold live with their claws restrained by elastic bands. Occasionally you can buy them live and swimming in a tank without any harness, such as shown here (photo top). Bogavantes are sold these days for between 32 € and 48 €, but they can go up to 70 € at times.

The spiny variety is called Langosta in Spain, known in English as Spiny lobster, rock lobster or Langouste (Panulirus interruptus). Langostas sold here mostly come from Mallorcan waters; they currently retail for between 22 € and 35 €, but they can go up to 60 €, sometimes.

The photos were taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 10th, 2012. The time was 13:33:51 and 13:23:26, respectively.

Langostas and Bogavantes

Swan Lake

Not many things are prettier than the grace of a swan. On the lake of the Palacio Real de la Almudaina in Palma we have a brace of white swans – years ago there was a pair of black swans, but one died and the other one got into a severe depression and had to be moved to a home for widowed swans. Recently, the pair of white swans have grown into, one can only assume, a happy family of five. Three little swan babies, or is it chicks, have hatched a few weeks ago. The proud parents show off their brood happily to the visitors, begging for attention and perhaps for food as well. I think we should not feed the swans but I definitely think you should go and see the regal offspring next time you make your way to Palma. It is such a pretty, graceful and soothing sight.

We are so lucky to be blessed with such marvels of nature, right at our doorstep, so to speak.

The photos were taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 10th, 2012. The time was 12:45:37 and 12:46:48, respectively.

Swan Lake

A Private Seawater Lobster Tank

Something like eighteen years ago, a friend of mine showed me a private property in Portocolom which was for sale. The house was amazing. It looked a bit like the TWA terminal building at JFK airport in New York, just smaller. The setting was more than impressive, right on the water front. Amazing. But what impressed me most was the private lobster tank, cut into the rocks and immersed into the sea water. The idea was that the owner could buy bogavantes or langostas straight from the fishermen and store them in his own private seawater lobster tank until he was ready to eat the crustacean. I had never before been to a private house that afforded its own private seawater lobster tank, nor have I ever since. I think it is ever such a clever idea, extravagant perhaps but nevertheless, smart and intelligent.

The man who had this house built complete with its lobster tank, a well-known Mallorcan tycoon, never spent much time at this place. Instead, the house got sold a number of times over the last 18 years. None of the successive owners ever used the lobster tank, as far as I know. The tank is now in a poor state of disrepair, not least because the metal cover, missing in the photo (above), has been stolen a few times by scrap metal thieves. Now the whole thing is a bit of a safety hazard. Oh well.

The photo was taken in Portocolom, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 18th, 2012. The time was 16:40:24.

A Private Seawater Lobster Tank

The Son Menut Stud Farm

A long time ago, in mainland Spain, the Carthusian monks were famous for their role in breeding the Pura Raza Española or Andalusian horse. Toni Barceló from Son Menut near Felanitx is not a monk as far as I would know but, yes, he breeds P. R. E. horses, and successfully so. He is a very dedicated man, not unlike his brother, Miquel Barceló, the artist. There are some 90 horses in Son Menut at the moment, and more than half of those are of the Andalusian race. Twelve of those stallions and mares are for sale now for amounts of between 4,000 and 6,000 €, should you be interested.

The Son Menut Stud Farm also offers equestrian holiday packages, including excursions on horse back, riding classes for beginners, for children and for more advanced riders, as well as tuition in jumping and dressage. Accommodation can be provided at Son Menut, a finca well dedicated to the world of horses.

The photos were taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 20th, 2012. The time was 14:55:33 and 15:15:24, respectively.

The Son Menut Stud Farm