Majorca Observed

I went back to Deià the other day to take a friend from England to Robert Graves’ house, Ca n’Alluny, which was converted into a museum a few years ago. I had been there a few times before, with other friends, and I find that every time the visit is a great source of inspiration.

Robert Graves had come to Mallorca and the village of Deià with fellow poet, American Laura Riding, in October 1929, having just separated from his first wife, Nancy Nicholson. In 1932, Graves and Riding built a house in Deià. Graves could now establish himself as a full-time writer for the first time in his life. For his simple lifestyle, he was soon labeled as the 20th century’s first Robinson Crusoe poet. With the hostilities of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, however, Robert and Laura were obliged to abandon Mallorca and move back to London after only seven years. With Europe in ruins and his beloved son David just reported dead in Burma, and with a severe dissatisfaction with England, Graves returned to Mallorca and Deià again in 1946, this time with his second wife, Beryl Hodge. He resided there until his death in 1985.

I had recently read Robert Graves’ Majorca Observed, lavishly illustrated with drawings by Paul Hogarth. If you have not read this love letter to Mallorca, you must. In this book, Graves gives an account of Why I live in Majorca, written in 1953, reporting in an endearing way about life on the island and in particular in Deià, during the late Forties and early Fifties. The book is out of print, as far as I know and you can certainly not buy it at La Casa de Robert Graves. Some copies are available on the Internet, though. A Spanish soft-bound edition was published in English and should still be available from Editorial Olañeta.

Should you want to visit the house of Robert Graves, don’t forget to walk up to the parish church and the cemetery. There you will find the author’s grave (photo above), assuming you have the time and patience to look for it.

Admission to Ca n’Alluny has now gone up to 7 €; Opening hours are unchanged during the Summer (Monday to Friday, 10h00 to 17h00, Saturday, 10h00 to 15h00, Sundays closed). For slightly shorter hours during the off-season, please consult the website.

The photo was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Deià, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 7th, 2005. The time was 17:15:18.

Majorca Observed

Air Attacks Over Palma in 1937

75 years ago this week, there were two days of severe air attacks over Palma, coming from the Republican resistance to the military putsch of the Falangist movement. Plenty of damage was caused, including the loss of civilian life, particularly in the boroughs of Santa Catalina and Porta de Sant Antoni, where nowadays Carrer de Sant Miquel and Carrer dels Olms would meet. Palma’s leading newspaper at that time, La Almudaina, reported extensively about the Canallesca hazaña de los aviadores rojos (Despicable deed of the red flying machines), when in reality the attacks were aimed at the commandos of the war planes of Benito Mussolini‘s Aviazione Legionara (Italian Air Brigade, financed by none other than a certain Juan March Ordinas) and the German Legion Condor who had come to the help of the Caudillo‘s (General Franco’s) attempt to overthrow the government of the Second Spanish Republic. The foreign air forces had shortly before attacked Durango and Gernika in the Basque province in Northern Spain. Both, the Italian as well as the German air legions had a major presence here in Mallorca during the duration of the Guerra Civil. The Italian Air Brigade, for instance, bombarded Barcelona with air planes stationed here in Mallorca in March 1938.

Later in 1937, Palma suffered two more bombardments on October 7th, and December 7th, respectively.

Both photos were borrowed from the Internet, the top one courtesy of diariodemallorca.es, and the bottom one, courtesy of nothemingwaysspain.blogspot.com.es. Thank you very much, and

muchas gracias.

Air Attacks Over Palma in 1937

Memories of a Dark Past

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the assassination of Emili Darder Cànaves (Mayor of Palma), Antoni Mateu Ferrer (former Mayor of Inca, below right), Antoni Maria Qués Ventanyol (founder of ERB party, below centre) and Alejandre Jaume Rosselló (Consul of Uruguay in Palma, below left). The four were wrongly accused of belonging to a Plan Lenin plot to overthrow the Falangist movement during the Spanish Civil War. After a court-martial through the Consell de Guerra (War Council), the execution took place against an outside wall of the cemetery in Palma on February 24th, 1937. The accusation was later revealed to be a fabricated deception.

Last night, some 200 people took part in a memorial walk under torch-light from the Baleares monument in Parc Sa Feixina to the Cementeri Municipal de Palma. Yours truly was there, reporting on dark memories from an even darker past.

The photo (top) was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 24th, 2012. The time was 21:34:21. The photo (centre) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of fotosantiguasdemallorca.blogspot.com. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of flickr.com and pottipotti (José Juan ‘Potti’ Luna).

Thank you very much,

muchas gracias, and

moltes gràcies.

Memories of a Dark Past

The Aeròdrom Militar de Pollença

Mallorca has three airports; did you know? There is Son Sant Joan, there is Son Bonet, and there is an airbase in Port de Pollença.

The Aeròdrom Militar de Pollença was built in 1937, seventy-five years ago this year. At that time, the Spanish Guerra Civil was in full swing; General Franco was well on his way to assuming power with his iron fist. Earlier this week, a commemorative act was celebrated for the 75th anniversary of that airbase, calling for a largish assembly of the Mallorcan bigwigs.

I was not invited to the commemorative bash; why should I have been? Thus, I made my way to Port de Pollença yesterday, where I had a minor confrontation with a young female from the Military Security personnel. Supposedly I am not allowed to take a photo of the main gate to the precinct, and no-one else is either. Well, I never.

The Pollença airbase is primarily geared for amphibian aircraft and seaplanes. The first such aircraft were submitted by the Italian Air Force in early 1937, which already had their base in Mallorca’s Aeródromo de Son Bonet near Palma. As of 1954, a number of Grumman SA-16 were stationed in Pollença and later a couple of Dornier 24. The Grumman SA-16 were withdrawn from Pollença in 1960 and moved to Palma. They were replaced with a number of CL-215 CANADAIR, principally equipped for the extinguishing of forest fires.

Nowadays, the Pollença unit forms part of the Spanish Fuerzas Auxiliares de Apoyo Operativo del Mando Aéreo General de la Fuerza del Ejército del Aire and comes under the Ministry of Defense in Madrid.

There is some local opposition to the airbase in Pollença claiming that in our modern age, the military base does not serve much of a purpose, apart from its forest fire fighting capacity. I think it is quite possible that before long, the Aeròdrom Militar de Pollença may change its purpose yet again or indeed, may simply cease to exist.

The photos (colour, top) were taken in Port de Pollença, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 22nd, 2012. The time was 15:18:33 and 15:26:21, respectively. The photos (b&w, bottom) were borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of requetes.com and elsitiodejactres.blogspot.com, respectively.

Muchas gracias.

The Aeròdrom Militar de Pollença

Prisoners of War Camps in Mallorca

In a blog entry a couple of years ago, I reported about a number of Concentration Camps in Mallorca. Perhaps that term was a bit harsh. Perhaps one should call them Internment Camps or Prisoners of War Camps. There were five or six of those prison camps on the island, with two of them in Palma. All of the camps were for male prisoners with one exception, Can Sales in Palma, where female detainees were kept.

In the Parc Natural de la Península de Llevant, at the foot of the Puig des Porrassar mountain, one can find the Campament des Soldats, a military camp now in ruins where the Republican soldiers were kept as prisoners between 1939 and 1943. By then the Nationalist and Fascist Falange movement of Francisco Franco had won the Guerra Civil, taking lots of prisoners who were kept in approximately 400 prison camps situated all over Spain. The soldiers at the prison camp near Artà were held captive and had to work on the construction of the Cami dels Presos. Four barrack-type buildings surrounded a large central courtyard. The beauty of the landscape nowadays belies its barren conditions then. There must have been some tremendous suffering. All of the prisoners had come from the Spanish mainland. In turn, Republican prisoners taken in Mallorca were sent off to prison camps on the Peninsula.

Not far from here, there is a watchtower known as Sa Talaia Moreia, not immediately related to the prisoners camp.

The Cami dels Presos was a road built to allow large canons to be transported up to the mountain top of Sa Talaia Moreia to install a fort with heavy defense artillery overlooking the coast. At that time, Franco feared an imminent attack by the Allied troops of Britain, France, Canada, Belgium and USA. That’s why we find the bunkers built along the coast between Alcúdia and Can Picafort, as well as the towers for submarine target practice along the same coastline. The attack never materialized and the road was in the end unfinished; the fort was never constructed and the canons were never mounted. Germany was on the way to its defeat by the Allies and Spain was by then safe from an Allied attack.

History is right under our noses, even to this day.

The photos were taken near Artà, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: February 18th, 2012. The time was 12:13:37 and 12:17:36, respectively.

Prisoners of War Camps in Mallorca

Ruthless in Felanitx

The largest and most imposing tomb in Palma’s Municipal cemetery houses the remains of Juan March Ordinas and his clan. The Palma cemetery is well worth a visit and once there, you might as well have a look at the March mausoleum for its sheer magnitude and the cleverly hidden modesty. I would also recommend you seek out the catacombs at the same cemetery.

I live in Felanitx. The largest crypt in our local cemetery (see photo) is unmarked and not easily identifiable. It is said to belong to Antonio Fontanet Obrador, born in Felanitx in 1919. Felanitx is a place that seems to alienate quite a number of its offspring, Don Fontanet being one of them. It would appear that he has not been back to visit his birthplace in over 40 years, nor has he been in contact with any of his siblings. Only two of them are left now; once there were nine. The prodigal son is the proud proprietor of a string of big name Mallorcan companies, such as Fábrica de Harinas en Felanitx, Harinas de Mallorca, Productos Fontanet, Piensos Piema, Auxam, Comercial Isleña, Graninvest, Café Rico, Matisa, Comacasa, Explotación de Granjas de Avicultura, Vacuno y Porcino, and so forth. I don’t know whether Señor Fontanet ever made it into the Forbes Rich List; he certainly is one of the ten richest people in Felanitx and one of the top 100 in all of Mallorca.

I wonder what the oligarch will do with all his dough when it is time to say goodbye. I don’t think there are any legitimate descendants. Oh well, none of our business, or is it?

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Spain. The date: January 24th, 2012. The time was 17:24:33.

Ruthless in Felanitx

Tunnel Visions

It may not be a phenomenon specific only to Mallorca, but there are a large number of underground passages and tunnels burrowed into the island’s underbelly. Think of the Roman aqueducts, part over- and part underground, or the Quanats and wells of Moorish origin. Think of the coal mines and the underground Marès quarries. Think of tunnels and shelters built by resistant citizens during the Guerra Civil, the Spanish Civil War. Think of tunnels and caves burrowed by prisoners of war during the Guerra de la Independencia Española (also known as the Peninsular War) below the Castell de Bellver or simply think of fresh water channels and waste-water tunnels built 200 years ago, before the start of the industrial revolution. The Military burrowed extensive tunnel systems into the coastal defense set-ups during the Forties. In Palma, there were extensive underground tunnels for trains of goods and chattels. Nowadays, you have a vast hydraulic waste collection system crisscrossing Palma’s underbelly. I suppose I could go on and on.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to descend into part of the intricate water tunnel system beneath the town of Felanitx. There are two distinct channel systems in Felanitx, both dating from 1830 or thereabouts. One is a grid of water tunnels starting from the Font de Santa Margalida (well) opposite the parish church and reaching to well below the Plaça d’Espanya. Until 25 years ago, these shafts could be accessed and traversed whilst nowadays one can only go as far as the entryway of the tunnelled system. The other grid is a network of tall tunnels for waste water sewage, running the length of both, Passeig d’Ernest Mestre and Carrer de Ses Eres.

I hold an invitation to explore a mile-long tunnel system of Quanats not far from here, in Ses Aigues. I have been there and seen the entry ducts but, as yet have not descended into the tunnel system. If and when I do pluck up the courage and overcome my unease about feeling claustrophobic, I will report back to you.

The photos were taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 30th, 2012. The time was 10:08:04 and 10:11:02, respectively.

Tunnel Visions