The Other Half

The other day, a commemorative act was held in Portocolom to mark the 90th anniversary of the foundation of Spain’s first civil school for amphibian planes, the Escuela de Hidroaviación Civil. The occasion was reason enough for the President of the Consell de Mallorca, Maria Salom Coll, to descend upon this Eastern harbour town together with a few mandarins in her entourage. The festive act with self-important speeches by the political class was marred by a cacophony of ear-piercing whistles, shouting and booing by up to a hundred mostly young protesters. The audience attending was clearly divided into two groups of pretty equal numbers. The scene was a fair mirror image of today’s society in Spain and more to the point, Mallorca. La Crisis in Spain and here on the island seems to be affecting one half of the population whilst the other half happily pursues a routine of daily life as if everything were normal. I was shocked to see how seemingly far removed the political class present in Portocolom appeared from half their populace. They were all smiling and irritatingly cheerful, totally ignorant of the motives of the protesters who appeared to belong to the 21.3 % (24.6 % in all of Spain) of unemployed, or rather, 48 % in the case of youngsters under the age of 35, which seemed about the age range of the whistlers.

Massive protests have been seen frequently over the last six months wherever the president of the Govern Balear or his counterpart at the Consell de Mallorca made public appearances, either in Sa Pobla, Inca, Felanitx, Sóller, Andratx or Muro. Political decisions effecting cuts and changes in education, language, the health system, paired with effects of inflation, unemployment, taxation and dispossession have caused a lot of ill will amongst many citizens that the ruling body shrugs off without any further discussion. The argument goes like this ‘We have been elected with a majority and will now do as we please‘. A pity though that half the adult citizens did not vote Conservative and seem to feel utterly misrepresented.

It appears only fitting that just two days earlier, the government in Madrid had set up a new Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (Ministry of Homeland Security). I think that sooner or later the street protests in Spain will not be restricted to mere whistling.

The photo was taken in Portocolom, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 25th, 2012. The time was 19:27:48.

The Other Half

The Alcover-Moll Dictionary

The Catalan language is a rather beautiful, often quite poetic language. Currently, there is much debate here in Mallorca as to whether Mallorquín as a language is a proper such language or simply, a dialect of the Catalan idiom from Catalunya on the mainland. I am not an expert in this matter but I know that there are experts of some consequence in linguistic issues. One of them was Antoni Maria Alcover i Sureda (1862-1932).

Although Mossèn Alcover’s first literary efforts were in Spanish, he turned to the Catalan language in 1879. From this date, he undertook to collect the Rondalles de Mallorca (fables and folklore of Mallorca), which he began to publish in 1880 in various journals under a pseudonym (Jordi d’es Racó). In 1886, Alcover was ordained and became the parish priest for Manacor, hence the title Mossèn. In 1888 he became a professor of ecclesiastical history at the seminary in Palma.

The first Congrés Internacional de la Llengua Catalana (International Congress of the Catalan Language) was held in 1906 on his initiative and under his presidency. He was named president of the philological branch of the Institute for Catalan Studies. His principal work was the Diccionari Català-Valencià-Balear (Catalan-Valencian-Balearis Dictionary), also known as Diccionari Alcover-Moll, which unfortunately he did not live to see completed. A first tome was published in 1926. The complete oeuvre was finished by his then collaborator Francesc de Borja i Moll and published in 1962, fifty years ago this year. The current edition is a lexicon in ten tomes, published in 1993 (see photo below).

Perhaps José Ramon Bauzá, the president of the Govern de les Illes Balears, should buy a complete set of this lexicon and actually study the language that he seems to so vehemently repress.

The photo (top) was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 14th, 2012. The time was 23:11:33. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of ca.wikipedia.org.

Moltes gràcies.

The Alcover-Moll Dictionary

The Monestir de La Real

The Monestir de Santa María de La Real just to the North of Palma was founded in 1235 by designation of King Jaume I, the Conquistador. From 1265 to 1274, Ramon Llull lived and worked there, studying Latin, philosophy, theology and the law. Here, he wrote his first books, Compendi de la lògica d’Algatzell and Llibre de Contemplació en Déu. These treaties were written in Arabic and only later translated into Catalan. I understand that both manuscripts form part of the library that Llull bequeathed to La Real. I am not sure if or how one can gain access to the Bibliotequa de La Real, said to be one of the most emminent ones on the island but I am sure one could find out.

I do know, however, that one can gain access to the cloisters of that monastery. Although the convent appears closed at all times, visitors can ring the doorbell and will be admitted for brief visits as long as peace and quiet are respected. You should consider an excursion to this spiritual oasis, not far from where you might reside.

The photos were taken near Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 2nd, 2012. The time was 12:57:11 and 13:11:27, respectively.

The Monestir de La Real

The Language Crusade

For the last 18 months, my friend Lluís has been helping me improve my grasp of the Catalan language or rather, Mallorquín, a sub-species of that idiom. One of the many insights he shared with me over time is his opinion, a pessimist view, that Mallorquín will simply cease to exist as a language within the next 50 years. According to Lluís, linguists rate the viability of a spoken language in five levels, with the first being the highly active level and the fifth being the level of extinction. Mallorquín, he argues, is on level three at the moment, sure to be heading for level four within twenty years or so.

Under Franco, Mallorquín was not officially endorsed. It was not taught at school for forty years. Since the dictator’s death, Mallorquín has swung back or rather, Catalan has, to the status of co-official language.

The new Govern Balear under José Ramón Bauzá and his Partido Popular (PP) is currently politicizing the language debate in Mallorca with a so-called law on linguistic normalization, effectively removing the requirement for public officials to be able to speak Catalan. PP’s aggressive and negative stance towards Catalan/Mallorquín has been known for some time.

Some Mallorcan town halls such as Manacor, Inca, Sa Pobla, Alcúdia (see photo above) and Pollença are opposing Bauzá’s political crusade by approving Catalan/Mallorquín as Mallorca’s own language. The linguistic department of the Universitat de les Illes Balears is in opposition as well, as are a number of institutos (secondary schools) and guarderias/escoletes (nurseries).

We will all find out who the winner will be in this language crusade. If we are still around in 50 years time that is.

The photo (top) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of mallorcadiario.com. The photo (centre) was taken in Alcúdia, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 30th, 2012. The time was 13:09:37. The photo (bottom) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 6th, 2012. The time was 11:54:15.

The Language Crusade

Modern Street Poetry

Sometimes, if luck is on your side and you are patient enough to look, you can encounter poetry or lyrics in Palma’s streets, and proverbs. Such outpourings might come in various shapes and forms and can attract your eye in often unexpected places. Street poems can be encountered as manifestations in the shape of graffiti, or else, on advertising notices offering services or wanting to sell goods and even as municipal adornments.

Along the Platja de Can Pere Antoni in Palma, just opposite the new Palau de Congressos building site, I found half a dozen tiles offering traditional Mallorcan refranys (proverbs) such as the one shown here: El peix cremant i la carn belant (the fish hot and the meat, medium done). Others talked about the calm sea or one or the other wind type. I came away with a smile.

The photo was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 18th, 2011. The time was 12:18:36.

Modern Street Poetry

Mucho Amor

I came across a graffiti the other day that riddled me. I couldn’t make out what it was or is about. Perhaps it’s an announcement for a Rock band, maybe it’s a street poem or a declaration of love. Mallorca is full of secrets and surprises if only one is prepared to encounter them.

Perhaps one of my loyal visitors can help with this baffling message. The language may be a clue: the message was written in Castellano, not Catalán. In Felanitx where the graffiti was found the locals and in particular the youngsters predominantly speak Mallorquí (Catalán).

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 1st, 2011. The time was 12:19:48.

Mucho Amor

Understanding Etymology in Felanitx

This photo blog cannot aspire to educate about linguistics or the dogmas thereof. Instead, the blog intends to portray Mallorca in a comprehensive, all-embracing, perhaps encyclopedic manner. I am constantly amused and equally, slightly annoyed about people talking about the language issue, here in Mallorca. People form their opinion about Catalan-Castilian-Mallorquín debate without the slightest knowledge or understanding, paired with a complete lack of information or historical appreciation.

Let’s talk about toponymy and the etymology of place names, for instance. People like to think that Inca, a pueblo in the centre of the island, would have taken its name originally from the people in the Cuzco valley in Peru. The South American Inca empire was invaded by the Spanish in around 1530. Inca in Mallorca dates back to the Moorish period and existed under the name of Inkan, Incha or Inqua long before the reconquista in 1229, when no-one in Europe had any knowledge of the existence of South America, the Aztecs, the Mayas, the Incas or anybody else over there.

Andratx was known between 1236 and 1601 under 35 different variants of its place-name: Andrag, Andraitx, Andragio, Andratix, Andraxg, Andrayg, Andraitx, Andrays, and so forth. Not one of the many variant spellings bears any relation to the Castilian language. Or take Felanitx, as another example. Historic documents call the town where I live either Felinich, Falanig, Felinicho, Felanichi, Felinitx, Falinich, Felenix, Fanalig, Felinig, Falanis, Felenig, Filinix, Felenitx, Filenitx, Felaynix, Fenalicius and Filenix. Not a single Spanish etymological root here, either.

You may find that the place which you call home here in Mallorca has similar and equally interesting roots. Should you be interested you could always pop down to your local municipal library and browse through a number of books on the subject, probably all of them written in Catalan. Sorry about that.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: October 30th, 2010. The time was 12:26:23.

Understanding Etymology in Felanitx