Pleasure Beaches and Killing Fields
The delightful cala (cove) we were staying in is a brand new development – until recently there was nothing here except the beach and a rocky hillside. We knew nothing of its history! We went for an evening walk very close to where we were staying and unexpectedly stumbled through a desolate area owned by the army that gave us the creeps. It had once been a fort dating back to Napoleonic times with a concealed but commanding view over the Bay of Palma.
That, however, was not the problem. Much more recently, and sinisterly, when Franco came to power he ruled with a rod of iron, stamping out the local Mallorcan dialect (a variant of Catalan) and dealing harshly with all who opposed, or were accused of opposing, his Fascist Nationalist party. Sadly a number of local people were denounced, for example as being Communists, (some no doubt out of pure spite and rivalry). These unfortunates were marched up to this hill and summarily shot.
The local authorities have recently planted trees with individual nameplates in honour of each victim – a most fitting tribute. I have just come across this reference to those events.
Catalan has more than survived Franco`s worst efforts to wipe it out; it is very much the top language now, although the majority of people still speak Spanish if they have to. (See below). Majorca also became the front line air base from which Mussolini`s Italian air force brutally bombed Barcelona’s civilian population. This was all part of Mussolini’s illusory sense of inviolability, and where the German armed forces also gained experience during the Spanish Civil War shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Mallorcaobserved.com
You could make out a pretty strong case that both Italy and Spain are still recovering from the effects of their twentieth century dictators, Mussolini and Franco. The roots of division still go deep on the island and beyond. Recalling the deep oppression that used to be over Spain as recently as the early 1970`s when I first visited it we were surprised to come across strong glimpses of the continuance of Fascism on the island today.
This is perhaps not so surprising when you remember the economic plight Spain is still in with its distressingly high unemployment rates (even though it is showing signs of recovery now). Many are are eager for a strong hand at the helm, without worrying too much about what such longings may hook into, and what dark roots and practices might come in with that strong hand.
You will appreciate that these are very much only initial and ill-informed snapshot insights. You would need to connect with the likes of Martin Scott to get a more informed view on the spiritual state of the island. (He made his home here for several years before moving across to the mainland).
Things have moved substantially in Majorca since our one and only previous visit to the island back in the early 1980’s. Rather as in Wales, Catalan (which was firmly suppressed by Franco when he came to power before the Second World War) has made a huge recovery. Spanish is very much the second language now, and is only taught two hours a week in the schools.
From October onwards, I believe, Maths and Environmental Studies are, going to be taught in English! It must have been quite a challenge for them to get enough teachers in those subjects who can speak English, but they will soon be up to speed with that.
Majorca is making serious efforts to free itself from the reputation of British (and other) drunken tourists. Twenty of the most infamous hotels were dynamited, but what remains in the popular resorts (as opposed to the more exclusive ones) is by no means high culture. Sadly, pickpockets also abound; on one bus Robert was crammed into, the British woman standing next to him had her purse, wallet and phone taken.
22,000,000 passengers pass through Palma`s busy airport every year – and quite probably more than that this year as the island has benefitted considerably from fewer tourists going to Egypt. Planes take off on average every minute for something like twenty hours a day!
This all-consuming tourist trade must inevitably have affected the soul of the place. Far fewer people under the age of forty now attend church on what was once a deeply religious island (although we strongly suspect that other spirits were, and are never, far below the surface). Most of the priests we saw were very old.
Life for us was simple was simple as we were self-catering, but there were would have been few obvious takers either amongst locals or the hordes of tourists to heed Peter’s injunction that Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Pet. 3:3-4)
The overwhelming feeling (certainly as far as tourists were concerned) was that: In the last time people will be lovers of self and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (2 Tim. 3:3-4). As you can imagine this takes its toll on the spiritual atmosphere. In all too many of the posher places I kept hearing the strong words from Jesus’ mouth:
‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ (Matt. 19:23).
May the Lord do something to bring a fuller knowledge of Himself to many to these beautiful Balearic Islands!