Mallorca before the first tourist

On how a century ago everything revolved around the land and farming, and any changes were viewed with suspicion by men and women who had become accustomed to living isolated from the world for centuries.

A century ago, Mallorca was a practically unknown island of little interest for the avant-gardes of the day. And since it was also difficult and inconvenient to access – only by boat – Mallorcans continued to live practically in isolation, just as their ancestors had two or three centuries before them.

This ancestral solitude in the midst of the wide world contributed to the islanders’ continued, obstinate closure when it came to any novelty that arrived to perturb their peace and their ancient customs. Any change in traditions was regarded with contempt. Any person who arrived from the outside world was received with distrust.

Back then, virtually the only source of wealth was agriculture. Everything revolved around the land, which was tilled in a near-mythological manner, paying close attention to the cycles of the moon and the calendar of saints’ days.

Taking meticulous care over the sowing and planting of peppers, potatoes, aubergines and tomatoes, or the condition of the orange trees, was fundamental, because each family’s livelihood depended on it. Some fortunate farmers would also slaughter a pig every year, which they used to make sobrassadas, botifarrons and camaiots.

And that was all.

The most valuable land was inland, because according to their logic, it was more suitable for farming. By right of birth, this land would always fall to the first-born male. The younger sons were left with the lands closer to the sea, which is to say the worst lands, because logic dictated that they were not as good for sowing crops and hardly any yield could be obtained from them.

Nowadays, the tables have been dramatically turned, and a tiny plot of land by the sea can be worth millions of Euros. But in the past, people didn’t see life that way, or have the vision to see that everything would change so radically one day. A hundred years ago, Mallorcans took a dim view of enjoying the sea, or bathing in its waters, because according to tradition, the seaside was no more than “a place for infants”.

Almost imperceptibly for these placid farmers who were all but devoid of ambition, Mallorca gradually opened up to the outside world with the arrival of a few artists in the neighbourhood of El Terreno, in Palma, or the Hotel Formentor, in the north of the island. Celebrities like Charles Chaplin, Errol Flynn, Gertrude Stein or Robert Graves, among others, were perhaps [...]


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