Monday, 3 October 2011

Guided tour

On Mo 17 Oct at 17.00 A two hour walk around old Palma led by Jim Wallace.    Meet at the Slinger statue outside the swan lake by the Cathedral steps.

A review by Esther Cifre:


Yesterday we had the opportunity to walk through Palma city center, with Jim Wallace, an Irish former lecturer, who settled down in the island some time ago. Apparently, he has never stopped doing research, as  musicians or  farmers do. Despite retiring, they continue playing music or looking after their trees until they are able to. And so does Jim.
He seemed to enjoy telling stories and legends about the history of popular places in our city, and, most of all, with a genuine Irish sense of humor. In his own words “if I have to choose between the legend and the fact, I choose the legend”. But I guess he is a knowledgeable man about both.

I thought it would be a good idea to record all that he said, but, as I forgot to borrow the tape recorder, I will have to rely on my memory, so I am going to list below what I would highlight from this cultural walk:

First of all, he explained to us the history of the Dominican convent, which was located very close to Almudaina Palace and the Cathedral. It was a crucial centre of power for the Church and it is even said to have been the Inquisition camp base for many years. It was not until the Ecclesiastical Confiscations of Mendizabal, in 1835, that this property reversed into private hands, in other words, the State expropiates it and sells it to the highest bidder. It is said that  Juan March, “the ganster” (one of the best definitions I have ever heard, of this popular man in the Majorca of the late eighteens) managed to buy one part around 1930 and built there a palace, for him, of course. It was only many years later, that the March’s family decided to open there the actual museum.
The building that now hosts  the Parliament was before a private club (or elitist cultural center, as you prefer) owned by the Círculo Mallorquin, a group of opulent and probably lavish and fancy people in Palma who had made a fortune and enjoyed boasting of it. Parties of all sorts were thrown there, and the ghosts of the dominican monks buried there couldn’t help to prevent them. In 1983 the newborn regional democratic government bought it. Therefore we have politicians now, another type of ghosts, I would add. I can’t imagine what it can be next, a mental hospital, I will bet!

Once in front of the Cathedral, a must in any tour around Palma, Jim continued to ironically describe another kind of parties. This time they were held in the bell tower, a place where the police could not arrest offenders. As a result, there were some of them who used to take advantage of the situation and convinced some friends to bring them some food and wine there (I refuse to believe that they got brandy...the legend should not overdo this much). To put and end to a situation that was overtaking them, the bishop decided to ban the access to women, supposing that, in this way, the parties would be cooled down by themselves (this is a test of the faith that the Church has on the human nature...).

The last stop, which I would stand out over the rest, would be the story about Can Formiguera, probably the richest house in Palma, which was a property of the Zaforteza family. One of his sons was el Comte Mal, who is said to have been the most evil master ever known in the island, being cruel to his servants and employees and raping women on a regular basis.

Once one has heard some of the information Jim shared with us about the city center (and I have not talked about the fate of the Jewish, which was the topic chosen for the end of the talk), one is relieved not to be living in this legendary place, where so many outrageous facts have occurred.

Just like an adventure film does, Jim has magically captured our attention for one hour and a half and I think everyone of us is elated by his authority on the matter. We are eager for the second part!

Ester Cifre
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