MALLORCA. Backdrop of Mediterranean landscapes
Popular culture in Mallorca has two basic determining factors: the geographical factors and the break from tradition brought about by the emergence of tourism, which is why ethnologists talk about pre-tourist society almost as a synonym of traditional society. The fact that Mallorca is an island and the Mediterranean climate are both essential factors in the survival of a way of life based on self-sufficiency in terms of agriculture and livestock as the foundations of the rural economy, complemented by hunting and harvesting and a fairly insignificant amount of fishing, localised only in certain spots.
In Mallorca, there is a distinction between different types of housing. The large manor houses of Palma, essentially characterised by the entrance or hallway, the open courtyard, with the ornate staircase and the first-floor gallery, to where the staircase leads.
Normally, at the back of the courtyard or at the sides, there is an extensive wall connecting to the garden, the coach houses and stables and, via a small staircase, the mezzanine or studios, used for administering the business and assets of the family and, sometimes, for receiving distinguished servants of the family, such as the priest.
The country house, which whilst boasting certain baronial elements, has an architecture adapted to the production needs and to the peculiarities of its location; its façade is normally high, with three floors, a driveway in front, and tends to have a large central courtyard or cloister, an essential area in the layout of the houses, with a paved floor and a cistern neck for collecting rainwater from the roof. The rural houses in the mountains have 'tafones', which are structures designed for producing oil, whilst on the 'Pla' (plain) there are numerous granaries and straw lofts; there are also vineyard areas and wine cellars with their barrels.
The typical kitchens in Mallorca are usually bell shaped, with a bench at which evenings and part of family life were spent.
The large houses in the countryside normally have two living areas: one on the ground floor, for the peasant farmer, either the farm manager or the owner (tenant), and one on the first floor, sometimes in the style of a true country house, to accommodate the master (owner). The third floor, known as the porche, was used for storage.
Mallorcan gastronomy enjoys the benefits of what is known as the Mediterranean diet. Food on the island is, generally speaking, very high in fat, with large quantities of olive oil and even lard, but balanced with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Tomatoes form the basis of the frugal 'pa amb oli' (bread with olive oil) and of the typical Balearic salad 'trempó', which also contains peppers, onions and oil.
In terms of typical dishes from Mallorca, some of which are also eaten on the other islands, we can highlight the 'Sopes mallorquines' (Majorcan vegetable and bread soup), cooked in a round clay casserole; as a base, on top of a vegetable sauté they have some very thin slices of Mallorcan bread, soaked in the stock obtained by boiling an assortment of seasonal vegetables, which then decorate the dish, on top of the slices of bread.
The dish known as 'tumbet' is also cooked in a round clay casserole and consists of a series of layers of thickly-sliced potatoes, aubergines and peppers, all fried and with a tomato sauce. 'Arròs brut' (literally 'dirty rice') is made with plenty of different meats and mushrooms. Other dishes contain meat as the main ingredient, such as 'porcella rostida' (roast suckling pig), chicken or turkey 'escaldums' (a kind of stew), the latter stewed with potatoes, and 'sopa torrada' (toasted soup), which can contain either meat or fish.
'Frit mallorquí' (a kind of fry-up), made with lamb or pork, and 'estofado de toro' (bull stew) are both well-known dishes. Rabbit with onion is the most typical way of cooking this meat. There are many various fish dishes, most notably those of baked fish -such as Mallorcan style grouper-, rice with seafood and 'caldereta', a stew of boiled fish with slices of bread.
The slaughtering of the pig, where work, food and the family fiesta are all closely linked, is an activity which is still very much alive today. Typical products are 'botifarrones', a mixture of fatty meat finely minced, with salt, pine nuts and spices, all inserted into a thin intestine casing. 'Blanquets' are similar, but contain no blood; 'camaiots' have a similar content to 'botifarrones' but are put inside the skin of the animal's thighs, and 'sobrassada', made from minced meat, with salt and red pepper, the latter giving this product its characteristic colour.
In terms of sweets, the most well-known is the 'ensaïmada', made with very fine pastry, sugar, eggs and lard or saïm, hence its name. There are small 'ensaïmadas' for breakfast and large ones for dessert, filled with angel hair or pieces of crystallised fruit or with 'sobrasada' on top.
Other sweets or typical products are the 'reïssones' cakes, little square cakes known as 'cuartos', and, as local specialities, the biscuits known as 'suspiros de Manacor', potato cakes from Valldemossa, the savoury biscuits from Inca and those from Sineu, to mention just a few. Worth a mention are the cakes made traditionally at Easter, such as 'panades', 'robiols' and 'crespells'. Based on vegetables, we have 'cocarrois' (a type of pasty) and the popular vegetable cake, 'coca de verdura'.
In terms of wines, we would highlight those with the denomination of origin of Binissalem, especially the reds, which are excellent and contain up to 14% alcohol. Other winegrowing areas are the Pla i Llevant (Plain and the East). With regard to spirits, there are those made with herbs, dry or sweet, and the aperitif known as 'Palo'.
The popular festivals in Mallorca essentially follow the chronology of the yearly cycle. They relate to agriculture and religion, often on an ancestral basis. Many traditional celebrations were imported from Catalonia, around the conquest of James I and the subsequent repopulation, and were extensively adapted to the islands, and, in certain cases, have survived unaltered, as in the case of the medieval chant of the Sibil·la (Sybil). In addition, a large number of festivals originate from the commemoration of a certain significant event in history.
In the religious calendar, the major festivals are the Christmas Festivities, with the service of the Matines, which includes the Sybil's song and, at the end of the festival, the Epiphany parade. The festival of Sant Antoni, the patron saint of the countryside and animals, is celebrated on 17 January, with the blessing as the most important ceremony and the night of fire with the devils as the protagonists; especially important are the celebrations in Sa Pobla, Muro and Artà.
20 January is the festival of Sant Sebastià, the patron saint of Palma, noted for the musical performances that take place all over the city. The 'last days of carnival' follow; the festival of the pagan races, with disguises and role changes, with a special mention for the 'Sa Rúa' procession, in Palma. The Holy Week festivities begin on Palm Sunday and continue with various processions, such as those on Maundy Thursday in Palma and the one on Good Friday in Sineu. Other traditions are the 'Salpàs' and the 'Davallaments', especially the one in Pollença, and the 'procesiones del encuentro'.
After Easter, there is a host of announcements of 'pancaridades' and pilgrimages in chapels and shrines. The spring celebrations include the fairs, such as the one in Sineu, dating back to the Middle Ages, celebrated on the first Sunday in May. The 'díada' of Corpus Christi is celebrated with processions, the most significant being the one that starts from the Cathedral in Palma.
The summer festivals begin with the festival of Sant Joan, a night of magic and celebration of the solstice. Soon after we have the festival of Sant Pere, with some sea processions. During the months of July and August, there is an authentic repertoire of patron saint festivals in the different towns, where tradition is combined with music trends and more modern celebrations.
Santa Margarita, Santa Magdalena and San Jaime, on 20, 22 and 25 July, respectively, are also much celebrated in the different towns. On 28 July Valldemossa celebrates the festival of Santa Catalina Tomás, with the triumphal carriage of the 'Beata'. 15 August is the festival of the Mare de Déu Assumpta, which is very traditional in Mallorca.
Sant Bernart, on 20 August is much celebrated in the monastery of the same name in Palma, whilst Sant Bartolomé, on 24 August, is celebrated in several towns. On the first Sunday in September in Santa Margarita, the most typical procession in Mallorca is celebrated, dedicated to Santa Catalina Tomás, with the smashing of jugs.
The festivals of Mare de Déu de Setembre (Our Lady of September) and of the 'Nom de Maria' (8 and 12 September) involve a great amount of celebration. A festival which combines the aspects of work and economic activity, on the last Sunday in September in Binissalem, the town of wine, is the festival of the grape harvest.
Then autumn, around the festival of the 'Festa de les Verges' (The Virgins festival) and Tots Sants (All Saints) is when 'buñuelos' (fritters) are traditionally eaten. Of the autumn festivals, the 'Dijous Bo', is worth mentioning, which takes place in Inca on the third Thursday in November. Soon after, the start of the slaughters link in again with the Christmas festivities.
In the calendar of civil commemorations, we would highlight the Festa de l'Estendard (Festival of the Banner), also known as 'la Colcada', celebrated on 31 December in Palma, in memory of the arrival of the Catalan troops of James I of Aragón in 1229. On the second Sunday in May the festival of Moors and Christians is celebrated in Sóller, a mock battle in memory of the victory of the town of Sóller over Turkish corsairs on 11 May 1561. Another mock battle between Moors and Christians takes place on 2 August in Pollença, as part of the patron saint's festivities of the Virgen María de los Ángeles. The 'Diada de Mallorca' is celebrated on 12 September, commemorating the oath taken by King James II of Mallorca.
In terms of traditional dances, we must mention first of all the figure dances, which are authentic ritual dances. They are generally associated with religious or festive celebrations: the Àguiles and Sant Joan Pelós dances from Pollença, which are performed at the Corpus festival; Sant Joan Pelós de Felanitx (day of Sant Joan); los Caballets de Felanitx (verbena of Santa Margalita, 19 July, and San Agustín, 27 and 28 August) los Caballets de Pollença (20 January, San Sebastián), los Caballets de Artà (San Antonio de Padua, 13 June). In Manacor the typical dance of los Moratons is still performed (24 May, Santo Domingo), relating to the Dominican monks, and also the dance of the Indians, which is a ribbon dance (16 August, San Roque).
The 'dance of the Cossiers' is a popular Mallorcan dance performed by three pairs of men and one woman. These dances, which were performed in many towns in Mallorca, have been documented since the late 14th century and were normally an integral part of the Corpus processions between the 15th and 19th centuries.
The origin of the cossiers is unclear, but it could date back to ancient pagan fertility dances, a theory which would explain the role of the six male characters who move around the woman, who has the role of directing the group's movements. The presence of the 'demon' suggests the fight between good and evil, but could also represent the sorcerers of old. The cossiers dance in Algaida on 16 January (San Honorato) and on 24 and 25 July (San Jaime), in Pollença on 2 August (Virgen María de los Ángeles), in Alaró on 16 August (San Roque), and in Montuïri on 23 and 24 August (San Bartolomé).
The popular dances of rural origin, known as 'ball de bot', full of movement and spontaneity, are also very interesting. Most of the dances are performed by couples, and the woman is the one who leads. The 'mateixes' and 'copeos' are the oldest dances; the 'jotas' and 'boleros' were introduced more recently, but have been authentically adapted.
Certainly worth a mention are the fabrics, such as the 'roba de llengos', literally, cloth of tongues (Santa Maria and Pollença), so called because of the patterns on the cloth, and hand embroidery (on linen or cloth, with chain or cross stitch). There are some renowned glass-making workshops in Palma and Algaida (Can Gordiola), in Campanet (Menestralia), and in s'Esgleieta (Lafiore), with glassblowers who are still using their traditional techniques. Artificial pearls are strongly associated with Manacor.
In terms of ceramics, the works from Felanitx (painted or with borders) are of note, and particularly those of Pòrtol (Marratxí), where a wide range of red earthenware products are made, such as pots, 'greixoneres' and other receptacles of popular origin; in terms of clay figures, there are the remarkable, curious and very typical 'siurells', with their bright colours, and the little shepherds for the nativity scenes or cribs, also traditional. In the area of metalwork, there are some fine bronze works, reproducing domestic objects, such as cauldrons, pots and braziers; in brass. In iron or steel, we have knives, such as the popular 'cheiras' from Consell, Llucmajor, Muro and Sineu. Artefacts made from the leaves of the palm and the dwarf fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) include baskets, chairs, hats and other goods, and are traditionally from Capdepera and Artà. The municipality of Inca is known for its high-quality leatherwork and footwear, with good examples of artisan footwear.