Palma de Mallorca viewed from the Bellver Castle (Photo:ILA Boy, General Public License, PD)
By Rose Maramba
The historic bickering between Spain and Britain could create the impression that after centuries of mutual provocation (the Invincible Armada vs. the Sea Dogs for a start) the chances of friendly encounters between these two sworn enemies would indeed be few and very far between.
It galls the Spaniards no end whenever high profile British personages set foot on Gibraltar on official visits which provide an unbeatable opportunity for Britain to drive home what to them is a fact that, since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 that settled the War of the Spanish Succession, Gibraltar has been a British overseas territory. The announcement that the honeymoon of the Prince and the Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana, on board the royal yacht Britannia would ostentatiously start off at Gibraltar led the Kingdom of Spain to snob the royal wedding.
More recently, Spain’s Queen Sofia had had to decline Queen Elizabeth’s invitation to her jubilee because the Spanish government was “upset” and “displeased” with Prince Edward’s trip to the Rock in June 2012 for the celebrations there of Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year on the throne.
As far as Spain is concerned, Gibraltar has never stopped being an integral part of its territory and so therefore such visits violated Spain’s integrity. Besides, the Spaniards insist that Britain’s “colonization” of the Rock goes against the UN General Assembly Resolution 66 (1) which states that non-self governing territories, Gibraltar among them, must be decolonized.
But the British coming in droves to, say, the Balearic Islands without being repelled by the Armada goes to show that it isn’t all enmity that which prevails over the Anglo-Spanish relationship. Here, the two antagonists are happy with each other. The venerable old Times of London – actually its sister paper, The Sunday Times – has chosen the city of Palma de Mallorca as the Best Place to Live among fifty worldwide destinations. And the Spaniards aren’t complaining!
As “one of the most picturesque Spanish cities,” the Times says, Palma is a beguiling compendium of beautiful beaches like the Caribbeanish Es Trenc, bustling marinas (Port d’Andratx comes to mind), and Deia, the idyllic millionaires’ hideaway on the slopes of the Teix Mountain that is also haven to foreign artists and other eccentrics. And of course there’s the great climate, the fancy shops, and gourmet restaurants providing one of the best dining on the Balearics.
“A pocket-sized city that has it all, on a beautiful island” is how the Sunday Times panel of judges sums it up, “the gateway to sophisticated, charming Mallorca.”
Palma de Mallorca, just a couple of hours away from many Northern European cities, not least London, is an increasingly popular “commuter destination,” according to the Times—one might add, if it isn’t already! In 2014 23.1 million eager passengers disembarked on the island.
What’s good for the Spanish royal family, who vacation on the island every summer, should be good enough for anybody who knows what’s good when they see one.
Palma has bested such other places on the Times list of favored places as Toronto, Auckland, Ho an (Vietnam) and Berlin.
La Almudaina Royal Palace and Palma Cathedral by Antoni I. Alomar Conyelles, CC-BY-SA3.0 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Palace_of_La_Almudaina#/media/File:Almudaina_catedral.jpg
Port Andratx by pjt56, CC-BY-SA3.0
Following the regional elections in Andalusia last March, the nation’s attention is now rivetted on other local (municipal and regional) elections scheduled for May 24, specially in Madrid where the offices of the mayor of the capital and the regional president are up for grabs. Just like in Andalusia, the chances of a party winning an absolute parliamentary majority in these elections are practically nil.
Moreover there’s no predicting even at this late date which parties will be able to form coalitions with which other parties in order to govern. The plot thus thickens. The uncertainty, unheard of in the past when the two-party system held sway, has heightened the suspense.
And yet some winners have already been proclaimed and in flagrant violation of the Spanish Constitution, too, which establishes that the Spanish state has no official religion and that the public authorities must treat all the religious beliefs of the Spanish society equally. But it’s probably asking too much of the people and their leaders to practice religious tolerance at all times in public affairs when the very Spanish nation was built on Catholicism (the Catholic Monarchs, the Inquisition, and even the discovery of the New World with its evangelical underpinnings).
And so, surprising as it is in this day and age, there are a few dozen towns across Spain where Virgin Mary reigns as mayor, honorary and not elected, to be sure, but a mayor just the same and for (eternal) life too! In a plenary session called specially for the purpose on May 24, 2008, the municipal government of Moron de la Frontera in Seville approved the naming of St. Mary Help of Christians mayor and fire and brimstone to the two leftist councillors who dared cast a dissenting vote! Mary Help of Christians has her own ceremonial sceptre that Spanish mayors carry as a symbol of their office.
On the 15th of June 2013 the town of Fasnia in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Island) proclaimed Our Lady of the Mountain their mayor and in July of last year the municipal government of Ortigosa de Cameros in La Rioja proclaimed its patron saint, the Santisima Virgen del Carmen (Most Holy Virgin of Carmen) , its mayor.
Our Lady of the Forsaken has been the honorary mayor of Valencia since 1954. She’s also known as the Wandering Virgin (La Peregrina) because she goes (is brought) from neighborhood (barrio) to neighborhood and presides over events where she is requested to. “Presiding” means installing her image on a central spot and the attendees render honor to her with appropriate Catholic rituals.
Most of these villages, towns and cities which proclaim the Mother of Christ their mayor are governed by the conservative Popular Party (PP) but the Socialist party (PSOE) has its share of religious appointments too. Our Lady of Sorrows is honorary mayor of Ayamonte, in Huelva, thanks to the Socialists.
Other places in Catholic Spain have appointed Jesus Christ as their mayor. They are “lucky”; they don’t have to wait for the results of this year’s local elections – or any other elections for that matter – to know who their mayor (the perpetual one) will be.
Fasnia mayor: http://www.ayuntamientodefasnia.es
There’s irrepressible – and not entirely groundless – optimism in the Spanish tourism industry these days. Spain is the world’s third largest recipient of international travellers, numbering up to nearly 65 million last year. According to official estimates, there will be a 10% increase on this magic number this year.
Moreover, if the trend keeps, in just 15 years Spain could be receiving as many as 90 million tourists annually, says Simon Pedro Barcelo of the Barcelo hotel chain and travel agencies. But he warns that Spain could not forever count on the sun and sand model to which European tourists – more than half of whom are British, Germans and French – are insatiably attracted. There’s a revolutionary change going on out there; the middle class of the emerging countries of Asia and Latin America will be playing a crucial role in global tourism. If Spain wants to remain a powerhouse in this highly competitive field it better take note right now.
Asians, particularly but not exclusively the Chinese, aren’t so excited about surf and tan that’s been on offer in Spain for as long as anyone cares to remember. But they could be tempted with great wine (riojas and cavas); the appeal of the Spanish enotourismo (wine route) must be honed for its snob appeal. Glamour at low cost seems to be the magic formula for the future. And Spain could hardly go wrong here. “Spanish wine will win the commercial battle through enotourism,” says the Spanish Chamber of Commerce chairman Jose Luis Bonet who is also the president of the Freixenet Group, producer of the world’s leading quality sparkling wine.
The dawning of a new tourism is posing exciting challenges and Spain isn’t balking!
Calella Beach/Rusmike (Uploaded: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Rusmike, CC-BY-SA2.5 Cropped
Sparkling wine (Freixenet)/Hideya Aita, CC BY2.0 via Flickr
Tapas by Rierdorf, http://www.lacuinadesempre.cat/p/avis-legal.html . CC BY 4.0
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