Sa Feixina monument in Palma

Sa Feixina monument in Palma.

01-10-2020miquel a. cañellas

I have an aversion to demolition. While there are instances where it is clearly necessary, e.g. risk of collapse, making way for an improvement, there are others where it is not. I don't enjoy seeing buildings, monuments, whatever destroyed, if there is a sense of sanctioned vandalism. Understandable though some demolition orders are because of a flouting of building and environmental regulations, even in these instances I baulk at the destruction. It's as if there is some perverse pleasure to be derived from the sight of the wrecking ball, a triumphalism of discipline order hammering into planning disorder, sometimes the ultimate consequence of what was initially flawed ordinance or of retrospective redefinition of this failure.

It isn't a case of preservation for preservation's sake. I accept that there are very legitimate reasons for demolition. But do two wrongs of vandalism, however defined, constitute a right - the impulse for construction in the first place and the motivation for tearing down which follows later, sometimes years later?

I don't for one moment defend Franco and the Nationalists, but how has the Feixina monument controversy been allowed to come to pass, when there was what seemed to have been a perfectly reasonable neutralisation of its existence ten years ago? Palma town hall, and this included the current mayor, approved the alteration of the tribute. The monument was no longer to be purely a symbol of the Nationalists, honouring the dead on the "Baleares" cruiser. It was adapted to the Law of Historic Memory by stripping away the Francoist symbolism. In March, a court determined that this was one of the reasons for listing the monument and rejecting claims that it did not qualify as an item of heritage to be protected.

I think we probably know how the controversy has come to pass. Following the change of administration at the town hall in 2015 (to PSOE, Més and Podemos), the town hall elevated the monument to the status of cause célèbre. The subsequent Balearics law of democratic memory, distinct to the national law of historical memory, served to add to the controversy because of the symbolism, neutered or not.

It has, therefore, and fundamentally, been a political controversy onto which has been grafted the technical considerations of architectural merit and heritage qualification. These considerations have offered post-hoc rationalisation to the political impulse when in truth - if one is debating preservation - they should be foremost, while the monument doesn't fall under other reasons for demolition.

The town hall might argue otherwise, but it has, for instance, only ever had vague notions about improvement to the park, while the record of the current administration does, I'm afraid, leave something to be desired when it comes to urban improvement projects. One can cite the urban forest scheme. An excellent idea in theory, but the practice has been an utter shambles.

Of interested parties which have weighed into the Feixina argument, only so few can be considered to have a non-political motive. The heritage association Arca, which is opposed to demolition, is one such. Arca's assessments can be valued precisely because Arca attempts to steer clear of politicising issues, unlike other associations with different interests, e.g. the environmentalists GOB.

There are, I daresay, a whole number of people who are totally indifferent to the fate of the monument, but I also imagine there is a greater number who have no wish to see it demolished and adopt this view without having any particular political axe to grind.

A point to be made about the Feixina argument is that it has polarised opinion on what appear to be overtly political grounds. This can be said about some town hall and Council of Majorca rhetoric, but it can equally be said about opponents which seem to be from the right, one of which is an organisation called Societat Civil Balear. I say seems to be, because this organisation is one of several that are opposed to Catalan independence and defend language use in the Balearics in exactly the same way as others do in advancing the duality of Castellano and the islands' languages, as opposed to Catalan.

Why this opposition and defence should automatically qualify an entity or an individual as being of the right I'm not entirely sure, but apparently they do, just as defending the Feixina monument is something of the right. And with the monument, it is the Francoist connection that makes its defence easy to classify as being of the right, even if - as with Arca - it isn't anything of the sort.

The Societat Civil Balear has registered documents with a court opposing the appeal against the March court ruling that the monument should be given protected status. Because of this and its other principles, strength is given to the notion of a right versus left battle. Which undoubtedly does exist, as the monument is firmly a political matter, and heritage - much to the disgust of Arca - has been well and truly politicised.

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James / Hace 28 days

The “left” under all its guises and it’s childish jealousy, won’t rest until it’s pulled down so that they can get their own back. Next, or maybe before, it will be the cross in the Valle de los Caídos. Spain, politically speaking, is a basket case.

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