Magaluf. | David Ramos -


On Thursday evening there was a book presentation. It shouldn't perhaps have been in the courtyard at La Misericordia in Palma, a cultured location seemingly at variance with the subject of the book. But then, this is a book about culture - a culture or a collision of cultures. Everyone will have their own impressions of these cultures when they read the title of the book - "Magaluf, més enllà del mite".

Beyond the myth. Tomeu Canyelles and Gabriel Vives have, says the publisher blurb, taken a widely documented historical perspective in undertaking a critical reflection on the nature of the sun and beach tourism model. "It is a case study in which sensationalist reporting and value judgements mould the reality into a mythicised vision."

The blurb also says: "Towards the end of the twentieth century, the preferences and economic possibilities of a new visitor led to a sectorial specialisation in which Magalluf would emerge as a kind of laboratory in which to experiment with the limits of the sun and beach tourism model: so therefore, phenomena commonly associated with this economic development, such as boat parties, pub crawling, balconing, mamading, happy hours and hooligan violence, which represent the most important failures of a model that is profitable but which has been socially questioned for a long time."

I'm familiar with Tomeu Canyelles because of previous works about music in Majorca - "Brief History of Punk in Majorca" and "Beatles: Made in Majorca" - as well as his doctoral thesis on music from 1960 to 1975. As such, the study of Magalluf appears to represent a different line of research, but not wholly. He has looked at music and the relationship with social change, and in Magalluf there is a case study (to use the publisher's term) of social change. This was change which came in all sorts of ways. It affected the resident population and holidaymakers, and it was most certainly change brought about by interests - business and political.

Magalluf as a subject for study shouldn't really differ greatly to any number of other resorts in Majorca. The model was the same, and it was one that was established alongside the mass development of the coasts from the sixties. If the publisher can refer to experiment in the late twentieth century, there had been a far greater experiment three to four decades before. It was given a name, and a name which is a pejorative for that mass development - Balearisation.

But as a subject it is different, and this owes much to the sensationalist reporting. As the authors have pointed out, balconing was never unique to Magalluf or indeed Majorca, but somehow it has become identifiable with the resort. This reporting is such, as I pointed out recently, there has even been a pretty desperate attempt to highlight apparent "tourism of excesses" offers to young British holidaymakers for this summer. These offers aren't frankly anything of the kind, but as there's nothing else of a sensationalist nature to grab hold of at present, these offers are better than having nothing.

I haven't read the book, only got some idea of what Canyelles and Vives have homed in on. This includes those business and political interests, and it is these which started to influence the Magalluf story in the late 1970s. The authors consider corruption, decisions taken by Calvia town hall and the role of tour operators. One of them was Harry Goodman, described by Canyelles in an interview as "a big fish, a pioneer of low-cost tourism, a character who did not hide his blackmailer tricks in imposing low prices". Harry Goodman, it might also be noted, was hailed as being a visionary, so make of the Canyelles description of him what you will.

This doesn't explain, though, how we arrived at a culture that surrounded the infamous mamading video or Stacey Dooley's "Truth About Magalluf" from a few years ago, a programme which wouldn't have existed if, as the authors have noted, a "stigmatised brand" hadn't been created - this brand being Magalluf.

It will be well worth getting hold of the book. It's a shame perhaps that there will almost certainly never be an English version, as it is interesting to appreciate how a resort could have developed in ways that others did not and to understand the transformational process over several decades. When Judith Chalmers introduced the first ever "Wish You Were Here" in 1974, she did so from Magalluf at a time before the influences, as Canyelles and Vives allude to, were making themselves known.

And apropos any stigmatisation, it might be noted that the Balearic government had seemed determined to keep clubs closed and to do so into next year or until a vaccine is found. The nightlife entrepreneurs were suggesting that this was because the government didn't have confidence in its tourism of excesses decree, which doesn't just apply to Magalluf but for which Magalluf is very much representative. How did it come to be representative? "Magaluf, més enllà del mite."