Sant Antoni

Sant Antoni

07-01-2021P. PELLICER

There are municipalities in Mallorca which are more associated with the January Sant Antoni fiestas than others. Manacor is one of them. Central to its celebrations are the singing of the “goigs” (songs of joy, if you like) in honour of Sant Antoni and the dancing of the demons and the saint. The Manacor demons are not the rampaging, fire-spitting variety. They are in keeping with the much longer tradition of the figure of the demon. So when the Grand Demon finds himself embroiled in a controversy, you can imagine that the foundations of that tradition are shaken. Which is what happened five years ago.

It all had to do with a topless Russian model by the name of Aline. The Grand Demon and Aline appeared together in what was described as a series of erotic poses. The story went that Aline had come from Russia in order to tempt the Grand Demon and had engaged in hours of seduction prior to the demons going in pursuit of the holy hermit of Sant Antoni.

A consequence of the images was that “cacerolada” protests - the banging of pots and pans - were staged. These protests and the images meant that a local publication had become news, as this publication - “Perlas y Cuevas” - had published them. The magazine’s office and the home of its editor were the locations for the protests.

Antoni Ferrer, the editor, stated that he was somewhat bemused by the fact that people might be shocked by the photos, bearing in mind the years of censorship in the past. There was plenty of support for the magazine, but institutions weren’t happy. The Council of Mallorca condemned the use of imagery which depicted “cheesy sexist stereotypes”. The Sant Antoni patronage association in Manacor also criticised the magazine.

The editor and the publication were to survive the controversy. In 2019, the archive was ceded to the town hall for a period of 25 years, and in December last year, “Perlas y Cuevas” celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, it having been founded by Antoni’s father, Rafel.

As far as I’m aware, “Perlas y Cuevas” is the longest-running independent local publication in Mallorca. It isn’t the oldest because there were others which preceded it, there having been a period from the fifties into the eighties and even nineties when local publications enjoyed their golden years.

This period was marked by some very obvious changes - mass tourism and the death of Franco. The tourism, incidental or irrelevant from the point of view of readership, was nevertheless beneficial in that it brought about a growth in businesses - bars, restaurants and others. And with this growth came ever more potential for advertising revenue.

The passing of Franco, meanwhile, meant an end to censorship (as Antoni Ferrer alluded to in 2016). The Associació de Premsa Forana de Mallorca was founded in 1978, at a time when the local newspaper/magazine was flourishing and was characterised by a discernible shift in content, especially critical content. I have looked back at many examples of these local publications and they often didn’t stint in attacking political decision-making, even if this may have brought them into conflict with town halls.

There had probably been a sense of liberation, the publications acting as the principal forums for debate and discussion in the new democratic era and focusing on issues directly of relevance to local communities. But over the years, the technologies changed and so, I think, did the critical impetus, while economic circumstances and market conditions inevitably took their toll. Many of the publications disappeared; recession in the early nineties didn’t help.

“Perlas y Cuevas” is an example of one that didn’t fall by the wayside. How many now remain is hard to determine. The Associació de Premsa Forana de Mallorca lists 37, but then the last time that the association posted a news item to its website was in November 2018. It seems to have been more or less moribund since then.

Some of the publications have a web presence, such as “Card”, which is from Sant Llorenç, and “Punt Informatiu” (Pollensa), and they have played an important role over the past year. It has been said more widely, and not just about Majorca, that people increasingly turned to the local press in 2020. A combination of the need for information and the initiatives to promote local solidarity and business has been beneficial. Of far less benefit, though, has been the economic situation. Somehow they manage to keep going, though. One of their number, “Dies i Coses” (Santanyi), has just notched up its 200th edition, having first appeared at the end of 1987.

They do have their place in local communities, so all power to them, and if interest does wane, then stoking a controversy might not necessarily be harmful. “Perlas y Cuevas” had probably never generated as much publicity as it did with Aline and the Grand Demon.

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