It was Balearics Day yesterday. In case the citizens of Mallorca had been tempted to celebrate this by having wild drinking sessions on the island’s terraces (four to the table, only two households and no later than 5pm), the government had ensured that they would be unable to. The terraces reopen today, which is not a public holiday but will nevertheless be cause for some celebration.
Thirty-eighty years ago, there was no regional government to determine “measures”. On the first of March 1983, the islands’ statute of autonomy came into effect. There wasn’t a parliament or a government for another couple of months. On May 8, the first parliament of the autonomous community of the Balearics was elected.
An electoral combination of the Alianza Popular, the Partido Demócrata Popular and the Unión Liberal mustered the same number of seats as the PSOE socialists. Support from the Unió Mallorquina and two other parties pushed the Alianza-led combination over the line. Rebranded as the Partido Popular in 1989, the Alianza (and chums) were to be in power for sixteen years.
Had the terraces been open on Monday, they would have been occupied but there would not have been lavish celebration, other than to mark a reopening after some weeks of closure. Balearics Day comes along each year and it has a tendency to pass without anyone paying that much attention.
This isn’t Catalonia, much though some island politicians would seem to wish that it were, where the annual day commemorates defeat - the fall of Barcelona in 1714 and the subsequent impositions of the Bourbon Felipe V. The Balearics settle for the mundane - the statute of autonomy - the Catalans for a defining moment in the War of the Spanish Succession and a grievance for which balm has not been applied for 307 years.
The regional government talks a good Balearics Day game, but while government buildings are opened to the public, giants parade and there are cultural events and the inevitable gastronomy experiences, a principal concern for the citizens is what times the supermarkets are open, and which ones.
Seat of power and all that, B-Day is very much a Palma day. The part forana takes itself off to the terraces (or would do), puts its feet up and wonders what all the fuss is about.
Balearics Day 2021 has been unlike others. There’s been less to get excited about than normal, and we all know why. But in case there was any fear that the day might pass without some politicking, Vox made sure that that it didn’t.
Established in the Balearic parliament in May 2019, last year’s Balearics Day was the first for Vox to avoid. They declined to participate in institutional events, and so they also have this year. Leader Jorge Campos observed that it is a day for government institutions controlled by left-wing parties “to polish their image”. A PR event, “it hides their disastrous management of the social, health and economic crisis”.
Covid has given opposition parties fuel, but where Vox are concerned, this is an add-on to its main reasons for not wishing to be “counted on” for Balearics Day commemorations. As Campos has also explained, the approval of the statute of autonomy “was the cause of the current Catalanisation of the Balearic Islands, as it does not defend the identity of Balearic culture, while it includes the islands in a supposed Catalan cultural sphere”.
The statute of autonomy recognised Catalan as a co-official language. When it was reformed in 2007, this was restated. Apart from an additional article regarding the teaching of Catalan, there isn’t anything else in the document that refers to Catalan. Campos is stretching a point in respect of the text of the statute, but what he is really referring to are developments over the years. And this, moreover, is within the broader Vox narrative of perceiving regional statutes of autonomy (and so certainly not just that of the Balearics) as having fostered regionalism and therefore a threat to the unity of the state.
Balearics Day is a peg on which to hang arguments regarding the political structure of Spain (and its financing). Vox appear to wish to return to a centralised state, yet they do so by disregarding sentiment in favour of regionalism which exists on the right of the political spectrum.
The first years of autonomous government in the Balearics were those of a right-wing administration which fostered regionalism. A different example, and a more recent one, comes from Murcia, where Somos Región (We Are Region) was formed by a split from the Partido Popular. El Pi in the Balearics came about for the same reason. The PP have shown no wish to abandon the regional model, even if they have spoken in the past about some reform.
It may not be a day which gets the juices truly flowing in terms of celebration among the general public, but it is nevertheless an important day. Whatever faults there may be with the regional system, there can be no going back to a centralised state.