Majorcan Wine. | ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE - ZK JMA SE -

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A summer terrace many years ago. Where would this terrace have been, do you suppose? Probably not in the centre of Palma. The walls were still there. They excluded sunlight and views. The centre was not conducive to what he was thinking about. Not Ciudad Jardín because Ciudad Jardín wasn’t there then; it would be another thirty years.

El Terreno? Yes, El Terreno would have been possible - an airy suburb with the bay as a panorama.

Or might the terrace have been away from Palma? If it were in a coastal location, then maybe it was one of the summertime retreats which were just beginning to be known - Cala Ratjada, Puerto Pollensa or Puerto Soller. Perhaps it was inland, in a rural area. Had he returned to his birthplace, that of Campanet?

Would he have had a typewriter, an early cumbersome one? Or were there sheets of paper and his pen on a table on a terrace, which could have been more a veranda with a roof for shade? What else might have been on the table? A jug of iced lemon drink? A bottle of wine? There was no shortage of wine then; most certainly not a shortage.

The year was 1890. He was Miquel dels Sants Oliver. The summer terrace was where he wrote a series of articles which were a vision of change. Mallorca needed to cease being “primitive” Mallorca. There was urgency in taking advantage of the “rapid transformation”. “We are witnessing one of those decisive acts that radically separate and divide two eras.

This is not some temple dedicated to pleasure, it is about something else. It has to do with the realisation of a dream, a peaceful revolution through which Mallorca can be in touch with an educated Europe and definitively enter the trade of universal civilisation.”

Oliver’s articles, “Desde la Terraza” (From the Terrace), are widely credited with having not just urged the development of tourism (the industry of the foreigners, as it was to be dubbed) but also with having set out what this tourism would entail. The urgency lay with the fact that other places were cottoning on to the possibilities of this new industry, while the division of two eras was itself urgent.

In the summer of 1890, Oliver, as he took a glass of Mallorcan wine on his terrace, wasn’t to know what was going to happen the following summer. As I wrote on Tuesday - ‘When plague devastated Majorca’s vineyards’ - phylloxera was what was to happen. That it did happen only made the realisation of Oliver’s vision that much more urgent.

He had argued the case for a transformation from a primitive agrarian society to a modern one - from primary sector to tertiary sector, with tourism very much a part of this revolution.

The Oliver vision was that of diversification and of the acquisition of different skills. The need for change and for shift in eras was to be far more urgent than even he had truly appreciated. This was because, as I alluded to in yesterday’s article, Mallorca - the agricultural Mallorca - had become a single-product economy.

So great was the focus on grape and wine production, brought about by the phylloxera devastation in France in particular, that a monoculture economy had been created. And when the plague struck in 1891, Mallorca was defenceless.

The circumstances are obviously different, but there are striking similarities. The industry of the foreigners was to eventually mean a monoculture economy. For the wine of the late 1860s to 1890, read the boom of the 1960s and what was to follow. For phylloxera, read Covid.

There were warnings against betting the shop on grape production, just as there had been warnings about tourism dependence prior to Covid. Change, transformation, diversification were advocated before phylloxera; and Oliver’s tourism advocacy was one of the most powerful.

We all know that there was no small amount of diversification advocacy pre-Covid. The shock of phylloxera hastened transformation and the beginning of a new era. The shock of Covid should mean the same, and this time the lesson of phylloxera needs to be learned. Monoculture implies inherent weakness. The threats can’t always be seen or predicted, but if and when they materialise, it is this weakness which causes the greatest devastation.

So much is being said about this post-Covid new era, and so much of it is unfortunately characterised by platitude, generality, vagueness and an absence of rigour in terms of truly identifying what the economy, society and employment will look like in an environment in which tourism still plays an important role but not an all-embracing role.

We need more, much more. We need a true model, a template to be fashioned that is understandable and which can be calculated. We need real visionaries of a new era. We need a summer terrace.