There are those who maintain that the picadors were themselves something of a myth. | R.D.


Alberto Pareja is a name that will probably mean very little to you, but it is a name that seems fairly apt. A “pareja” is a couple or it is a partner, a curiosity of the Spanish language in that it can be both one half of a relationship or the whole relationship.

Until now, Alberto, who hails from Son Servera, has enjoyed a fairly unremarkable football career with a fairly unremarkable football team - Constància from Inca, who once upon a time, in the 1940s and 1960s, managed to make it to the second tier of Spanish football.

Since the ‘60s, it has been third or fourth tier. Constància are currently in Tercera Division which, because of the confusing nature of football leagues, means that they are in the fourth tier. Last Saturday, Alberto, 27, scored his first goal for Constància. In all probability, it will be his last, as Alberto is embarking on a new phase of his life.

‘La Isla de las Tentaciones’ is the title of a Telecinco TV programme, which should require no translation in order to understand that it is a version of ‘Love Island’. The fourth edition is now being broadcast, and Alberto is one of the “tentadores”, the tempters. Alberto is therefore seeking a pareja, wishing at the same time to form a pareja.

Prior to the first show being aired, Alberto explained in an interview that he is a bit of a “picaflor”, a hummingbird. Whilst filming in the Dominican Republic, one doubts that he performed a downward dive that the male hummingbird does during the courting procedure, the acceleration of which is said to be the fastest for any vertebrate undergoing a voluntary aerial manoeuvre.

A hummingbird he admits to being, an explanation of the “picaflor” being that he is a “Don Juan, the seductive man who needs to flirt in order to live”. Another states that the hummingbird uses “specific tactics to avoid stable relationships”. So, will The Island of Temptations create a permanent pareja or a fleeting one?

The “picaflor” is a cousin, mate you might almost say, of the “picador”. He is the horseman who thrusts a lance into the bull during the bullfight. Is he not? He is, but there is another type of picador, one who had his heyday during the years of Mallorca’s great tourism boom.

Tomeu Canyelles is a Mallorcan historian and author. He has made music and tourism his specialities, having written about the development of music, especially in the sixties - “Beatles Made in Mallorca”, a collaboration with musicologist Francesc Vicens, was critically acclaimed when it was published a few years ago. With Gabriel Vives, he brought out “Magaluf, més enllà del mite” (Beyond the Myth) in summer 2020.

In 2015, he received much attention for his study of the social phenomenon that was the picador. His book was “Els Picadors Mallorquins”; its subtitle translated as “seducers and seduced during the touristic boom”. Seducer, tempter - picador or picaflor; take your pick.

If you wish to mix the two, and to paraphrase Muhammad Ali, it’s float (or dive) like a hummingbird, bite like a mosquito. The picadors of Majorca got their name not from the bullring but from the mosquito. As with myths about Magalluf, there are those who maintain that the picadors were themselves something of a myth. The veteran Mallorcan musician Tomeu Penya reckons so, but for Tomeu it was the “foreigners”, the tourists, “who seduced us”. Maybe, but the subtitle implied that Canyelles had that possibility covered.

For the author, there was no doubt as to their existence. The picadors frequented beaches, hotel receptions and clubs. Characteristics of this Mallorcan seducer included the fact that they were particularly attuned to tourism. They had some grasp of languages.

From suntans they could spot whether a female tourist had just arrived. Their mode of transport was a Lambretta or a Seat 600. They did not have a sinful conception of sex, which was to cause outrage among members of the church. Journalists took exception to them, as they were seen to be damaging to the island’s reputation. In fact, the German newspaper ‘Die Zeit’ ran a piece in 1966 which highlighted the nuisance they caused to holidaymakers.

Canyelles argued that the picador was driven either by the desire for sexual conquest or by money - there were female tourists who could bestow gifts on them. Whatever the motive, the picador died out in the 1970s, the consequence, for example, of the oil crisis that led to the closure of many clubs but more importantly because of a changing dynamic in gender relations.

A picaflor is not a picador, albeit there is a sort of similarity. The picaflor exists in a world where the dynamic has created mass voyeurism of the relations, all played out an island of temptations. For Alberto, well the best of luck to him as he seeks to forge a new career in television and in finding the right “pareja”.