Formentera beach with its turquoise waters. | G. ROMANI


In the manual of clichés that must be obeyed when promoting Mallorca and the Balearics to holidaymakers and foreign property buyers with the odd million to spare is one highlighted with a turquoise marker pen. This is to emphasise the necessity for “crystal-clear turquoise waters”. No promotion is spared the colour turquoise, the regular resort to cliché symptomatic of a lack of originality but also indicative of the fact that, yes, the waters are indeed turquoise, except when a wild winter northerly weather system churns them into a dirty grey, when algae accumulate in summer and emit a greenness because pumps have failed, or when water-treatment networks suffer their periodic failures and issue a hue we’d prefer not to define.

There have been occasions when I’ve been almost overwhelmed by the vision of turquoise. I once had to stop the car when driving round the point in Cala San Vicente in order to soak in this magnificence of turquoise. In Son Serra de Marina, the mere act of wading into water can seem vandalistic. Nothing should disturb this turquoise perfection. From the Archduke’s small temple mirador at Son Marroig, the Tramuntana sea is a vast sheet of turquoise, brushed as if by a textile worker with a veneer of velvet. So it’s true, the cliché, that is. The manual’s correct. And to the copywriter’s guide is now added the corporatism of turquoise - the Balearic parliament.

I suppose one can refer to a parliamentary corporate image, albeit that I wouldn’t associate parliaments with such an image. A corporate image is for a business, but then public institutions in Mallorca and Spain have referred to themselves for many a long year as corporations. Your local town hall is a corporation, in case you are unaware, as is parliament, or so it was explained by the unveiling of a new corporate image. What is this? Well, there are four lines.

These would appear to represent the four islands of the Balearics. But which line is which island? Are there no prizes for guessing that the longest line (the base) is Mallorca? The other three lines, depending on your perception, might be said to form an arrowhead pointing towards the longest. Not an arrow of assault but of deference; it’s one way of interpreting it anyway.

In parliament speak, that of the speaker (president) of parliament, Vicenç Thomàs, this is an image “to value the transparency, honesty and commitment of the institution within the current reality of the four islands that make up our identity”. There must be a manual for speakers and other politicians as well, but aside from this politico-speak, we learned that the turquoise of the image honours the Mediterranean in that the colour unites the islands. Indeed. Have you ever been stunned by the turquoise off Formentera, for instance? “Wow” can suffice.

In further Thomàs terms, the new image intends to “generate a feeling of unity around the institution, because it is aware that each of the islands has similar political and social realities but with identity nuances that make them unique and different”. Unity perhaps, but unity is rarely synonymous with parliamentary behaviour. But then, such is the nature of a parliament.

Similar realities but with identity nuances, and these might be said to have ruled the entity that is the Balearic archipelago for many years. It’s that arrow that concerns me because of an historical nuance, that of the First and Second Republics. During these two short-lived periods there were moves to establish autonomous government for the Balearics (and the other regions). In the Balearics, one major obstacle was a view in Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera that autonomy would have vested too much power in the biggest island. That’s what I mean by an interpretation of deference. But the islands have now had plenty of time to adjust to an arrangement by which the arrow has to point not just to Mallorca but to the capital Palma. The nuances exist within Mallorca as much as they do with the big island’s relations with its smaller companions. For the sake of institutional celebration, though, unity prevails and it is all turquoise - one archipelago, one corporation, one colour.

The new image was commissioned for the fortieth anniversary of autonomous government and when the Balearic statute of autonomy became official, the result not of a republic but of a new Spain blinking in the sunlight of the Constitution for post-dictatorship democracy. It is something to celebrate. Really, it is, given what had gone before. Yet somehow, new image or not, Balearics Day comes round each year and never seems to generate much excitement beyond that of being a public holiday. Events there are aplenty, but they are mostly all Palma’s. In Mallorca’s ‘part forana’, there is the odd museum with an open day or some ball de bot in a village square.

Otherwise, it’s a case of checking to see if supermarkets are open, as because it’s the first of March the beach is not really the place to go, while the colour turquoise is obliterated by the dead sea grass being washed up by winter turbulence, the very stuff that helps unite the islands by colour.