The davallament on the steps of the Calvary in Pollensa. | P. PELLICER

The davallament, the descent from the cross, is one of the most solemn events over the Easter period. In Pollensa, it has special significance on account of where it is staged - the steps of the Calvary. Seven years ago, the then mayor, Miquel Àngel March, had a decision to make. It was the first Easter since he had become mayor, and the davallament was an occasion with which his family - well known in Pollensa - had a strong association. Moreover, mayors of Pollensa had long been directly involved with the event and had presided over it with others.

An independent, March led a ruling administration that was a left-wing coalition. He decided not to attend. There was much controversy as a result. His absence wasn’t because he didn’t value the event. It was because of his ideological convictions. He spoke about the “non-denominational nature of the state” and the “separation” between the church and democratically elected public bodies.

There were those who understood and sympathised with the mayor’s decision but were also inclined to feel that he should have attended; as I did. A religious act it was, but it was one, and continues to be, that is embedded in the culture of the community and with the undeniable historical significance of the Calvary, the hill on top of which now stands the oratory and where, many centuries past, the Knights Templar used to execute those who had fallen foul of them. What was more important - ideology or, if you like, the cultural interest?

In 2017, a councillor from Ciudadanos, Josep Lluis Bauzà, was the only one of the 29 councillors at Palma town hall who waited by the doors of the town hall for the passing of the Holy Thursday procession of Crist de la Sang. It was traditional for the mayor to offer a floral tribute, but the tradition had lapsed, as had an adornment of the town hall facade. Also gone was the tradition of having the doors open. Bauzà paid for the bouquet himself.

It had started to happen in 2008, when Aina Calvo of PSOE was mayor. There was no adornment of the town hall building. In 2016, following a four-year period when the Partido Popular governed Palma, another PSOE mayor, José Hila, delegated the offering of the floral tribute to another councillor. In 2017, no one attended, except Bauzà, other opposition councillors having stayed away in an act of protest.

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The following year, 2018, there was a different mayor, Antoni Noguera of Més having swapped with Hila. He did make the floral offering, and this followed a motion raised by the opposition at a council meeting shortly before Easter. There was unanimous approval for the town hall “showing its respect and support for the Holy Week and Corpus Christi celebrations” and for “urging” the administration to keep the doors open and to ensure institutional representation as a sign of respect to the people of Palma who participate in and watch the procession. Voted down was a proposal that the flags on the balcony should be at half mast from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.

Two weeks ago, a motion by opposition groups at an Easter committee meeting was rejected by the governing parties at the town hall. This was a motion for Holy Week to be declared an occasion of “municipal interest”. Antoni Noguera, now the councillor for culture, argued that this was not necessary, as Holy Week “has always had and still has municipal support”. A week later, and José Hila’s PSOE presented a motion at the council meeting. It was passed unanimously. Holy Week in Palma had been declared to be in the “municipal public interest”.

An explanatory note stated that it is an “unquestionable fact” that Easter is “one of the main cultural displays in the city, which is rooted among the public”. It is an aspect of “the cultural phenomena” that represent pride in the city. This is due to distinctive features, “such as the procession of Crist de la Sang and the involvement and efforts of all the Holy Week brotherhoods in Palma”.

A declaration of municipal interest is akin to when the Council of Mallorca declares fiestas to be in the interest of the regional community. It comes with guarantees of maintaining and promoting customs. So, the coalition administration had changed its mind, prompted by the main party, PSOE. Was it a move with the election having been taken into account? Perhaps it was, but it was a recognition of precisely the same arguments that had been made in Pollensa in 2016 - that cultural and community significance should outweigh ideology, however understandable that ideology may be.

One can of course style all this as a right v. left clash. It’s undeniable, but it most certainly isn’t the case that the left have a position against people’s religion. What it boils down to is the separation that Miquel Àngel March spoke of. He wasn’t wrong, but there are times, regardless of the involvement of the church, when a general interest should prevail.