Many people in Pollensa will know Susan Mackay. Active in charitable events and community initiatives, these have now resulted in what for Susan has been a most unexpected development.
Two years ago, Susan was involved in the organisation of a fund and awareness-raising event at the Sant Domingo Cloister in Pollensa. It was a Day Against Domestic Violence. The town hall gave its support. Mayor Miquel Àngel March attended and cut the ribbon to open the event. Social affairs councillor Magdalena Seguí was also present.
Shortly afterwards, the mayor invited Susan to the town hall for a chat. March said that "it was the kind of thing we (the town hall) need: to bring different communities together". He had been impressed by the fact that various nationalities had come together for the Sant Domingo day and offered the town hall's support for similar events in the future.
The most recent one of these was last month. Drawing on contacts with the Balearic Symphony Orchestra, Susan organised a concert for World Women's Month. Held at Sant Jordi Church in Pollensa, it featured a female string quartet. The mayor spoke at that concert, funds from which were to be used for the Clara Hammerl Women's House in Pollensa. It was when the donation was being made that Magdalena Seguí said to Susan that the mayor would like her to stand at the municipal election.
"I was absolutely astonished. I said that I'm too old and that I don't speak Catalan. Magdalena asked me how old I was. When I told her, she replied 'that's NOT too old'."
Susan clearly felt that Catalan ability was an issue. However, when her candidacy was discussed by Junts, it turned out not to be. The coalition grouping very much welcomed her inclusion. The language does, nevertheless, brings its challenges. "The first meeting I attended went on for two and a half hours. My head was exploding by the end. But Miquel Àngel sat next to me and translated into Castellano if he could see I was struggling to understand." Although the mayor doesn't himself speak English, there are others who do - Magdalena Seguí is fluent as are Miquel Àngel Sureda (councillor for the police, culture and indeed language) and Dr. Josep Boladeras, a familiar name to many in Pollensa.
Junts Avançam is an alliance of independents, such as the mayor, and three parties to the left - PSOE, Més and Esquerra Republicana. It was put together prior to the 2015 election, as Susan explains, in order to "avoid all the bargaining that has to go on afterwards". At meetings she has noted how respectful the different groups are of each other. "There are no arguments. Everyone speaks rationally and everyone is listened to."
A Junts mission is to work for the common good and for the good of the people of Pollensa. The politics, Susan stresses, do not intrude. "Junts don't discuss national issues. A town hall is a local thing, and so local people should be involved and do their best for local people. Party politics do not play a part locally."
This philosophy is one reason why the mayor invited Susan to stand. "If people can come together, then they can achieve more." And the people include those from the different nationalities represented in Pollensa, where foreign residents equate to around twenty per cent of the total population and a healthy chunk of the 3,000-plus foreign residents is British (approximately a third).
"It was felt that British people tend not to be integrated. As I had been able to bring people together with events, the mayor believed that I could help with integration. There are many who have little idea what is going on in Pollensa, and there are those who, despite having lived here for many years, can speak little Castellano."
Susan points out that foreign residents pay taxes like everyone else, so they should be seeking representation. Elections are a challenge for some foreign residents, partly because they don't understand what the parties are offering but also because they are deterred by the election system. This is one thing that she feels needs to be explained better.
There obviously can be a language barrier, and Susan says that if the town hall wishes to increase British involvement, there have to be means of encouraging this. "They realise they can do more. It's a two-way street, and they are starting to acknowledge that they have to communicate better." Susan is pressing for communications to at least be in Castellano as well as Catalan, as foreign residents are more likely to understand Castellano. Preferably, the communications should also be in English.
There are of course other foreign communities. Consequently, there is a reaching-out to, for example, the German and Scandinavian communities as well.
Susan is under little illusion about her chances of being elected as a councillor. There are seventeen councillors at Pollensa town hall. Junts won six seats in 2015. On the Junts list of candidates for the May election, Susan is number fourteen. Miquel Àngel March has, however, said that there will be a role for Susan, if Junts are returned to office. For Susan, this would be in line with her personal belief that retired people such as herself should bring their life skills and experience to bear in seeking to enhance the lives of others. For Junts, it is about making all people feel part of the community.
* There is to be a meeting at the Vecinos Room (Calle Mestral) in Puerto Pollensa on 14 May at 7.30pm for British and other foreign residents. Susan Mackay will chair this. In attendance will be Junts candidate for mayor, Miquel Àngel March, as well as Magdalena Seguí, Miquel Àngel Sureda and Josep Boladeras.
** Other parties and their candidates for mayor at the municipal election in Pollensa are: Alternativa per Pollença (Marina Llobera); El Pi (Josep Marquet); Partido Popular (David Alonso); Tots per Pollença (former mayor Bartomeu Cifre Ochogavia); Unidas Podemos (Michael Lorenzo Muller); Unió Mollera Pollencina (Andrés Nevado).