Argentine journalist, Fernando Castro Marcó del Pont, fell in love with Mallorca when he first arrived on the island in Easter last year having spent some time in Minorca. He has a family connection to Adan Diehl, the Argentine art lover, who nearly a century ago decided to build the Hotel Formentor, which opened in 1929.
Diehl was a visionary who had been living in Paris before coming to Mallorca. His original intention was to make a home for himself and his wife, where he could also entertain his friends, poets and painters from all over the continent. Under the idealistic direction of Diehl, the Hotel Formentor introduced architectural forms unheard of in Mallorca and the hotel soon became one of the most famous and sought after in the world. To this day, it is still a popular location for international cultural events and gatherings.
And it is the island’s culture, heritage and architecture, not to mention the climate, which Fernando has fallen in love with. “Don’t get me wrong, Argentina is a beautiful country, it has everything, but Mallorca, especially Palma, is a paradise. It’s like heaven on Earth,” Fernando said last week.
After having spent 16 years working for one of Argentina’s most prestigious newspapers, he has decided to base himself in Mallorca for the near future, despite the difficulties which have been thrown up by the pandemic.
Ideally, being multilingual and fluent in English, he would return to journalism and get involved with the British community; time will tell. In the meantime, he is making ends meet as a delivery rider for restaurants and food outlets, although he admits that the latest restrictions, in particular the curfew, have hit business hard and only served to complicate life; he had been planning to travel to the UK to see friends before Christmas, but that is out of the question.
Fernando admits to being an Anglophile. He has read the country’s history at great length and has visited the UK on numerous occasions, travelling the length and breadth of England. His first visit to the UK was in September 2014.
“I was in Europe and I wanted to be in Edinburgh on the day of the results of the Scottish referendum out of personal and professional interest. To be honest, coming from a country where people can get quite volatile about everything from politics to football, I was expecting some civil unrest. But it all passed off without any major incidents despite the result being so close.
“On subsequent visits I saw the best and worst of England, the social divide, the difference between the North and South, the rich and the poor. I remember being in Wigan and seeing all those beautiful buildings housing empty shops. The only trade which seemed to be booming at the time were the charity shops; that image has always stuck with me, having then gone on to visit the likes of Bath and Bristol, not to mention London and other thriving cities and regions. It will be very interesting to see what happens after Brexit. It would have been an experience to been able to travel to the UK for January 1, but I shall be watching developments closely from here.
“I have been keeping a close eye on the whole process and what has struck me is that the prime ministers who have been involved with Brexit all appear to be so distant from the general public; there has been a lack of clear dialogue with the population.
“I fondly remember all the British people I have met over the years as being very welcoming, talkative and, more importantly, great listeners - unlike in some southern European countries where people seem to love the sound of their own voices and have no interest at all in what the other person is trying to say. So, I don't know why there appears to have been a total breakdown in dialogue between politicians and the general public over Brexit - well in general when I look at Boris Johnson.
“As a journalist I believe in being honest, telling the truth. To publish an untrue or unfounded article or one which has been influenced or planted by my bosses, I would be a traitor to the truth. Journalists have a right to tell the truth. But there is a growing tendency today for newspapers and the television to operate for ulterior motives and interests and I think that is a great shame for the industry as a whole.
“Everybody has a story to tell. I remember listening to my grandfather and other relatives talking about their lives, and on my travels, especially in the UK, I have been fascinated by the people I have met and the stories they have told. Listening, that’s the key, not only for journalists but in life in general. You learn things by listening but the more I watch TV news channels, nobody is listening. Journalists or presenters appear to have already been told what stance or attack to take and that is not what I learnt when I studied journalism.”
And by a twist of fate, Fernando has unintentionally followed in the footsteps of Adan Diehl.
“Apart from the obvious qualities of Mallorca and Palma, one has to remember that this was home to the great Ramon Llull, who was the predecessor of all the great philosophers, mathematicians, psychologists and thinkers across Europe for centuries, even today.
“As a great admirer of architecture, Palma is a gem. It’s so compact, but there is so much varied and historic architecture. The cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece. Apart from being one of the largest and tallest in the world, it is the only cathedral located by the sea. The figure-of-eight spectacular and the Sibil-la are fabulous experiences. It’s a magnificent piece of architecture and Palma should be very proud of it. As should its tourism industry.
“What I fail to understand is this growing anti-tourism movement. The island is flush with millionaires and most of them have made their money from tourism over the past years. It reminds me a bit of Argentina prior to the arrival of the railways, steam trains and refrigeration. People owned thousands of hectares of land which were just used for producing cheap dried meat and leather. Then all of sudden, Argentina was exporting first-class meat, leather and cereals across the world and all of the landowners suddenly became overnight millionaires.
“Had transport not arrived, they’d probably still be struggling to work their land, just like Mallorca’s were before the tourism boom. So much hard work has gone into developing Mallorca as a world-leading tourism destination, which has set the example for so many other destinations around the world, I can’t understand why some people are prepared to let all that hard work go.
“Perhaps, due to the pandemic and the lack of tourism, those opposed to tourism may have had a change of heart. Some will have lost their jobs and will be struggling to make ends meet and are perhaps now longing for the day holidaymakers, second homeowners and foreign investors start returning to the island in large numbers.
“Obviously a careful balance has to be reached and attention paid to sustainable tourism, but the island can’t afford to have anti-tourism graffiti and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.
“Why kill the goose that lays the golden egg? People can’t afford to get greedy, because greed is the root cause of miseries and this is just a wonderful place to live. I would not change Mallorca for anywhere else in the world and I am sure I am not the only person who feels that way about the island.
“Perhaps because I am relatively new to the island and have come from the other side of the world, I see things from a different perspective. But sometimes that is a good thing and perhaps those in power should be listening to tourism experts who have a different view of things and can see where Mallorca could be going wrong. When the pandemic starts to draw to a close and holiday destinations are able to start reopening properly, Mallorca needs to be in pole position to protect and enhance its reputation and everything it has to offer. Now is not the time for sitting back.
“We have a saying in Argentina ‘when you spit in the sky, be careful what comes back’. So many businesses have gone to the wall, it would be such a great shame for Mallorca to suffer even more when it has all the right tools to repair the damage the pandemic has caused.”