How did it come into being?

How did it come into being?

16-10-2021Miquel Mestre Ginard¶

On a beach not far from the clearing in the woods, one can stare at the mountains as they rise shaded by silvery haze: spectral giants of boscage concealing more tombs of the pre-Neolithic. One can dream of these mountains, as seen from the beach, to one side of which is a sea of opaque luminescence.

This is the place of Mallorca’s Dreamtime, an essence of when it was created, an explanation of how it came to be. This is an aboriginal spirit land, where somnolence can consume and where there is an uncertainty as to being awake or asleep. Being in reality or in a dream.

“This Dreamtime is a place where time is suspended. It came into being but it never moved forward. It stays as it was, for this is Son Serra de Marina. The beach is Sa Canova. The sun shines, but the shallows off Sa Canova show that a sea can shine. It radiates. It transmits light. It is luminescent but it is also transcendent. It is beyond normal experience. It exists in its own Dreamtime.”

I wrote this some years ago, the allusion to the Dreamtime having been inspired by a gathering in a camping area in the woods not far from the beach. This camping area was close to the Bronze Age talaiot of Cova de sa Nineta.

The gathering was referred to as a ‘didgeridoo encounter’. If there was to be such an encounter in Mallorca, then Son Serra was the ideal location. Here was a place where time appeared to have been suspended, a private estate with residences for which there was no plan other than it was there. Son Serra had never become anything. It was just there, caught in its own Dreamtime.

It’s a curious place, one to have sparked many a question from the curious. What is Son Serra? How did it come into being? All in all, Son Serra was and remains a mystery, although its reality has become clearer.

Antonia Frontera, who grew up in Son Serra and is now Santa Margalida town hall’s delegate for the place, says that the first occupants were from other parts of the island. Son Serra was a place of holiday homes. It still is, but the pandemic has changed things. People are now living there all year round. Which of course had already been the case, even if an impression has been one of emptiness for much of the year.

In Muslim times, there was a farmstead called Robaria. In the first half of the fourteenth century, this became an estate, an old “possession” that belonged to the Serra de Marina family from Sa Pobla. It bordered the possession of Son Real, with its ancient necropolis, separated by the Son Real torrent.

Joan Serra from Sa Pobla, a member of one of the island’s most important noble families - Serra de Marina - was to hand the possession down over the generations. By the late sixteenth century, the owner was Joanot Serra de Marina. He also owned two adjacent possessions - Son Genoll and Son Pont. Combined, they took on the name of Son Serra de Marina.

A chapel was built in the early eighteenth century on land that was dedicated to fig trees, cereals and legumes. Sheep and goats grazed the land. There were pigs and there were oxen, and this was how things were to remain until the early twentieth century, one of the few buildings of any consequence having been a barn for livestock. This barn was at one point owned by an Andreu Rubert. It was eventually sold to the Massanet family, and this purchase was to hold the key to the future.

Some plots for residences were created in the first decades of the century, but the crucial development came when Joan Massanet Moragues, who was to be mayor of Palma for ten years from 1954, acquired the estate. Oddly enough, Son Serra de Marina, wasn’t the only name for this place.

One was Colonia de la Mare de Déu del Carme. The parish of Mare de Déu del Carme was to finally be established in 1978, the name having arisen from the church and from the small farming colony that had been created in the late nineteenth century. It was also called Serranova before Son Serra de Marina was definitively settled upon in recognition of one of Majorca’s oldest estates.

In 1953, approval was given for a development project. In 1954, the first new houses started to be built. As part of the terms for buying a plot, Massanet required the owner to agree to norms of moral conduct, such as a ban on men and women bathing together. It is said of Massanet that he was a supporter of both the dictators - Primo de Rivera and Franco. They named one of the two main streets after him. As far as I’m aware, no one has suggested that the name is changed.

So, that was how it all started, and in 1958 the Frontera family moved to Son Serra. Joan Frontera ran the Can Frontera bar-restaurant with his wife Margalida. They named the other main street after him. Antonia Frontera was their daughter, and she can recall that people would go to the bar and ask where they were. Son Serra didn’t actually appear on any map of Mallorca.

“Very few people lived here. The first to do so were often artists in search of peace and anonymity.” Then started to come the holiday home owners from Palma, Inca and elsewhere.

Antonia became a singer and also a model. She promoted Mallorca in parades, while the singing was as part of the Grup Frontera, which she joined when she was twelve. They became well known and played at weddings and parties. All the while, Son Serra developed slowly, and it is this slow development which poses the greatest mystery of Son Serra. Time was suspended in the sense that it didn’t move with the times.

The layout of Son Serra is like that of Can Picafort. The streets are a grid, the main ones crossed in perpendicular fashion by others. The houses were similar to those in Can Picafort. But whereas Can Picafort grew to be the resort it is, Son Serra didn’t. Antonia Frontera’s explanation is that the plots were only ever small.

Therefore, hotels were never built. The beach, meanwhile, didn’t have the services that Can Picafort acquired. In the recent past, town hall plans for a chiringuito beach bar and services met with enormous resistance, which included a human chain in protest that stretched right along the beach.

While it might have seemed ripe for development as a resort, the parcelling of the land - so it would seem - prevented this. Antonia believes that Son Serra is the best example of a place that has managed to avoid hotelier exploitation and therefore high numbers of tourists. On summer weekends, Son Serra is very busy. But at other times, it drifts back into its curious Dreamtime.

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