An old photo of Magalluf beach in 1951. | ULTIMA HORA

Summer 1959. Cliff Richard and the Drifters (as the Shadows were still known) had a number one in the UK with 'Living Doll', the Mini went on sale and the country was heading towards a general election in the autumn. In Mallorca and Spain, there was no such thing as a general election, but there were municipal elections. Non-partisan, because there weren't parties as such, the electorate - only advised of candidates a week ahead of polling - was expected to choose councillors on the basis of their competence.


Population size determined, as is the case today, how many councillors there could be. With a population of just over 3,000 in 1959, Calvia qualified for nine. These were the competent authorities who, in the 1950s, granted approval for coastal development. That was a decade when a Francoist mayor apparently told a German investor that he could "build to the skies". In the summer of 1959, these councillors gathered to sign off on what the last of the main projects for development - Magalluf.

This was a place which, to say the least, had enjoyed an unremarkable history up to the point that Calvia town hall set in motion the creation of a resort which was to come to spark the imagination of British holidaymakers who were off to Bognor, Blackpool and Bridlington in the summer of 1959. This pre-mass tourism history is characterised most by arguments as to how Magalluf came to be known as Magalluf and whether there should be one or two l's - there is a case for both, as it happens, even if the general preference is for one.

Year zero, history-wise, was 1234, which was when Magaluf ben Jusef was documented. Fine, but that doesn't explain Magaluf. Or does it? Was this a person's name, or does it come from the Arabic 'magalofa' (people of the word) or a combination of the Arabic 'ma' and 'haluf' to mean dirty water? There's another contender - 'maqluf' for a type of skin. Whatever the origins, a more recent argument concerned the possible official renaming as Calvia Beach in order to rebrand a resort to which a certain stigma had been attached. Mercifully, this idea wasn't pursued, as Magalluf (or Magaluf) it had been for the best part of 800 years.

General view of the island of Sa Porrassa
The islet of Sa Porrassa.

Once upon a time, there was a 'possession', an estate, known as Sa Porrassa, which included Magalluf. This name does of course survive, as with the islet for instance, and it had been inherited from the Muslim years. The possession was awarded to Berenguer de Palou, the Bishop of Barcelona, who had been one of Jaume I's main supporters in the 1229 conquest.

In the sixteenth century, Sa Porrassa became part of a larger estate, that of Santa Ponsa. One hundred and fifty years ago, Santa Ponsa, owned by the Marqués de Bellpuig, was the largest of these grand estates in Calvia; three times the size of the second largest, Bendinat, which belonged to the Marqués de la Romana. But such was the almost total non-development of coastal Calvia that at the turn of the twentieth century Santa Ponsa could boast only 32 inhabitants. Mostly everyone lived in either Calvia village or Es Capdellà, a reflection of the agrarian economy and of the lack of possibilities offered by coastal areas. If only they'd known then ... .

There had been parcelling off of land in the nineteenth century and there was to be more in the years prior to the Civil War, which was how Magalluf started to become a place in its own right. But unlike other parts of the coast, e.g. what was to be Palma Nova (now officially Palmanova, according to the university), there was no particular attempt at pre-war development.

En casi los dos kilómetros de playa de Magaluf se situaba uno de los primeros hoteles de la zona
One of the first hotels in the area on Magalluf beach.

But it is perhaps something of a myth to suggest that there was nothing in Magalluf in the fifties apart from a few fishermen's cottages. There were some summer houses and - as a photo from the fifties shows - a handful of quite large buildings dotted around. One of the properties belonged to a couple who had bought land by the beach at the start of the 1950s. They were to have a famous guest - the Hollywood star Gary Cooper. He was staying at the Hotel Formentor, and the story goes that he asked a taxi driver to take him to the quietest beach in Mallorca. This was Magalluf.

We all know of course what happened as a result of that 1959 decision. The history is a total contrast to what it was before 1959. An insignificant place on the Calvia coast with no compelling back story assumed great significance and has since inspired thousands of stories.

Magalluf beach today.

Many of these tales were of the what happens in Magalluf, stays in Magalluf variety. Unfortunately, however, the stories weren't staying in Magalluf and nor were the videos, one in particular that proved to be the last straw where the authorities were concerned. Coming some eighteen months or so after Stacey Dooley had investigated "the truth about Magalluf", tourism of excesses had been laid bare - quite literally in some respects. Calvia introduced tougher bylaws and finally the government felt it had to act. In January 2020 it did. Tourism of excesses had given its name to legislation.