Wednesday, December 7

How Menorca has managed to flee from mass tourism and the brick (for now)

Menorca is different from its sisters. A small, flat, rugged island. Less populated and quieter than Mallorca. Definitely calmer and less popular than Eivissa. A territory that has remained relatively far from the great speculations, real estate hits and cement that today are common currency in the rest of the Balearic Islands.

Tourism and construction accentuate the unstoppable erosion of the Balearic beaches

Know more

What processes took place in Menorca to put a stop to the tourist bubble? How was the consensus built on the care of this territory that today is a Biosphere Reserve? and a question that always hovers over this land: How long can this model be maintained? At we try to get closer to some answers, in dialogue with Pau Salort, teacher and co-author of The image of Minorcaa book that narrates through images the change that the island territory has undergone during the 20th century.

“Menorca had a wide and diverse industry that supported a relatively stable economy, especially in the field of footwear. In other words, the weight of tourism in economic terms was lower than in the other islands. On the other hand, the traditional owners of the land, the local aristocracy and the Minorcan nobles were not interested in selling their land, often for reasons of maintaining status”, Salort points out.

The teacher adds that “the planning to make Menorca an island of cement came in the years of transition”. “Here we had already seen what was happening in Eivissa and Mallorca during the 1960s. The democratic opening and the results of the tourist model implemented in the rest of the Balearic Islands opened the social discussion about what Menorca we wanted: that of hotel massification in the first line of beach or nature”.

According to Salort’s book, which is also signed by Laura Piris and Ester Cladera, the intention to expand the frontiers of cement and mass tourism to Menorca included the pharaonic construction of an “orbital highway” that surrounded the entire island coast. Documents from the time belonging to the urban developer Pons Sans indicate that up to 50,000 tourist beds were planned in Playas de Son Bou alone, one of the coastal areas that clearly shows, even today, the impact of the large hotels “all inclusive” on the first coastline. Environmental impact studies were conspicuous by their absence.

to the rhythm of an island

In Menorca, Franco’s death was the birth of a wide range of possibilities. The transition, democracy as a horizon, the resurgence of Menorcan and Catalan in the streets and timidly in the classrooms, autonomy and the flourishing of the democratic left were the breeding ground for a movement that found in the defense of the territory against real estate speculation a common front.

The historian Miquel López Gual, who carried out extensive research on the environmental social mobilization processes of the 1970s, states: “The discussion on the future model of the Balearic Islands, centered exclusively on tourism, took place in the context of the oil crisis of 1973. globally. These are the first years of the transition in Spain. In Menorca at that time a subtle political opening was being processed; the Unió de Pagesos is created, neighborhood associations proliferate, the struggles for women’s rights, the student movement, etc. Towards the end of the 1970s, these movements converged and articulated in different processes of struggle opposed to real estate projects”.

In the 1970s, a political opening took place in Menorca and associations, struggles for women’s rights and the student movement proliferated. Towards the end of the decade these movements came together in a fight against real estate projects

miquel lopez gual

Music and the arts are key in all social processes. How could it be otherwise, the effervescence of those years had its own soundtrack. The group Sa Traginada It was perhaps the most popular and the one that most clearly synthesized the accumulation of aesthetic, political, social and cultural influences that came together between long hippie hair and flared pants. Over one senyera Balearic Islands, the name of the band written in Catalan carved its melodies in the current of the Nova Cançó, in concerts where Ovidi Montllor was recited.

in 1977 Sa Traginada was the protagonist of a mythical festival promoted to raise funds to defend Freginal Park from the attempt to turn it into a car park. With the slogan “Park yes, Parking no”, shouted by a youth who longed for and also shouted “freedom, amnesty, autonomy status”, they managed to expel the speculators, despite the fact that there were two historic and unprecedented police charges during the day. Paradoxes of life, although the park is intact, today it houses a car park.

hegemonic environmentalism

“The attempt to urbanize Macarella, Turqueta and S’albufera were the ones that encountered the greatest resistance. As a result of this, the Coordinator for the Defense of the Territory was created, first in Ciutadella and then in Maó. In these spaces converge all these trends that revolved around different social, political, identity, and territorial claims and with the creation of the GOB (Group of Balearic Ornithology), a long struggle took place that lasted until the mid-1980s, when the attempts urbanizers are officially cancelled”, highlights Pau Salort.

The broad social consensus that the organizations in defense of the territory have been building has consolidated a common sense that still prevails on the island: “Menorca is a place that must be conserved and protected”. In 1993, UNESCO recognized this territory as a Biosphere Reserve, culminating a long process of multisectoral struggle that can be traced to the present day. Proof of this is the “Menorquins pel Territori” platform.

“In 2015, a disproportionate and quite irregular project was approved to widen the main road between Maó and Ciutadella, which included overpasses and millions of euros in investments. Shortly after, in 2016, the Spectrum Geo Limited project, created by a group of large oil companies, requested permission from the Spanish government to “promote hydrocarbon exploration” on the Balearic sea floor. So we went out into the streets to inform the people of what they wanted to do. We quickly organized mobilizations that were joined by groups of different types. Artists, escorts, environmentalists, peasants, workers, education workers, feminist spaces, etc. This is how Menorquins pel Territori was born, we managed to stop the road works (for the time being) and the oil prospecting”, Pol Segura, plastic artist and member of the group, tells