Autumn traditions in Soller

Two thousand and fourteen children started the new school year in Soller at the end of last week. This is the reported school population of the Hidden Valley and the breakdown is very interesting.

Five hundred and seventy attend the Institute which is the only public secondary school in Soller. Traditionally the children there are big supporters of the Town Band and learn their instruments from age 11 and acquire a skill for life. We just love their musical progress. There are fifteen hundred pupils in the infant and junior sections of schools spread out amongst six state and church schools in Soller and the Port. My family’s experience is of the nursery and infant school in the Port of Soller. An unassuming building near the church in the back of the Port houses a delightful experience for all the children lucky enough to go there. It was my youngest granddaughters first day last week and Cati – the teacher was waiting to welcome her new intake of three year olds. Our family begins another five year association with the school with pleasure after the experiences of her older sister. This is a largely Catalan experience for the children in spite of the commitment to a tri lingual education. The practicalities of having enough teachers with fluency in Spanish, Catalan and English makes this desire an impossibility at present.

I bumped into Will Besga – the lawyer and Bulletin columnist in Palma last week and had an interesting discussion with him about the Catalan language issue in schools. He holds very strong views on this subject which he is more than capable of expressing. Suffice it to say that his children are not going to be taught in Catalan!

As the hidden Valley moves into the next season we are still celebrating life. The fiestas of this weekend prove that even with no public funding the parties go on. The Alqueria del Comte part of town (the area at the end of the Lluna shopping street) held an open air dinner with music and dancing and the watermelon eating competition. The opening speeches of the fiesta were especially poignant as all made reference to the troubles in Soller with the arson attack on the Mayor. The politicians are united in their condemnation and are determined that normal life goes on in Soller.

The fiestas of Fornalutx reached their peak with the controversial bull run. One of the few – maybe the only village left in Majorca which continues this tradition it causes feelings to run high and the protesters make their point every year. The open air dinners, music and dancing in one of the most beautiful settings in the world make this a weekend to remember. The poetry, book launches and art exhibitions take their place alongside the ceremonies to celebrate the lives of the older people in the village. It is a real opportunity to reflect on the year, thank everyone for their part and then party.

We were on the beach for the first night of the Havaneres Festival. A stage had been built on the Repic beach alongside the sea and there were thousands of people there. As ‘Islands in the Stream’ belted out across the bay I reflected on my Havaneres research. Traditionally this is the music of the Spanish exiles who made their way to Cuba and other parts of South America at the turn of the century. Largely fishermen, they created their own sea shanty music of longing to return to the old country. As they did come back they brought the music with them which is now revered in some parts of Spain. The Costa Brava is the centre of the Havaneres culture and the events attract a huge following on the beaches there. Three years ago, the first Havaneres festival in Majorca was started on the Repic beach in the Port of Soller. It is well organised, well publicised and each Havaneres band has its own following which accompany them. The Pro Musica Choir of Soller are joining them for the final night making the link between the Havaneres and Soller even more solid. I’m still not sure why Dolly Parton and her ‘Islands in the Stream’ should be a part of the fishermen’s lament but it appears to be significant. More research is needed on my part before next years festival – which I’m told has already been booked. The Havaneres and Soller an now joined at the hip and part of our Autumn calendar.

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