A Humans of Mallorca story
By Shirley Roberts
While the government are extremely busy resurrecting tourism and urging us on to shop, the people wait. Another month passes for those who have completely slipped through the fiscal net. Another month passes for those who don’t know what date their benefit will next be paid. My Humans of Majorca this week has involved talking to different groups, some of whom are desperately waiting for the flights to start.
The Port of Soller has a population who live from the sea and tourism. Fine chefs and bar owners plus every type of shop associated with a quality seaside resort join the fishermen to make this place tick. I joined the queue for the return of the Wednesday fleet. The multicultural fisherman from Soller, Nigeria and China head out to sea three times a week to find the Soller Prawns. There were fish in abundance this week and usually they command a very high price. Soller Prawns with their distinctive colour and taste are the flagship of the area and greatly prized.
The Asparagus fields of the UK and the Prawn beds of the Port of Soller have the same problem. Delicious and pricey and no-one is buying them in our Lockdown world. The beauty of the tradition with the nets drying in the sun and the fish preparation is a luxury. We have learnt that in a pandemic luxury is the first casualty. If you are trying to feed a family of four, three meals a day, on a daily budget of 10 euros the Soller Prawn is not going to work.
So what is our fleet to do? That is one question of the week. The next is the great quality clothes shops of the Port. The arriving guests on yachts love the beautiful collections tucked away in the most unlikely shops. Fine shoes, bags, pearls and expensive watches. They can all be found here amongst the sun cream and sombreros of the shops for holidaymakers. Serious money changes hands in these shops and the investors are all sucking their pencils. What to do is the question?
The Jumeirah Hotel with its exclusive clientele and high value guests will not be arriving this year. The Hotel have decided not to open until 2021. The Hotel has always been slightly detached from the rest of Soller Valley life. Their brand has always been more important to them than the beauty of the area or local traditions. The food and staff supply from the local area is a completely different matter. The repercussions for them by this decision is life changing.
My chats with some of their staff was full of travel arrangement questions. They are here because they expected to be working. They are not going to hang about a moment longer than necessary now they know there is no job this year. They do not want to join the thousands of others looking for hotel jobs in Majorca. The first plane out of here linking them to their home countries will be the one they are on. The rentals they will leave, the bills they will not pay and the friendships they will miss are all academic.
In 2008 when recession was biting in Mallorca thousands left the island for a dole queue they were familiar with. The same is happening now in the planning. Many feel that in an emergency, explanations, in their language, just don’t happen. Employers are grateful for the workers who come in for the season and accept low paid work. When it comes to an emergency if you don’t speak Spanish or Mallorquin you are forgotten. There was much bitterness about this from Soller workers, especially those who were not told about emergency payments they might have been entitled to.
If lockdowns and spikes of this pandemic are going to be with us until a vaccine or cure, some joined up thinking needs to be done. Communication always comes way down the list when it come to allocating funds from a Town Hall budget but surely not this time.
The stories of suffering start with the people who are ill and the front line staff looking after them. On the other end of the spectrum are those with no money and no understanding of what to do. This takes a lot of help and is mostly being done by local kind volunteers who hear of their plight on the grapevine. When the crisis is past they all look at one another and say ‘this situation could have been avoided if the authorities actually took responsibility for All residents.’
There are municipalities in Majorca who issue documents in the languages of their local area. This is the minority and before another pandemic or world crisis, time should be taken to address this.
The fishermen, the shop owners, the hotels are all in this together trying to evolve a future for their business and their staff. They have questions they hope will be heard and answered. The casualties of all this have yet to be counted and the crystal ball telling Majorca its fate does not yet exist. In the meantime, it would be good to start learning the lessons we can from this most peculiar of times in our life.