Majorca's Mister Energy
In Can Picafort by the marina the street is named Enginyer Felicià Fuster. You often come across streets that include engineer in their titles. It's a mark of honour, of distinction. We don't perhaps think of Majorca as a place of engineering, but it wouldn't be the island it is if it hadn't been for engineers. They abound both in the present and the past: Antoni Parietti, for example, the engineer who was responsible for the Formentor and Sa Calobra roads; Gabriel Roca, director of works at the port of Palma and the inspiration behind the creation of the Paseo Marítimo, the real name of which is his; and also Felicià Fuster.
Curiously perhaps, the Fuster street is comparatively minor compared with what is Can Picafort's prom. It, although hardly anyone would ever refer to it as such, is the Passeig Enginyer Antoni Garau, whose name does not resonate with the same significance as Fuster's. Not everyone can donate their name to a holiday resort prom, even if they were the president of Endesa.
On Tuesday (4 September), the council meeting room at Santa Margalida town hall will be the venue for a ceremony. An illustrious son of La Vila (Santa Margalida) is to be proclaimed - Felicià Fuster Jaume, or Feliciano Fuster, if you prefer. The honour will be, in the words of Santa Margalida's mayor Joan Monjo, for Fuster's "long and meritorious professional career". He became "one of the most outstanding figures in industrial engineering". He was Palma town hall's chief engineer, the director of the old Alcudia power station, the president of Gesa, and then the president of Endesa. Fuster became, if you like, Majorca's Mister Energy. In fact, he was Mister Energy for far more than just Majorca.
He died six years ago in Palma, but he was born in Santa Margalida. The year was 1924. He attended engineering school in Barcelona, and four years after graduating, in 1951 he was appointed Palma's chief engineer. He was the next generation of engineer after Gabriel Roca, with whom he clearly collaborated but was 28 years his senior.
Gesa was formed in 1927 through the merger of the Societat d'Enllumenat per Gas Societat Anònima and the Companyia Mallorquina d'Electricitat. As with pretty much anything that moved business-wise at that time, another son of Santa Margalida, that old rogue Joan March, was closely involved. Endesa, the Empresa Nacional de Electricidad S.A., was founded in 1944 in Ponferrada (Castile and León). Almost forty years later, in 1983 the Grupo Endesa was formed with the blessing of the then PSOE national government. Gesa was one of the companies that was rolled into Endesa.
Fuster held liberal, socialist political views. He was approached about standing as mayor for Palma on behalf of PSOE but refused. He wasn't a member of the socialist party, but the industry minister, Carlos Solchaga, made him the president of this new giant of an energy group. Under his leadership, he was to direct the company towards progressive privatisation and to stamp the company's mark on the international energy map.
That's the business background, but what of Fuster the person? Rafel Bordoy, originally from Alcudia but long a resident of Santa Margalida, has written a biography of Fuster. In a recent interview, he observed that Fuster divides opinion in Santa Margalida. There are those who insist that he did nothing for La Vila. Bordoy suggests that there are two reasons for some people holding this view. One is that he was single. He never married and so he therefore never had any children who grew up in Santa Margalida.
That seems like a pretty narrow-minded opinion, but perhaps it was indicative of a former time. It wasn't that he wasn't interested in women. Bordoy explains that there was one woman in particular. The fates conspired in such a way and they didn't marry, and he lost the inclination as a result. The other reason was that he chose to distance himself from the town. He did this because, as his reputation grew, he formed the impression that people only wanted to talk to him in order to ask for favours. This extended to a cousin. His relationship with his family took a turn for the worse because he wouldn't give this cousin a job at Gesa.
He was apparently a difficult person. Nevertheless, one feels that he was an honourable one. Moreover, he headed one of Spain's most important companies. An illustrious son of Santa Margalida? Indeed. The surprise is perhaps that it has taken this long.
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