A Port From Ninety Years Ago

Let's go back just over ninety years to 1928. It was the time of the first dictator, Primo de Rivera. The post-war economic situation in Europe and internationally was generally favourable. Spain benefited as a consequence. The Primo de Rivera years were marked by high levels of state intervention and investment. Protectionist, the National Economic Council, created in 1924, was important in advancing developments such as the first national telephone company and a monopoly petroleum company, Campsa.

Majorca was a beneficiary of state involvement. To a degree this was as a result of favouritism shown to its most famous (infamous?) businessman, Joan March. His bank was founded in 1926, the same year in which Adan Diehl started his ambitious project for the Formentor Hotel. Infrastructure improvements were coming in the form, for instance, of Antoni Parietti's road to Formentor. Nascent plans were being made for tourism development that were to gather pace during the Second Republic and then come to a grinding halt because of the Civil War and the initial years of Francoist introspection. These included the creation of the garden city resorts.

The Great Depression, the turmoil that was to characterise the later part of the Republic and then the war were to all conspire to stop Majorca's modernisation dead in its tracks. The year 1928 was, therefore, something of a high point. At local levels there was optimism. Sa Pobla was an example. As well as its agriculture, potatoes most obviously, the village had other businesses. There were, for instance, three factories dedicated to making drinks; there were two for the making of pasta; there was the paper factory in Albufera; there were building companies and there were flour mills.

The village itself had twenty-six shops selling different types of food product. There were fifteen cafés, eight taverns, four bakeries, two building materials outlets, six shoe shops, two tailors, eleven barbers/hairdressers, three textiles stores, three newsagents/tobacconists, five hardware shops, four chemists, a tinsmith, a haberdashery, a watchmaker, a coal/charcoal yard ... .  These were for a population of some 8,500, roughly two-thirds of what it is today. Flourishing was perhaps an overstatement, but Sa Pobla nevertheless enjoyed reasonable circumstances. In addition to its businesses, it had transport services - the railway and the bus; the first bus service to and from Palma had started in 1924.

Strategically Sa Pobla was fairly well positioned, but the deficiency lay with the links to the bay of Alcudia. The railway to Alcudia and Pollensa was spoken about in those days. They're still speaking about it - to Alcudia if not Pollensa. That development was obviously not to be realised during the Primo de Rivera era or when it really looked as if it was going to be during the years of the Second Republic.

The then mayor, Miquel Crespí wanted to add to the possibilities that the railway extension would bring. He hit upon an idea which has echoes of two of Majorca's more unusual stories - one a complete myth, the other a complete reality. The myth was the equivalent of an April Fool. It was the port in Sineu, a joke that had been played in a local magazine in 1915. There had never of course been "one of the most beautiful ports in Europe" in Sineu.

The reality was Sa Pobla's one-time borders. These were to change in 1954, when the town hall negotiated away municipal land that stretched to the sea. The main part of Playa de Muro - the town hall in Muro having been the beneficiary of some rotten negotiations - would otherwise now be Playa de Sa Pobla.

In 1928, taking account of the municipal boundaries which had existed prior to that fateful occurrence 26 years later, Crespí's plan was to establish a port in Sa Pobla - a river port. The boundary between Sa Pobla and Muro was partially formed by the Gran Canal, which had been created by the British engineers who had dried out Albufera and introduced more cultivation.

Crespí wanted to take advantage of the Albufera canals, the obvious one being the Gran Canal. The Primo de Rivera government was to be approached about dredging in order to develop a deep waterway that would have enabled maritime traffic to pass between an area north of the urban centre of Sa Pobla and the bay. Together with the rail extension, which he and seemingly mostly everyone believed was going to happen, Sa Pobla's strategic transport communications would have been complete.

Needless to say, the plan, which was considered to have been feasible, never came to fruition. Had it done, it is perhaps reasonable to conclude that the municipal land that then stretched to the bay would not have been negotiated away.

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