Being Joan Mas
With the announcement over the weekend of this year's cast for the upcoming Moors & Christians fiesta in Pollensa, here is the article from 2015 which is a personal account from Joan Mas of 2013 - Joan 'Norai Cerdà Cifre.
Fiestas in Mallorca are in the blood. No need for programmes and timings, local people who grew up with these week-long celebrations just know. Perhaps not the finer details, but when it comes to the Marxa Fresca, the Alborada and what time the Moros will be arriving in Placa Major, for example, they know.
Fiestas are kept going year after year, they are testament to how proud people are of their villages. The time-honoured customs are loved and respected and for Pollensa, the Moors and Christians battle is their day. Come August 2nd you will see people young and old belting out the town’s anthem, Visca Pollensa with tear-inducing pride.
But perhaps the largest dose of goosebump, hair-on-end thrill on August 2nd will come when Joan Mas jumps out of the window of his family home and calls, cries, shouts or wails for his townsfolk to come out (in their pyjamas) and kick the invading Moros out of town. And back in the day, that is what happened. Many people died but the Cristianos managed to keep hold of Pollensa, which is why Joan Mas is such a hero. His statue stands tall and proud in the Joan March Gardens and kids revere this icon from a young age.
It is visiting this statue with his granddad that ignited the passion in Joan ‘Norai’ Cerdà Cifre’s heart and instilled the desire to one day be Joan Mas. But winning the election was not plain sailing for him. Having moved to Palma for work, Norai’s first three attempts left him out of the race. Once back in his hometown, it was still another three attempts before he made it. Campaigning is tough, “you have to push hard right from the start.” Commenting on this year’s elections, Norai said, “voting is very much about loyalty, families will vote for their relatives and friends from the same group should avoid entering the campaign in the same year, or you will split your friends’ votes.”
And, he tells TOTN, “While everyone wants the honour of being Joan Mas, not everyone can do it, you need confidence.” True enough, it is like theatre and, “Some people choose not to rehearse but I did. I had two different shouts, which I showed my friends and they told me which one to go for. On the day, I shouted until there was no more air in my lungs, I really wanted people to hear me and I wanted everyone else to feel it too. I was shaking to the very end.” Not everyone is so rehearsed though; in fact some take a completely spontaneous approach, which could be risky and maybe even disastrous.
In terms of organization, Norai explained, “Joan Mas needs a troop of about 60 men to keep the frontline in order, Dragut and his men need 150! There are a lot of drunk people all getting together for the big clash and these men become your safety net.”
“On the day, Joan Mas, Dragut and all the key characters need to be in top shape. While the sword and the shield are not heavy, Joan Mas has to carry the sword up high, which can be tough on your arm. Before the day, we visit some houses that are on route to organize a resting place where you can take a drink of water. They are secret places but to be asked is an honour and Joan Mas will have his photos taken with all the family and children.”
He continues, “When you do it, it changes your life. It was all a big party before, but when you’re Joan Mas you take on a responsibility. All eyes are on you, the press are interviewing you and you will be Joan Mas for a year…”
On August 2nd. The Battle commences at Joan Mas' house next to the font de gall, around 7pm and be careful where you stand to watch. It gets crowded and can be dangerous in some areas for small children.