“Mare de Déu dels Angels, assistiu-mos. Pollencins, aixecauvos, que els pirates ja són aqui.” Our Lady of Angels, help us. Pollensa, get up! The pirates are already here!
These are the words of Joan Mas calling to the heavens on encountering the pirate leader, Dragut. The whole event dates back to mid- 1500s and it has little to do with the historical Islamic occupation of Mallorca and Spain. The re-conquest of Spain ended in 1492 with the final eradication of Islamic influence in Granada. Indeed, Jaume of Aragon had already delivered Mallorca from Islamic domination in the thirteenth century. These Moors and Christians had their spat in 1550 and Dragut, a Turkish pirate was nothing more than an opportunist. The battle ensued as a result of a treacherous local Christian, Joan Xumet (aka Lloctinent) who has his own role in the contemporary simulation, who allied himself with the pirates.
In a nutshell, the battle gets started about 7pm when Joan and Dragut encounter each other in the Plaça Almoina. Joan eyeballs Dragut, calls on the Patrona for her assistance, chases him and his troops to Sant Jordi and then hoofs it to the football pitch for a bundle with Dragut and his boys. They beat them, nick their flag and Joan and his mates trundle back to the main church in Plaça Major for some thanksgiving. This is rounded off by a hearty rendition of Pollensa’s anthem, Visca Pollensa, and a knock-your-socks-off firework display.
This re-enactment happens every year on August 2nd. It is the realism in its delivery that makes the event so important and so thrilling. The Moors and Christians is live theatre. It is not glint-toothed and sanitized; it is pirates battling with defenders, it’s messy, it’s dirty, it’s crowded, and it’s hot and sweaty. These are non-entertainers, entertaining. Whether they are young or old, the people of Pollensa are proud of their local tradition. It is astonishing and a remarkable manifestation of popular theatre for and by the people, performed in the streets that once witnessed the actual battle.
(Article taken and adapted from back issues of TOTN.)
About 3,000 residents of Pollensa vote in the middle of July for their choice of Joan Mas and Dragut (along with his Abanderat and Lloctinent). Elections are held in the early evening in the Joan March gardens of the Old Town. All candidates are there with last minute campaigning, along along with their friends and family. Indeed, everyone and his aunt were out to vote that night. It’s serious business. Everyone pops off for a quick dinner about 10.30pm ready to return for the results just after midnight (depending on how the count goes), once the results are announced the party begins.
In 2017, Joan Mas is Ramon Perello. Read our article here.
In 2013, Joan Cerdà Cifre was Joan Mas. Our interview with him from 2014 is here.