It’s Patrona time… it could get messy!
‘Come and visit us when the Fiesta is on, you’ll love it’ we said to our friends.
Now I am not sure what they were expecting, but this wasn’t quite the same as the local village fete in England with cups of tea and knocking coconuts off their stands. No, this was Patrona and nothing compares to Patrona in Pollença.
It is a fun packed week that leads up to the main event when the Christians and Moors come together in the frenzy of a mock battle, but that’s not before plenty of late night partying on the square with bands and DJs alongside the many traditions and customs of Patrona. The biggest party night is Marxa Fresca when the square is turned into an 80s disco and everyone dresses in white.
This was the first one since the pandemic so naturally there was a heightened expectation and excitement around the Fiesta. For us this was our first since moving here, it marked a point in time where we felt right at home as we hung the traditional flags of Patrona on our house. I don’t think we fully qualify as Pollencins just yet but as our neighbours smiled and watched us hang our flags, they could see we were making an effort to be part of our new community. Despite hanging the town flag the wrong way around they gave us that nod of appreciation.
When you move to another country you come into contact with a completely different way of life, customs, beliefs and in our case a town with people who have a passion for celebrating their heritage. It is a wonderful sight to see the town decorated with the Pollença and Moors flags draped on houses and buildings all around the town, helping to create the buzz of the festival.
Now I am not going to attempt to give a history lesson on the Patrona, but a little bit of context is needed to make sense of what happens next. Its 1550 and the town needs to defend itself from the invasion of Turkish troops. The Christian leader, Joan Mas and the head of the Corsiars, Dragut are represented each year by locals. This year our friend, Salvador Esquinas was voted to be Joan Mas, which made the day even more exciting.
As the Christians take to the streets dressed in traditional white clothes the Turkish pirates get to wear their colourful clothes and painted faces… there couldn’t be more of a contrast!
As the Moors gathered in Placa Major, bands played and the build up began. The party was in full swing and as they moved away to take up their positions they gave way to the procession of the Patroness, Mare de Den dels Angles by the church leaders as Troop of Cornetes and Drums of the Soldà played on. What an atmosphere and there was still two hours to go before the main event.
As friends from both sides warmly greeted each other, there was a knowing look and a cheeky wink in the eye of what was to come! Our friends were beginning to understand that this was no tea party with the local vicar 😂
As we approached 7pm and the start of the battle we had taken up our position in the square to watch it on the big screen. As the breeze rustled the white fiesta paper ribbons above our heads an eerie silence fell over the town as the anticipated and intense moment when Joan Mas, Salvador, leaps from the window on Calle Major and comes face to face with Dragonet, Josep Vines for the first time in a theatrical encounter as their swords cross.
What happens next still makes your hairs stand up and the heart rate quicken no matter how many times you see it. Joan Mas turns and passionately shouts those immortal words "Mare de Déu dels Àngels, assistiu-mos! Pollencins, aixecau-vos, que els pirates ja són aquí” a passionate war cry to his fellow Pôllencins that signals the start of the battle that then rages through the streets. Salvador was a very convincing Joan Mas and you could see how proud he was to have the honour of playing the part this year.
So it begins, with a roar from the crowds and a flurry of gun shots, from historical weapons you’ll be pleased to hear, although live rounds have only just been considered to be too dangerous!. A mass of people move down Calle Major towards Placa de Sant Jordi. We ran around the other direction and found ourselves caught up in the crowd just before arriving at Placa Sant Jordi as the guns were fired to protect the church and the awaiting pirates… we got to experience the passion of Patrona, you could say it was a bit like a bull run without the bull!
Somehow in the midst of a major battle re-enactment a group of ladies, pulling their suitcases behind them had just arrived for their holiday! They were trying to get to the Hotel San Jordi which was currently the centre of guns being fired and hundreds of Christians and Moors doing battle. I am sure they were thinking about a lovely drink on the terrace not wading through hundreds of men with sticks and wooden swords running around the streets but they seem to see the funny side! They were not alone though as we spotted Tony Hadley (yes Spandau Ballet Tony) also wandering around, looking a bit lost in the middle of the battle… hopefully he wasn’t captured by the Moors, he’s performing here next week!
Fast forward to the Christian victory, the entourage led by Salvado, heads back to the parish church for the Tedèum. It was the end point of a battle that every year has more followers and intensity.
Now bearing in mind that the Patron Saint day started at 5am that morning you need plenty of stamina (and probably a few Gin Y Limons or the famous Mesclat !) to see you through right to the end…sadly we need to build up ours for next year but as the bells rang out again around midnight to signal the victory of the Christians, fireworks took to the sky and as Pollencins and Pollencines sing their anthem, d’Alborada’ in the Placa Mayor there was a sense of life as we know it had really returned in Pollença.
Fabulous photography by Ruben Orabich (instagram: @ruben.of