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History in Ibiza

History of Ibiza
by Emily Kaufman


Tribute to Monsignor Joan Marí Cardona



 
People in History

Welcome to the History page. We are going to take a brief respite this week from our war chronicles in order to report on a current event of the highest order. Last Friday, 15th November, as the closing act of a week-long tribute to the late Joan Marí Cardona, this celebrated historian and scholar was named Adoptive Son of the City of Eivissa. Coming only ten months after the Canon’s death, his posthumous tribute carries double significance, firstly because it has been ninety years since this honour was bestowed on a member of island society, and secondly because Don Joan is the first rural-born Ibicenco ever to receive the title.

The name of Don Joan will no doubt ring a bell in readers’ minds as I have often cited him in my writings. (See our LiveIbiza Archive articles Weekly Edition 007 of Saturday 14th April 2001 and Weekly Edition 049 of Saturday 2nd February 2002 in particular). As someone I had the privilege of knowing, I cannot refrain from sharing a penny’s worth of my thoughts on the occasion of his adoption by the city. To say that Don Joan was the mentor of my historical career is both true and at the same time insufficient to describe his instrumentality in my development as a history writer. He was, quite simply, the lodestar in my quest to unlock the island’s ancient legacy. Year after year, over the course of the decade that I knew him, this kind and unassuming man took me by the hand and led me down the unsuspected byways of Ibiza’s venerable past. I could scarcely have begun to scratch the surface of Ibicenco history had Don Joan not shared so generously with me the fruits of his life-long research. But, of course, these ramblings are neither here nor there. They simply surge to the fore whenever I remember Don Joan. Now I’ve got them off my chest, we can proceed to the matter at hand.

Simplicity and Industry

Attended by more than one hundred people, Don Joan’s ‘adoption’ ceremony commenced with a moving homage delivered by the city’s mayor, Xico Tarrés. It is only fitting to include an excerpt from this opening speech for the mayor’s eloquent words are, in effect, the voice of the people, the voice of Ibiza. As he spoke them, history was in the making:

“Today the Eivissa Town Hall opens its doors in order to officially proclaim an Adoptive Son of the City. We do so with great pride because the person upon whom this distinction has been bestowed possessed a surplus of excellent qualities. The decision to grant this award has been unanimously upheld and advocated from the very word ‘go’. All those consulted on this question passionately defended the figure of Joan Marí Cardona, and not exactly because it is ‘the done thing’. In fact, it has been ninety years since Vila has proclaimed a new Adoptive Son. Today, … we do so full of love and recognition, and even so it seems that this title is too meagre for a man who, for decades, has earned the admiration of all Ibicencos, a man who made respect, simplicity and hard work his identifying trademarks. I believe I speak on behalf of all of the members of this council when I say that we fully realize what a great honour it is for this city to have an Adoptive Son of Don Joan’s stature.”

Tarrés then went on to commend the scholar on his tireless labour in the field of historical research as well as his unflagging and unsalaried social service. The mayor concluded, however, by emphasizing that despite all of the historian’s contributions in material terms,

“…what inspires even more admiration is his person, his simplicity and affability, his honesty and modesty. Anyone who has had occasion to walk with him around the island will tell you that he emanated humanity with his every word, that each of his history lessons was moreover a lesson in life, in respect toward others, in defence of these islands’ patrimony, all arising from a deep love of everything that surrounded him.”

Science and Passion

The ceremony then carried on with an in depth exploration of the historian’s professional trajectory, presented by Felip Cirer, the director of the Enciclopedia de Eivissa i Formentera and a personal friend of Don Joan. Cirer qualified the historian’s oeuvre as simultaneously scientific and passionate, a reference to the empirical vigour with which the scholar researched his books. His empiricism, however, was always tempered but not diminished by a profound love for his homeland. Although Don Joan’s curriculum vita is too lengthy to reproduce in full, I have included a synopsis of his most outstanding accomplishments.

Born on 19th October 1925, Don Joan grew up in the village of Sant Rafel in the heart of the Ibicenco countryside. From an early age he exhibited both a strong religious and intellectual bent, a vocation which led him temporarily away from Ibiza to the seminary in Valencia and finally to the Pontifical University in Salamanca. After being ordained in 1952, Don Joan served as the parish priest in Sant Carles for one year before being called upon to substitute Isidor Macabich as the keeper of the archives at the Cathedral. Macabich trained his young protégé in the tasks of record-keeping and palaeography (the deciphering of old documents), skills in which Don Joan soon became proficient. The priest spent long hours reorganizing the archives, streamlining its filing system, and pouring over the disjointed fragments of past centuries trying to reconstruct Ibiza’s forgotten past.

Far from being a recluse, however, Don Joan was highly active in community life and in 1959 he founded the island’s first radio station, Radio Popular, which he headed up for twenty years. During this time he also served as teacher at the Seminary of Ibiza and as the rector of Santa Creu Church. In 1977, the now mature priest was sent by the Bishop to act as the director and administrator at the newly founded Senior Citizens’ Home, The Reina Sofía Residence. From that moment on, Don Joan lived in one of the home’s modest apartments, side by side with the folk he looked after. He died there in his bed on 18th January, 2002.

During the twenty-five years he spent running the Home, the priest also served as the president of the Institute of Ibicenco Studies for eighteen years and the director of the Caritas charity organization for ten years. His unceasing commitments notwithstanding, Don Joan wrote and published eighteen books between the years 1976 and 1999, as well as one book which was never published (his first), and two books that he did not manage to complete before death claimed him.

The public honours he earned during his well-spent life include the Cross of Saint George awarded by the Catalan federal government in 1992, the Gold Medal, awarded by the Island Council in 1995, the Gold Medal awarded by the Balearic Council in 2000, and the Pitiusan Islands Award in 2001, given annually by the local newspaper, Diario de Ibiza.

Closing

As impressive as these achievements were, such lists and enumerations seem a pale reflection when compared to the true value of a man who had the rare ability to live every moment in harmony with others. It was one of the highest privileges of my life to have known him. Thank you Don Joan for everything you gave us. Your legacy consists of so much more than mere history.

Join us next week when, unfortunately, we will have to return to our unfinished business in a world where love and harmony were distinctly lacking. Until then.

Emily Kaufman

emilykaufman@liveibiza.com