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THE ELECTRONIC LIVEIBIZA

Weekly Edition 040: Saturday 1th December 2001

<< Island Ecology by José P Ribas

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An Anthropological View
by Kirk W Huffman

 
"Ric com un Verga"
Of Pigs and Men on Eivissa/Ibiza - Part Ten
 

The day of the matança (pig killing) is also a day of feasting, culminating in the final feast at night or late in the afternoon which begins with the famous arros de matançes (Rice of the pig killing), looked forward to by all and justly renowned. This feast, and its often accompanying traditional festivities - now unfortunately rather rare - was seen as almost the culmination of the matança cycle by the invited guests and extended family members not living in the household. As we have seen in earlier articles, this last feast was one of several during the day, the first one of the day being when participants took their first break to esmorzar once the pig had been cleaned and opened and the intestines sent to the women's area for cleaning. This companatge, with bread, sobrassades, botifarro and goat cheese - sometimes also with smoked fish, dried figs, olives and lumps of fried pig blood - is a welcome break from the work that began early in the morning.

A later food break - whilst the men are cutting up the pig - could/can be (if one is near the sea) of fried octopus or calamari with some fresh pig meat. On Formentera can be added also fried pig blood, potatoes, peppers and squid. During such breaks the young women, S'al lotea, eat in the kitchen/cooking area, where they continue to work. Adults eat separately in the sheltered porch entrance area of the house.

Once the work has progressed to the stage where the sobrassades have been hung, the women begin to make the soups for the evening meal. Most of the major work is now finished, but the matançer will periodically go outside to see how the botifarres are progressing in the large cauldrons of boiling water that have been on the go all day long. The women prepare a long table, sometimes five to ten metres in length, often placed in the entrance hall of the house. Preparing the big meal has been continuing on and off all daylong and women have been shuttling back and forth for hours. There is now much jollity and participants gradually finish their tasks to sit down at the large table. Up until the 1950s in many areas it was traditional for women and young children to sit at one side of the long table and young and adult men to sit on the other. Nowadays this has broken down and both sexes tend to mix, both sitting on either side of the table - although the older men still tend to group together on one part of their side and the older women likewise on theirs. Sometimes young children will sit apart, on low chairs or stools or perched on steps. The long table is laid with fresh bread, bottles of vi pagès (peasant wine - fresh, sometimes rather sweet like a mild port or sherry) and sometimes - the modern utilitarian masterpiece - a line of toilet paper rolls for participants to use at will (to wipe their hands with, that is). Women bring out the first course, the arros de matançes, a rice stew with a base of chicken, fish, calamari, rabbit, squid or mushrooms (or a combination of some of them) mixed with sliced lean fresh pork. Everyone is cheerful; laughter and gaiety fill the air. Conversation turns around the pig, the quality of the work, the thanks to the matançer, the catching up on news with extended family relatives that one may not have seen for ages. The men tend to dig freely into the wine stocks - the older ones often in hunched conversations sometimes dealing with past matançes, debt discussions, ancient smuggling exploits, land problems, kinship disputes, proposed marriage pros and cons, and so on. The older women will often discuss amongst themselves the health and plans for newly born additions to the extended family, marriage hopes and plans for the younger lotetas polidas (beautiful, refined, unmarried females), recent minor scandals, health of the elderly - in fact very much the same sort of discussions that most normal people in whatever culture in the world would have on such an occasion, bearing in mind that each culture will have its own variations and particular cultural obsessions. Such modern gatherings in, say, England or the United States, might end up with conversations basically revolving around work, wages, new cars or other such gadgets, i.e. generally depressing topics and basically topics that are not really of much importance in the real scheme of things. On Eivissa there is sometimes, of course, a certain amount of hidden flirting going on between particular unmarried young males and females: this is a normal situation and one of great import traditionally, particularly as marriage within the larger extended family is the customarily preferred form of marriage (particularly between second cousins - but more about this and the traditional courting ritual, Sa festeig, in a later series of articles). These close forms of marriage are now dying out on Eivissa, but the present younger generation's parents and grandparents are often couples where the spouses are related to each other, a common form of marriage until well into the 1960s in many areas of the island.

Once the first dish is finished, the women will bring out the second course, often a paella de matançes containing fresh pork - often with tongue, ribs, kidneys, green peppers, potatoes, etc. On Formentera, tongue is not included in this dish. The whole feast proceeds at a leisurely, natural pace, taking hours. Conversation and laughter ebb and flow: periodically one individual will dominate the conversation of the whole table, usually with a recent hilarious - and often slightly risqué - story related to some local well known individual (local politicians are always fair game here) and the good natured - and sometimes sardonic laughter - will flow again up and down the long table and reverberate off the cal (lime)-painted walls. As time goes on the unlabelled wine bottles gradually empty and by now most of the men are smoking - mostly black tobacco (any men smoking 'light' or menthol cigarettes here might be looked upon a bit askance), some smoking cigars, and a few of the older men possibly smoking pota, the traditional Eivissenc cured herbal tobacco mixture. Pota is a bit hard to get now - I once made the mistake years ago of asking an old shepherd where I could get some down on the coast and he directed me to a coastal Tabac ( tobacco) shop: when I went there to ask the elderly owner he jumped, began sweating and mumbled that they hadn't had any for over 20 years. Well, maybe that was about when the old shepherd had last been down there! Some elderly Ibicencos from the interior now try and avoid going to the coast if they can (I know of one who has refused to go to the coast for 30 years, he is so disgusted with the way that modern development has destroyed much of what was once a stunningly beautiful island). By now a few bottles of harder local alcohol may appear - Frigola, or 'Hierbas Ibizencas' (made by Marí Mayans), or the famous 'El Mono' ('The Monkey'). The deserts - often bunyols - are brought out and then sometimes the conversation will begin to take a more public, traditional, vein. Some sections of the table will have fallen silent - 'talked out', so to speak - waiting for one of the older members to tell one of the traditional 'chistes' - local stories, sometimes based on truth but sometimes highly 'mythologised'. Hilarious and often rather risqué in nature, they often recount types of events over the last hundreds of years where an individual or group from Eivissa have finally tricked or outsmarted forasters ('foreigners' - in these stories usually people from Mallorca) who have been trying to take advantage of them or the island. There is a long and rather sad history of pressures from Mallorca and the adjacent Spanish mainland trying to ridicule and squash the Ibicenco peasants' culture and way of life. Certain present day politicians in Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona - and even some in Ciutat Eivissa (Ibiza Town)- unfortunately continue this tradition. Modern-day talk about a 'Greater Catalunya' linking the Catalan-speaking mainland, Mallorca, Minorca, Eivissa and Formentera, makes a few of the older Ibicenco peasants rather angry. For many older people of pagès background, Catalans from Barcelona, Valencia and Mallorca were (and are) classed as forasters - 'foreigners', and not necessarily well-liked 'foreigners' at that (although rural Ibicencos tend to like Minorcans, some even classing them as 'like us'). I have even heard one old pagès friend speak of Ibicencos from Ibiza town as 'Catalans' - and thus all that implies for a rural peasant here. It does not necessarily imply a feeling of 'brotherhood', to put it mildly. And, unfortunately, it is true that certain members of the Vila ( Ciutat Eivissa) elite, the senyors de vila ('masters from the town'), still look down upon the pagès and those of peasant background and often use the term in a derogatory fashion. Money, modern politics and the gloss of a higher education in Palma or Barcelona may eventually convince the younger generations here that they are all 'proud Catalans'. However, it will take the death of the older peasant generation from the rural areas of the island - many of whom have more insights into what really happened in aspects of the island's history than certain modern politicians would like to be made public - before this can really happen. In spite of kinship links throughout the island, peasants and the people from the town looked upon themselves as different peoples, the peasants feeling oppressed by those from the town, and those in the town feeling perpetually threatened by the unruliness of the peasants - and these attitudes continued well into the 20th century on Eivissa. Hopefully, one day, future generations will recognise the depth and value of the traditional peasant culture and will be proud to speak their unique variant of ancient Catalan, but it will soon be too late. Even the proper language is disappearing, swamped in the new educational system by the imposition of forms of Catalan that are not from this island. Serious attempts are being made locally to collect the proper unique eivissenc language terms for many aspects of traditional life (e.g. many terms to do with agriculture or life in the fields actually have Arabic - and some Berber - language origins, often modified) but proper spellings of some of these terms can be a problem. Geographical and historical variation in the pronunciation of many eivissenc linguistic terms can often make it difficult to decide which is the 'proper' term. Most rural Ibicencos are rather adamant that there is not necessarily a proper way to write down the terms as they say that Eivissenc was/is not a written language, but a spoken one, with all that entails. They recognise, however, that Catalan is a written language (as well as a spoken one).

Enough for the moment. We have killed off the pig, made the preserved protein sources for the year, are replete with food, wine and laughter and now need to sleep. Next week I will attempt to close the matança cycle with a note on Es desfressats, the local - and now very rare - masked comedy tradition that play a prankish and hilarious role in the déroulement of some of the matançes night feasts we have been talking about this week.

 
Kirk W Huffman
kirkwhuffman@liveibiza.com
 

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