Hello history buffs. November has come in
with a quiet roar, reminding us that winter cannot be held
at bay forever. The temperatures have dropped and a tramuntana
has begun to chisel a hard edge on the wind. There's that
unmistakable nip in the air that always conjures up images
of Sant Carles, the first of the 'winter' fiestas.
Incidentally, the Ibicenco habit of dividing
the year into simple blocks of summer and winter most certainly
has its roots in old Celtic custom. In their fascinating book,
A History of Pagan Europe, Prudence Jones and Nigel Penick
"In Gaul and Ireland the year was divided
basically into two halves: winter and summer. The winter half
was the beginning of the year, starting at Samhain (1st November).
This was the most important festival of the year, showing
the pastoralist, rather than agricultural origin of [their]
calendar. Samhain was the end of the grazing season, when
flocks and herds were collected together and only the breeding
stock set aside from slaughter . . . . The second great festival
of the year was Beltane or Cétshamhain (1 May, May
While this information is not altogether applicable to Ibiza,
there are some interesting correlations. The primary similarity
is that 1st November has traditionally marked the beginning
of matança season in the Pitiuses. (See Kirk's articles
for a full account of this ancient ritual). Before this date,
the weather was simply not cool enough to insure that the
meat would stay fresh. After all the hard work and planning
entailed in a matança, pagesos were reluctant to undertake
the proceedings until the reliable chilliness of November
had set in. Today, with refrigerators to aid in preservation,
bringing the slaughter forward by a week or two is not such
risky business. But in yesteryear, the sausages made on the
day of matança had to carry a family through the long,
lean winter. To have this important food source spoilt by
warm weather would have meant certain hunger in the months
So, perhaps the standard assumption that
Ibicencos divvy up the year according to the touristic seasons
stands to be corrected. The tourist season (which does in
fact begin in early May and end in late October) is perhaps
a convenient modern overlay on an ancient nature-venerating
society. I've always maintained that, despite its veneer of
Christianity, Ibiza has a pagan heart - what with well-dancing,
moon worship, slaughter rituals and a whole host of practices
that Kirk will, no doubt regale us with in upcoming articles.
But, we're digressing here. Our subject today is Sant Carles,
a village that represents much more than island's passage
into winter. From the 13th to the 18th century, Sant Carles
was the central hub of a knight's demesne. This Catalonian
knight was called Diego de Perlata and, on the merits of his
excellent service to King Jaime the Conqueror, he was awarded
a territory that took in present-day Sant Carles, Sant Joan
and Cala Sant Vicente. The area was called simply 'Peralta'
and fell within the larger quartón del rei, which encompassed
the whole Northeast corner of the island and belonged to the
Conqueror's son, Jaime II, King of Majorca.
Diego had a horse and was in charge of things
like letting out land to farmers and then collecting 10% of
the annual yield, much the way any lord would. Being a landlord
in those hard luck days, however, was not exactly a going
concern. The families that chose to settle in post-Conquest
Ibiza were few and far between. Island historian Joan Marí
Cardona estimates that during the 13th and 14th centuries
only about thirty families lived in the whole of Peralta.
The bulk of the population settled around what we today think
of as the village of Sant Carles (because there was a well),
with farms becoming progressively sparser to the north as
the land became steeper, craggier and harder to farm. Probably
only two or three brave families lived in Cala Sant Vicente
prior to the 17th century.
The lands let by these early pagesos, and
the taxes paid on them, were small business matters for one
so noble as a knight. They were matters that could easily
be done by factors or lieutenants or lawyers. Therefore, to
what extent Diego de Peralta actually resided in Ibiza and
to what extent he continued seeking adventure through knight
errantry on the peninsula remains a matter of conjecture.
The fact is that, over the centuries, his demesne was handed
down to native Ibicencos and ended up in the hands of the
Juan family (Juan being a surname in this case) who collected
taxes and laid down the law in Peralta until Abad y Lasierra
came along in 1785. The bishop, as we all know, divided the
island into small parishes, all under the control of the local
government and the Church.
Records do not record the sentiments of the diminished Juan
family, but they could not have been very pleased with this
turn of events, which they probably saw as unlawful appropriation.
One happy note is that all of the people
of Sant Carles de Peralta were in agreement on the location
of their new church. "It was such a lovely spot, how
could they not accept the episcopal decision?" rationalizes
Don Joan. "Funnily, no records were kept of the proceedings
and we do not know the exact date the church was finished.
But we can assume it was some time before the turn of the
century, like the rest of the trouble-free churches."
Abad y Lasierra chose St. Charles as the patron saint, one
of the few patrons who was not a Biblical figure, but rather
a 16th century archbishop. What I'd like to know is what the
popular reaction was when they found out their fiesta would
be in winter!
See you next week when we'll take a look
at Santa Gertrudis.