Mallorca is one of the most visited islands in the world and although this has major economical benefits, the local community has to cope with a foreign influx each year of 10 times its normal population. In addition, the island has become a popular destination for Northern Europeans seeking to relocate to a sunnier climate, making Mallorca an attractive choice with its cosmopolitan lifestyle and excellent infrastructure. Indications suggest that the numbers seeking to live in southern Europe will increase as a result of demographic changes and with the recent expansion of the EU, allowing free movement for millions seeking a better quality of life in what is one of the wealthiest parts of Spain.
During the late 90s, Mallorca was christened the “17th Federal State of Germany” as it was the number one destination for Germans seeking to indulge in all things German rather than expose themselves to the riches which Spain has to offer. They were not alone, as a visit to Magalluf will confirm that many English tourists also like to experience home away from home. Observations suggest that tourists wishing to maintain familiar habits find many access points on the island, supporting the theory that Mallorquins allow others to express their cultural preferences.
Expatriates benefit from an array of culturally diverse activities including international music festivals, theatre, concerts and cinema. There are international restaurants and hotels, and multi-lingual media services such as a German radio station and a variety of newspapers. You can find practically any service where a demand exists including foreign doctors, dentists, clinics, lawyers, tax advisors, and banks. The Mallorcan people are very tolerant of foreigners both seeking to provide and obtain these services. Language is considered the standard for differentiating cultures and is the cause of great debate within and between the local and foreign communities here in Mallorca.
The question is, Catalan or Castellano? Officially both languages hold the same level of importance. But there is an additional factor as the local language is a dialect of Catalan – Mallorquin. Foreigners wishing to integrate in society here learn Castellano but the language on the street, particularly in rural areas, is Mallorquin. Children attending local schools are taught mainly through Catalan (minimum 50%). There is a political will at present to increase the number of Castellano lessons, however this has been met with great resistance from the local community.
Much to the frustration of foreigners, official correspondence from government offices is sent in Catalan only. It is possible, however, to request the information in Castellano and the Government office is obliged to provide it on request. The majority of ex-patriates argue relentlessly that the official language of Spain should be the one used but there are two sides to every debate. There are roughly 6,000 languages in the world today of which 90 % are estimated to be extinct during this century as the world continues to rapidly lose older, rural languages.
One expert on the subject was quoted as saying “Languages spoken only in small, traditional, rural communities are being lost as the communities themselves are transformed and connected closely to the wider society” David Graddol quoted in the National Geographical News 26.02.2004.
It may seem strange to talk about cultural diversity at a time when many fear that cultural erosion is taking place. Globalisation is affecting every corner of the globe and Mallorca is no exception: people are eating the same food, watching the same films; beliefs and values are converging as cultural boundaries disintegrate towards a homogeneous world. Assuming language is the most distinguishing characteristic of a culture then the language should be protected and nurtured to ensure it is past from generation to generation to maintain the cultural identity of the people.
The issue of culture is viewed with great importance, so much so that a Universal Forum of Cultures is taking place in Barcelona from the 9th of May until the 26th of September organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation. The purpose of the Barcelona Forum is to invite interested parties to discuss the interrelationship which exists between tourism, culture and sustainable development. The aim of the debate is to establish a model of tourism that is compatible with the use and conservation of the cultural and natural heritage within the context of sustainable development of tourist destinations.
Es Baluard, the new museum of modern and contemporary art, is a showpiece of how a region which is heavily dependent on tourism can promote sustainable development through the restoration of an important heritage site to become a major tourist attraction that has added enormous value to the city of Palma de Mallorca. One of the distinguishing factors about Mallorquins is the pride and commitment exhibited by their community in maintaining its cultural identity and heritage. As cultural erosion continues in less fortunate places, Mallorca is a role model for the compatibility of tourism, heritage preservation and culture diversity in the context of sustainable development.