From Mallorca to Alguer

Alguer/Alghero, Mallorca Street

Truly Mallorca! see: Electri city

“The language school of Alguer. In the service of the identity of Alguer. He who does not appreciate his language, does not love his homeland!”

There are countries which are separated by the sea. And there are some other which are connected by the sea. The infinite water surface, which for us, land-based people, means the limit of the inhabited world, for them is the inhabited world itself, with a dense network of ways. Their cities turn their back to the hostile mountains, they are open to the sea, they look at each other from the opposite shores of the sea. Like the former Greece, the former Carthage, the former Venetian-Dalmatian community. And the former Catalonia.

On the map, the former Catalan maritime empire has shrunk considerably. It no longer includes neither Sicily, nor Provence, Naples nor Malta, much less the Duchy of Athens. But there is still a small yellow spot somewhere in the east, in the corner of Sardinia, which still makes this world round, and demonstrates its maritime character. This is Alghero, in Sardinian Alighèra, in local Sardinian dialect Liéra. In Catalan, Alguer.

Alguer, from here

In the Middle Ages, the two great maritime powers, Catalonia, and its successor, the kingdom of Aragon, fought with Genoa for centuries for the supremacy over the eastern Mediterranean basin. The port of Alguerium, this magnificent checkpoint, was conquered in 1353 by the Catalans from the Genoese Dorias, and made a Catalan foothold. As is written in the first description of Sardinia, about the languages spoken on the island in 1759, two generations after Sardinia left Spain and came under Piedmontese rule:

“The languages used in Sardinia are Sard, the natural language of the country, Spanish and Catalan. The first one is the common language of every kind of people, and the first one they learn. It is very difficult to write, and therefore currently it is only spoken. Every educated person speaks Spanish, and they also teach it to their children. In this language they write every letter, document, writing, contract; in short, everything that must be written. The Catalan language is not common, but it is used only by the inhabitants of Alghero, and it is also spoken in most female convents.”

The local dialect of Catalan is still an official language in the city, in addition to Italian. It is the mother tongue of a quarter of the population, but virtually everyone speaks it. On the maps of the Catalan language area hung out in the schools and universities in Catalonia, Valencia and Mallorca, there proudly and nostalgically blooms the little red dot on the tip of Sardinia, the memory of the former greatness and the sign of belonging together. As the great Majorcan singer, Maria Del Mar Bonet – from whom we have often quoted – sings it in her song Desde Mallorca a L’Alguer, From Mallorca to Alguer:

Maria Del Mar Bonet: Desde Mallorca a l’Alguer (2003, video here)

Des de Mallorca a l’Alguer
els mocadors dels vaixells
van saludant-se a ponent,
les oliveres al vent,
antiga boira del cel,
fent papallones de verds.

Des de Mallorca a l’Alguer
la lluna diu cada nit:
«es mor la mar lentament».
El sol respon als matins:
«el foc avança roent,
per les muntanyes que veig».

Des de Mallorca a l’Alguer,
des de l’Alcúdia a l’Albuixer,
des de Maó a Cadaqués,
des de Montgó a es Vedrà,
des de Talltendre a Queixans,
de Porqueroles a Calp,
des de Mallorca a l’Alguer,
des de Dalt Vila a San Joan,
des de Tabarca a Forcall,
de Ciutadella a Llançà,
d'Espalmador a Alcanar,
de Torreblanca a Malgrat,
des de Mallorca a l’Alguer.

Vella remor de la mar:
les illes s’hi van gronxant,
i avui s'agafen les mans
des de Mallorca a l’Alguer.

Els mots que canta la gent:
vives paraules que entenc,
que tots parlam es mateix.
From Mallorca to Alguer
the handkerchiefs of the boats
greet each other at sunset
olive trees in the wind
green butterflies in the ancient
mist of the sky.

From Mallorca to Alguer
the moon says every night:
“the sea is slowly dying”,
the sun replies in the morning:
“the red fire bursts forward
as long as one can see the mountains”.

From Mallorca to Alguer
from Alcúdia to Albuixer
from Maó to Cadaqués
from Montgó to Vedrà
from Talltendre to Queixans
from Porqueroles to Calp
from Mallorca to Alguer
from Dalt Vila to San Joan
from Tabarca to Forcall
from Ciutadella to Llançà
from Espalmador to Alcanar
from Torreblanca to Malgrat
from Mallorca to Alguer

the ancient murmur of the sea,
the islands are swaying on it,
they give hand to each other
from Mallorca to Alguer.

The words sung by the people
are living words that I understand
because we all talk the same way.

The Gulf of Alghero seen from the Sardinian mountains

alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1 alguer1

“The city of Alguer, get away, my friend…” Detail from Salvador Espriu’s poem Per a una suite algueresa, engraved on an obelisk in the old port