After visiting Mallorca on holiday with her parents as a kid, my dad’s cousin packed her goodies and went on her own back in 1983. She was 19 and had promised her old man to check in with the local beach bar owner Julio when she arrived. They knew him from their previous vacations there. And boy did she check in, because she’s been there ever since.
I always imagined her kicking it on the small beach outside Palma, the local sea god (Julio) rising from the waters while the small speakers on the beach play traditional folk songs featuring the bandúrria and xeremia, causing her young Scandi heart jump to the beat as his hairy Southern features bewitched her. Wait, have I gotten a weird James Bond scene mixed up in all of this? In any regard, that macho hairball and cousin Lise still run the beach bar. Julio’s mama is 93 years old and has been helping out in the kitchen since it opened. Her sister joins in sometimes too, and her two sons (Miguel and Jose) also work there. It’s amazing. I really dig the family’s Mallorcan branch.
I have some of my first and best “looking at a picture and realizing I was there when I was one year old” holiday memories from that beach. My family's been back quite a few times since, but not as much as I would have liked. It’s my childhood paradise–a family bar. You can’t beat it. We were there this July celebrating my father's 60th birthday. My cousins were working the bar and the tables. They poured local liquor on us and served us paella. It was a perfect idyll. I bet you sense a little thunder in paradise coming up. Yes, this is foreshadowing at its finest.
Shortly after I left, the happy beach bar days suffered a blow when ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna or Basque Homeland and Freedom) placed a bomb under a Guardia Civil car and killed two officers just four miles from the beach bar. One of the two cops was in my cousin's circle of friends.
I thought I’d call up Lise and find out how things have settled down a few weeks after the bombings. We can’t have those jerks mess with the tourism that fuels the family beach bar.
Vice: I got a little nervous when I heard about the bombs. It was pretty close.
Cousin Lise: It was one of Miguel's friends that died.
Yeah. I was told. How did you find out about it?
We heard on the radio that a bomb went off in Palma Nova and that two cops had been killed. We were in tears right away and thought, “Shit, are we going to go through this now?” Ten minutes later my son’s best friend called. He asked if he had heard of the bomb. My son said yes. He then said that Vanessa (the officer's girlfriend) was freaking out. She couldn't get a hold of Diego. He didn't pick up his phone and the police wouldn't tell her who the deceased cops were. She was in Palma and then drove 15 kilometers to the crime scene. Strangely enough she was let through all the way. A cop asked her if she was a colleague (which also means "friend" in Spanish). She said yes and asked if it was Diego. The cop thought she was with the force and told her that Diego was one of the two.
Yeah. She was all by herself when she was told. Miguel’s best friend drove there, but the traffic was jammed so they had to run to her. We were on the beach trying to conduct everything over the phone. It was tough. I can’t deal with stuff like this. I can’t take it. I was furious. First of all, because things like this can happen and secondly because we knew it was his first day back on the job. I don’t know him personally, but I know his girlfriend really well. She’s been with us on the beach for years. He crashed on his motorbike in March and was hospitalized for months. We’ve followed him through Vanessa ever since. “Diego is in a coma. Diego is out of the coma. Diego can’t speak. Diego is speaking. Diego is never going to be an officer again. Diego is going to make it.” So we’ve never met him, but we know a lot about him. I was told he was going to return to work and then they blow him up the same day.
He wasn’t supposed to start that early, but he insisted on getting back to work. He wasn’t allowed back on the streets. He was just going to do deskwork. He wasn’t even wearing a uniform – they were just going to move documents from one office to another when they got in the car. After the funeral Vanessa came to the beach bar. She hadn’t read the newspapers and we told her not to, but she took them anyway and started caressing a photo of Diego.
I’m running out of dreadful words. It’s been a few weeks now. What’s the atmosphere like now?
Well last Sunday three bombs exploded in the ladies toilets.
But someone called them in, right?
Someone from France called a taxi company in the Northern Spain and said that between noon and 6 PM three bombs would explode in restaurants in Palma de Mallorca. There are a quite a few restaurants in Palma de Mallorca. The first one blew up in a closed restaurant. First they thought it was a gas explosion, but it was a bomb. The second blew up in a crowded restaurant a little after 2 PM. No one got hurt. The next one was found in another restaurant and disabled. There was actually a fourth one in a big mall. It went off around 6 PM, but the mall was closed. After that we could kind of breathe again. No more please.
And that was it. Nothing has happened since. Not even nasty rumors?
They think that all the bombs were placed at once and set with time controllers. Nobody knows if there’s 30 bombs placed all over the island waiting to go off.
Shit. Have you had a look in the wine cellar?
Haha. Nah. The thing is, you become suspicious. You see young people and you think, “Ooooh, are you going to the toilet with that backpack?” A guy asked if I could hold his bag while he went for a swim and I hesitated for a second, but then again, you can’t live like that and become all hysterical.
No way. You can’t run a beach bar if you’re paranoid. Is it still what people talk about on the beach?
No. We’re just trying to move on. Everything is calm. Everyone just wants to forget. Diego's mother hasn’t shed one tear in public. She won’t give the terrorists that satisfaction.
The Spanish pride shows?
Yes. They can’t break us down. There’s just more hatred against ETA. People are saying, “Damn them, they’re not going to make us leave our wonderful island.” People really stand together.
So ETA’s attempt to scare off tourists failed?
Definitely. They haven’t succeeded. I think they were saying something about 15 tourist cancelations on the entire island. That’s nothing – you could blame that on the financial crisis too. Tourists are walking about as normal. They are all being very cool about it.
Are the cops all over now?
There’s no police to be seen. You see less than normal. I think they’re all dressed as civilians so they don’t scare the tourists off.
That makes sense.
Yesterday the Secretary of the Interior concluded that the terrorists might still be on the island, but on the other hand they might have left. You don’t have to Secretary of the Interior to figure that out. How about finding them? I like to think they have left and gone home to Basque country.
You should run for Secretary of the Interior. It’s sad that two lives are lost because of a desperate attempt at damaging tourism.
It is sad. We’re lucky they didn’t blow up a tourist. That would have been even worse. The police car that blew up drove around all morning with a bomb attached under. It was set to blow up at certain time – triggered by motion. It could have blown up in the center of Palma. The other bomb was put under a police car that was broken down – they just didn’t know. So the police found a fully intact bomb they could study and take photos of.
I’m glad you guys are all right. Keep a cold one waiting for me. I'll be back again soon.
The wonderful mama
Bugambilia is one of Santa's favorite beach bars
SIGURD KONGSHØJ LARSEN