There is a lot of talk about tourism-phobia lately. But the concept is widely misused. Many of us who complain about tourist saturation and the rising cost of living, embraced tourism with open arms in our youth. During the grey years of Franco’s regimen, the arrival of people from other countries was like a breath of fresh air. A way to discover new cultures, music and lifestyles. And it also brought about the chance to cultivate sentimental relationships. The “holiday romances” that had so.

C.G. | Archivo DM – Terrelló – Carmen Ortega

In this regard, Mallorca can claim to have patented several brand images: the ensaimada, “la isla de la calma” (the island of calm), the “paisajes lindos” (beautiful landscapes of Mallorca), the “honeymoon”…. and the “picador”. This figure, which had similarities to an Ibizan “palanquero” (a pursuer of female tourists), defined the era.

The “picador” was an island version of the “Latin lover”. A more or less modest conquistador with a Vespa or Seat 600, who fished in the tempestuous waters of the sexual and sentimental dissatisfaction of many Nordic women. The famous “suecas” (Swedish girls) who would pass into the collective memory as being in a class of their own. Legendary. An abstract of the foreign women who spent their summer holidays in Mallorca. Beautiful, sculptural and longing to escape the Scandinavian coldness and into the heat with a casual, passionate lover.

The majority of these romances were fleeting, played out to the sound of one of the season’s hit tunes. With romantic walks along Na Burguesa with Palma in the background, a cocktail by the pool at the hotel Victoria, mornings on the beach and hot nights in discos with red felt walls and glitter balls and the smell of spilled “cuba libres”. A clandestine romp at the hotel Sorrento, followed by a tearful parting with the words “until next summer”, which often as not never came.

I remember the crossing on-board the “Dana Corona” of the Danish shipping line DFDS Scandinavian Seaways. It was already the 1970s, but the sexual effervescence between Latinos and Nordic girls was still very active. The crew was mostly Spanish. One of the officers received the Swedish and Danish tourists in his cabin, offering them tea and sympathy and probably something more. A short, dark-skinned waiter would often as not be ensconced in an embrace with one of female passengers, much taller than him, escaping her husband.

But sometimes those relationships were lasting. It was an atypical, but effective combination. The same thing occurred with many of the tourist guides that stayed in Calamajor, or the fans of the infamous Hotel 33 in Magaluf. It resulted in a curious Mallorcan man and Swedish woman love match. Mixed marriages that put the forbidden passion of summer to one side to try and build a stable marriage.

The “picador” was an island version of the “Latin lover”. A more or less modest conquistador with a Vespa or Seat 600, who fished in the tempestuous waters of the sexual and sentimental dissatisfaction of many Nordic women.

I have known several cases of this intermingling of races. At first, it was the central topic of island gossip if a local boy married a Swedish girl, because the term “Swedish girl” automatically evoked all those sensual dreams of the 60s and 70s. But their cohabitation and marital success weren’t always easy. The women complained about the disorganisation and chaos. And also about the individualism of the islanders, because in the Nordic countries –who were united in their common battle against the cold and snow- matters were resolved a lot more collectively. The island anarchy was totally incomprehensible to them.

The men, on the other hand, grew tired of the Scandinavian formality. Of their protocols and discipline. Thus the term “fer-se el suec” (pretend to be Swedish, or rather, pretend not to understand) was coined, to indicate the phlegmatic disregard for certain things, as if they didn’t exist, so characteristic of Nordic countries.

But in many cases these relationships did last the course, and in this way Mallorca had its Nordic strongholds way before any other part of the Spanish territory. The Swedish church, with its spectacular celebration of St Lucia, has always been newsworthy. The image of those angelic blonde girls with light-coloured eyes, with their crowns of candles, appeared to come straight out of a fairy tale.

Swedish cuisine also had a pioneering representation in a restaurant on Calle Brondo. Likewise the Danish gastronomy in the Terreno district. They were small, family-oriented establishments, directed above all at members of that community. Nowadays a lot has changed, the Nordic community buy properties en masse in fashionable areas such as Santa Catalina, and open the trendiest restaurants aimed at the general public.

The old figure of the “Latin lover” on his Vespa has passed into the history books, because Mallorca has become a cosmopolitan place almost in essence. Nowadays nobody raises an eyebrow at a mixed relationship between a Mallorcan and a Swede. After all, Stockholm is only a three-hour plane ride away. The world has become globalised, it has standardised, with a largely international clientele with their “gin & tonic” and “lounge bar” ways. That old cliché of the 1960s has become slightly irrelevant, just like the “boutique hotel” and the “street bar”.

Despite it all, nobody can deny Mallorca’s pioneering attitude towards embracing something so different, as it was at the time, to see a Mallorcan man from the Franco era, stepping out with a sophisticated, Social Democratic Swedish woman.

  • 3