Essays - Marriage in Mallorca

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A singer had been brought all the way from Extremadura - a friend of the family, since Juana's mother is a native of that deeply traditional part of Spain - to sing the misa flamenca. He was an enormously fat, flamboyant gypsy with long black curls, sensuous lips and theatrical gestures, who delivered his chant with great emotion. Even the village priest, who had stood silently next to him at the altar during the whole masterfully controlled explosion, could not contain himself and cried out his thanks to the man for so enhancing the ceremony, because, as he put it in his ecumenical fashion, "el flamenco es vida". And so it is.

Custodia sat forlornly through the whole thing, all dressed in black, for her husband who died several years ago. "It's the last one who is leaving me", she sighed. But later on she cheered up a bit, in Aquacity...

Getting there, as they say, was half the fun. This aquatic amusement park cum banquet hall - which, we were told, belongs to a friend of the bride's father who gave him a special price for the occasion - is near Palma, at the other end of what is really a rather large island. We set out on the narrow speedway which bisects Mallorca from north to south, on the tail of another reception-bound car, packed with gypsies and blaring flamenco music, but soon lost sight of it in the neck-to-neck traffic.

The rest was an adventure in the darkness, following contradictory instructions back and forth along the east coast of the island; at one point I gave up, stopped the car at a round-about and angrily said that enough was enough, we were going back to the hotel. But at that very moment a confetti-covered car glided past trailing ribbons and I shouted "It's them!" and tore off in hot pursuit. But after another stretch in what seemed to be - and was - the wrong direction, I realized that Franci's was not the only wedding being celebrated in Mallorca that night, and pulled in to a luxury condo, where the receptionist sketched a detailed diagram which, finally, led us back on our tracks to Aquacity - where we realized that we had already driven past it several times without catching sight of the sign neatly tucked away between two hedges...

It was a great consolation to find, once we got there, that most of the others had got lost also - but they soon started trickling, and then flooding, in. Franci and Juana had invited 300 guests but, to their consternation, many, many more were turning up. It seemed that the word had got out in the gypsy circles that a gitano was marrying a wealthy paya and that all gypsies were automatically invited to eat and drink... at their expense.

The catering service staff had to bring out extra tables, put extra pork in the micro-wave, and generally double their efforts to handle the onslaught. When I lined up before the table of honour, where Franci and his bride sat in state, to make my contribution (the standard 5,000 pesetas per head) I noticed that many of the diners were not approaching the table at all, and that most of the not very numerous banknotes in the big box were only 2,000 peseta ones... As any experienced boda-goer could have told at a glance, the affair was a financial disaster, costing Juana's father almost half a million pesetas. Of course, as far as we were concerned it was wonderful, just like the bodas in Montefrio, with the gitanas, young and old, going into the lists one by one to make their rip-roaring performance. Dad filmed it all, and Nina did her rumbita as well.

The next evening, when we came back from sightseeing on the west shore of the island, we were having a sandwich in the hotel coffee shop when we suddenly saw Franci wandering past, still dressed in his wedding attire, but with the starched shirt rumpled and open at the neck and his long curly hair in disarray. We were all fairly astounded, since we had never told him where we were staying. When the wedding reception was over, it seemed, at about six in the morning, he took Juana to their new flat in Artá -only to find, upon reaching the door, that the key had been removed from his key chain by some of their friends, as a practical joke.

They decided to spend their wedding night in a hotel, and set off in their car to find one - and ended searching from one end of the island to the other. Mallorca in March is virtually empty but when the night receptionists of the hotels saw a gypsy come in at dawn asking for a room for himself and his bride out in the car, they must have imagined that they were going to celebrate some bloody defloration ritual, or worse, and told him that they were "completo". At last, they found one which would take them, and it just happened to be the Sol Jaime III.

They had spent the day sleeping and now wanted something to eat, but, he told us, the waiter had refused to make them sandwiches, because the kitchen was closed (it was about six). Dad immediately called the polite but rather haughty man over and begged him to do for Franci, who was a friend of ours, what he had not hesitated to do for us, and to put it all on our bill as well, and the sandwiches were made.

A little later that evening we went up to their room to deliver a pocket comb so that Juana could arrange her hair. She was sitting shyly on the bed wrapped up in a sheet, and the huge white wedding dress - which, she told us, had been imported from France at a cost of half a million pesetas - was lying on the floor between the bed and the wall. It seemed to fill up half of the room, like a great white swan.

The next evening, at the end of our day of sightseeing, we stopped to visit them at the restaurant in Artá. They were sitting rather glumly in front of the fire, worrying about all the money they would have to pay back to her father for his losses. "¡Ay, los gitanos!", Juana moaned. I laughed and said to my friend, "If you had married a gypsy girl they would never have done this to you", and he ruefully nodded his head in agreement. I couldn't help him teasing him, and added, "The trouble is, Franci, now, you are a payo".

The above texts were written by Lawrence Bohme, artist, author and conference interpreter, who lived in Montefrio and Granada. If you are interested in staying in one of his cottages in Montefrio then visit his website www.donlorenzo.com

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