Es Firó 2015

In the previous post, we talked about the feast of Moors and Christians in Spain, its origins and how it went from being a celebration with a deeply religious base to become a markedly playful and theatrical event, a unique event.

Every second Monday of May, Sóller celebrates its feast of Moors and Christians, in the Majorcan language known as “Es Firó”.

Es Firó commemorates a pirate plunder that took place on May 11th, year 1561, by the forces of Turkish and Algerian pirates that attacked Sóller in those days. There are 4 battles represented: two of them in the Port of Sóller, one in La Huerta, and one in the main square of Sóller, thus the defense of the Valley of Sóller and the victory of the Sollerics over the Moors invading forces is represented.

The Sollerics defending troops under the command of the Captain Joan Angelats, defeated Moorish Corsair forces after an entire day of cruel and bloody clashes in different parts of the Valley of Sóller.

This very year and from early hours of May 11th, there were already plenty of Sollerics paraded with the typical clothing of those days, men and women’s clothes of Majorcan farmers as well as its counterpart, the invading Moors.

The festivities started with the departure of the Captain Angelats and his defending troops towards the Port of Sóller, where approximately at 17:00 hours they rejected the first Moors landing attempt on the beach of C’an Generós, through an spectacular deployment of slingshots and arquebus fire, surrounded by thousands of spectators.

The Moors try once again to land, now on Repic’s beach, where they breakdown Solleric troops and head to the Valley with the horrible intention of plundering Sóller.

Around 19:00 hours, another confrontation on the Sea Bridge or “Pont d´en Barona” takes place while another group of Moorish invaders arrives at the central square of Sóller, besieging and taking possession of the Town Hall.

Surrounded by thousands of people, dressed in the traditional manner, the Moors demolish the Church of Sóller and plunder it. Then, they “steal” a bank that plays the role of Castle, dropping golden chocolate coins from the balcony. The Christian flag turns into Moors’ flag.

At that very moment, in different parts of the square, the excesses commited by the Moors are recreated: farmers’ hangings, different assault of the square houses as well as the failed assault to the House of the Courageous Women or “Valentes Dones”.

The defending troops under Captain Angelats’ command storm the square around 21:00 hours catching the Moors by surprise, causing hand to hand combats and a great display of gunpowder simulating the cannon and arquebus shot. The Moors are defeated.

It is when the tremendous and most emotional moment of the party comes. Capitan Angelats, surrounded by the Courageous Women, from the balcony of the Town Hall, recites to all the people of Sóller the verses of the Exultation of the Victory and the spectators, visitors and participants explode with excitement among screams, “bravos” and harquebus shots, thanking the “Mare de Déu de la Victoria” for the happy outcome of the battle.

At that time, thousands of voices come together to sing excited “La Balanguera”, the official anthem of Majorca.

The celebration ends with the return of the Virgin to the hospital’s Church.

And the party continues throughout the night around the Valley…

In 1561, two Moors with very bad ideas known as Otxali and Iusuf-Arrais formed a Corsair squad of 23 galleons full of more Moors, including cousins, colleagues and associates, with the blackest intentions of attacking Majorca and seize everything they could, because it was a long travel to come back just with oranges.

Along the way, the Moorish fleet stopped in Ibiza to get water. Some popular versions say that the natives of Ibiza, neither stupid nor lazy, gave the whistle to Majorcan cousins telling them about the Moors who were coming to the largest of the Balearic Islands and they thought to land in Sóller. Nowadays we still don’t know how Ibiza’s people knew that, but maybe they knew through any talk of this kind: “… Hey, Mohamed… and you say you’re going to Majorca, honey? … “.

The notice came to the Captain General of Mallorca, Guillem de Rocafull, who gives the alarm the captain of Sóller, Joan Angelats, as well as Bunyola, Santa María de el Camino and Alaró so to prepare, because the Moors were approaching and did not come on holiday or to eat in Cas Carreter.

Other versions are running that since the beginning of the month of may of the 1561, Guillem de Rocafull, had sent two armed frigates to the North of Africa, with the Mission of making a review off the coast of Algiers, at that time, a nest of Turkish pirates who had frightened all over the Western Mediterranean and walked with the very bad idea of attacking one of the Mallorcan towns.

On Saturday, may 10, hear a fleet consisting of 23 Turkish boat that was around the seas of Ibiza and disembark in it to stock up on water. The Captain General of Mallorca, Guillem de Rocafull, having no idea that villa would be attacked, instructed the captain of each people to organize the defense of its respective location.

Sunday, 11 may 1561, on the day of San Poncio, 1700 Corsairs landed at Ses Puntes, among Turks, Algerians, cousins, colleagues and associates, very probably guided by a former slave who had fled from Sóller and knew the area very well. The Moors began to down to land shortly before four o’clock in the morning, breaking dawn.

It is then when the guards on duty at the hut of the Coll de s’Illa discover that the Moors come armed to the teeth and, as we said previously, they did not come on holiday or to eat in Sa Teulera. The guards fall running into the village and, playing the Horn, give the alarm to prevent the sollerics.

Meanwhile, the Moors climbed to the “Coll de s’Illa” and continued until the possession of “Sa Figuera”, “Son Llempaies” and “Coll den Borrassà”, reaching “Son n’Avinyona”, where they separate into two groups. The most numerous group formed by 800-1000 men, head to “l’Horta”, with the intention of crossing the bridge den Barona and climb up el Camp Llarg road to the junction of the convent, and thus enter Sóller by Carrer Nou. The second group enters the villa by Ses Argilés, towards the Pont dels ACEs, victory Street, and La Lluna Street. The maneuver was very cunning, the Moors wanted to take to the sollerics sleeping and crossfire, trusting surprise factor to counteract the reaction of the sollerics capacity and gain victory in the 2nd set.

But the Moors entrust themselves too much and not bear in mind that their itinerant presence was already known and the habitual defense had been started: the captain of Sóller, Joan Angelats, had gathered all men able to fight, and ordered a squadron of relief to the villas of Bunyola and Alaró. No one knows why Santa Maria´s people never were warned.

There were between 450 and 500 men from Sóller and Fornalutx, grouped in three flags under the direction of Captain Joan Angelats, more other two flags, 111 men in total, Bunyola and Alaró, under the orders of the captain Ignasi García and Pere de Sant Joan, respectively. They all are armed with spears and pikes, harquebuses and crossbows. In addition, Angelats had reinforced the garrison of the fortress of the port, if the pirates decided to attack the place.

To five in the morning, the news about the landing comes to Sóller. Captain Angelats puts his men in the Camp de s’Oca, which is the logical way of access from the sea and wanting to decide everything, without extra time or go to penalties, and lower division to the Moors. Come on,the thing was serious. At the same time, he gives the order that touch the campaigns and women, the elderly and the children leave the village and go to retreat to the mountains.

For its part, the most numerous group of Moors reaches the bridge den Barona and discover the christian camp. There are moments of confusion. The Moors who were so happy believing that they would surprise the sollerics, end up being the surprised them. Among the confusion and ignoring the exact number of Christian fighters and its defense capability, the Moors begin to shoot arcabuzazos from the bridge to everything that was moving, and all that was not moving. But the Christians have already sent notice to fighters sollerics about the rest of the pirates into the villa on the other side and they are looting it.

And here the confusion increases, now between the captains and Christian fighters, who do not know how to proceed. In the midst of the discussion trying to reach an agreement, seasoned by powerful expressions that help in any decision-making process such as: “Cagondei”, “rebetua”, “Betua del Món”, “CA a tish” and any other pearl in Majorcan language suitable for this kind of occasions. Sergeant Antonio Soler makes be listened among the Christian forces, recommending lash group front, and leave the defense of the villa for later and not staying in the middle of two fires. Antonio Soler is a grizzled veteran fighter of the armies of the Emperor Felipe II, with much prestige among his countrymen, who listen and accept his opinion with the full conviction and thinking about “this guy certainly knows”.

And the Sollerics and their cousins were not slowed down. With the determined onslaught of the sollerics where arrows, spears, swords, sablazos, flying kicks, chairs, tables, bullets of arquebus and everything that could hurt were flying, Turks get frightened and begin fleeing. Christians, feeling invincible, pursue them by way of the port, the orchard and the Puig de Muntaner up to Son n’Avinyona, where they kill moor Captain who led the invading troops.

In this battle the sollerics Miquel Canals and Nicolau Bisbal lost their lives.

The personal guard of the Moor Captain flees towards the boats, but in the escape, meets a group of bandits and their hunting dogs who face them brutally and disperse them. This group of bandits, who lived normally confronted the captain of Sóller, Joan Angelats, the crown and all the power of the law and public order, saw that the Moors were attacking, and they decide to put away their differences and go to the aid of their countrymen and relatives, because in the Mediterranean we won’t be all brothers, but at the end we are all cousins. Later and because of his participation against the Moorish invaders, these bandits would be forgiven by the King Felipe II.

While, some 200 defenders pursue fugitives Moors by olive groves of Sa Figuera, port plain and El Cingle up to s’Illeta, killing many ones.

Since the bulk of the Moors has been destroyed with all the honours according to the occasion, Captain Angelats and his warriors decide to retreat and wait for the rest of pirates near to Son n’Avinyona.

Some Moors from the second group that attacks Soller, reaches the houses of Can Tamany, at that time owned by the family Casesnoves, and where the sisters Casesnoves, Xisca and Cati, were alone, since all the men of the family were fighting in any group that fought on the battlefields where Christians and Moors were killing each other.

A moor manages to slip in inside the house meeting with a boot of wine filled and… who wastes a full and free wine boot?. One of the sisters Casesnoves, seeing the moro was very busy with the boot of wine, attacked him with an olive tree trunk and made him a worthy contest stripe in the Middle hairstyle, leaving him as long as wide the moor was and lying on the floor but without releasing the boot of wine. Xisca and the Cati closed the door of the House, and from the windows, they clashed with the other Moors with stones and everything they had at hand, and shouting them anything but handsome, since the Moors were like crazy wanting to enter, it is not known with certainty whether to defend his partner or for the boot of wine.

When Cati and Xisca finished their own”munitions”, decided to throw out the window the corpse of the moor. The rest of the Moors to see the body of his companion and the hairstyle of stripe in the middle that the sisters had made him, decided to go in search of an easier booty. As we have said, the hairstyle of stripe in the middle was unique.

With this episode, the legend of the “Valentes Dones” was born, the brave women, and at present, sollerics commemorate it choosing two girls of Sóller are reminiscent of the heroic sisters, Xisca and Cati Casesnoves, which hold the representation of the town throughout the year is one of the main events of the may fair.

Returning to the course of events, the pirates who looted the town and its surroundings back to their boats following the same path as the first leg, really happy, loaded with clothing, money, jewelry and all sorts of souvenirs, as well as with people who have made prisoner after sacking the Church and reach Sa Coma.

Again, the sollerics attack with arrows, spears, swords, sablazos, flying kicks, chairs, tables, bullets, in the field are n’Avinyona, and the Moors become cow and flee leaving everything wore clothes, money, jewelry and all their souvenirs, including weapons because they hinder too much at the time of running.

In full flight, a squadron of Moors, pushed by a group of 25 pursuers, misleading arriving Ses Alzines bridge, and takes the path of Ginjolar, Can Baixo. Arriving at the plain of Ginjolar, near the garbage dump, the sollerics have already caught them and produced a hard clash. The Moors have no nothing to win and very much to lose, they abandon the loot and prisoners who wore, stabbing some ones. There, they kill the chaplain Gaspar Miró and a daughter of Pere Canals, and let wounded Mossèn Antoni Roger.

The sollerics pursue the surviving moors, that in situations like this tend to be those who run faster, until they have re-embarked and lifted anchors, shortly after noon.

In total, it appears to be that 211 Moors lost their lives including three officers, among them. On the solleric band there are half a dozen dead fighters, not counting a large number of wounded on both sides, some of which would die later because of wounds, since at that time there was no a health centre in Soller, nor had Dr. Bartomeu Colom i Mestre´s medical office.

Only a prisoner is captured wandering like fool lost by s ‘Illeta’, while that the Moors captured a fornalutxenc of name Joan Arbona, who was on guard in the watchtower of the Coll de s´Illa and, apparently, the poor man was lame.

Most of the loot that pirates took was recovered. At the end of the day, objects were joined in the square of the village and returned to their real owners, prior oath.

On Tuesday, May 13, the same year of 1561, the jurors of the Kingdom of Majorca sent a letter to King Felipe II narrating what happened in Sóller, magnifying the performance and morale of the defenders, and making a great praise of the Captain General of Majorca, Guillem de Rocafull, and preventive measures which have been adopted for the defense of the island.

Due to the constant threat of pirates, from the 16th century, the Picada Tower and the castle of the Puerto De Sóller was built. Also, parts of town were fortified, but in this last work just a stretch of wall next to the parish church of Sóller still remains.

At the margin of such as have been changing certain parts of the story up to become a legend, the most impressive of Es Firó is still the excitement and magic that is lived out the feast, the incredible multitudinous, multicolored, multiracial, multi … quite spectacle, that makes this festival worthy of being lived.

Es Firó 2015, fulfilled. Es Firó 2016, here we go …

José Francisco Pérez Alvarez
Gorka Álvarez
Revision and translation of texts:
Dzohara Caracola