Mallorca-Art and Crafts-LLATRA- ART OF PALMS
When Easter comes, our country Spain is full of stalls selling handmade palms with beautiful shapes that later will be sold to be blessed on Palm Sunday. Here in Mallorca, this sector includes not only these products typical of this time of year, but we extend it to the production of basketry in all its variants.
Although the tradition is more rooted in Elche, in Mallorca has also performed such craft, as in 1955 the island had approximately 8500 artisans of the palm (here called craftsmanship of llatra ). Today we have only one artisan in the whole island. He is called Guillem Caselles. Our last craftsman of the palm, can be found on popular fairs or markets all over the island.
It is known that this practice was made in Mallorca in the Neolithic period and later was an activity carried out by women, children or elderly in order to have extra income for the family economy.
It was in the north of Mallorca where it blossomed more, specifically in Arta, and Sant Llorenç and Capdepera where today still taught classes to learn this craftworks. In fact, in 1899 was born in Capdepera a cooperative to commercialize these products, alongside with another cooperative born in Arta.
To do any of these products, the beginning of the process will be the collection of the palm leaves, a variety of small palm trees that can be seen by many corners of the island, called palmito. This harvest period is concentrated in the first 15 days of July, when the palm leaves are at their best. To pick up the palm leaves at the early twentieth century or late nineteenth century, men bandaged their hands, until they reached the first specific tools for this activity. Despite all this, today is still a practice done entirely by hand.
Once harvested, the leaves should be dried in the sun to proceed later to the application of sulfur by a controlled emanation of gases or vapors. This means, the sulfur is fired to emit smoke and the palm leaves (here in Mallorca are usually called also garballó) in contact with this sulfur smoke. With this process, the whiteness of the palm leaves increases, also flexibility and softness.
After this process, for distribution, palm leaves are classified depending on the various uses, for exemple to do baskets, bags, Easter palms, and so on. Some small leaves can be tinted with different colors, to be later used to make ornaments.
As a curiosity, the process with sulfur was also performed for medical reasons. Osteoarthritis is, and it was, a very common disease in our island, obviously because of our geographical location and climate, high humidity level on the island that causes rheumatic diseases.
The majorcan women knew that touching or keeping the skin in contact with products which had been in contact with sulfur, prevented future arthritic or rheumatic problems. Therefore, it was common for majorcan women to have different bags or baskets made with palm leaves. For example, not only the small purse to go to the church or larger to be use everyday, but also several specific bags and baskets to go to buy potatoes or daily shopping ,also a small, narrow and flat bag for carring doctor’s prescriptions.
Discover Mallorca with Private Tour Guides the ancient crafts made on the island, the llatra or palm leaves crafts.
Let us guide you through the ancient traditions and crafts of the island, in the hands of our licensed tour guides you will discover unknown traditions and many ancient crafts made in mallorca for many years and this craftworks are part of our cultural heritage.
Visit Mallorca with Mallorca Private Tour Guides and be surprised by a lot of crafts and traditional trades still remaining on the island.
Mallorca Private Tour Guides Team