Ibiza History Culture

Established 1982
Ibiza Artists Anthropology Bibliomania Ecology History Features


by Gary Hardy




Many of the older generation of the Ibicencan country folk still wear their traditional costumes, in the villages, towns and the countryside, especially on a Sunday when they take a great deal of pride in their appearance when they go out to the their local parish to attend church.

The women's dress is particularly noteworthy, with several petticoats worn one over the other and down to the ankles produce a crinoline effect to the outer skirt and apron. These are invariably black, as is also the blouse, which surmounts it. Over this is worn a beautiful hand embroidered shawl with a silk fringe. On festive occasions the head is covered with an attractive scarf, short enough to display the long dark plait of hair tied with brightly coloured silk ribbon. In the fields a large soft straw sombrero is worn over the headscarf to give added protection against he sun.

The men's dress is much more typical European, but mainly black and usually includes a beret or a soft black felt or straw hat of the Panama type.

The children will also stand out and attract your admiration for the spotless, dainty way in which they are turned out, both in their school uniforms and in their day to day clothes. It is usual for the little girls to have their ears pierced and gold sleepers or small rings inserted shortly after they learn to walk.

However, over the years and with the influx of more and more foreigners to the island and the consequent employment of so many of the local boys and girls into tourism the younger generation has now discarded its national costume for the more orthodox dress.

Nevertheless, one aspect of the legendary traditions of the Ibicencans has been preserved and can still be witnesses in the folklore displays which are still given at all the annual town Fiestas.

This presents the dancing troupe an opportunity to exhibit their ancient national dress in all its resplendence. Fewer spectaculars perhaps are the dancing itself. Moorish in character and repetitive in execution. The leader playing a shepherd's flute in one hand and beating a drum with the other provides the rhythm. In a number of the dances the troupe supplements the rhythm with large castanets, the size of their hands. Equally unusual, but eerie and moving in its simplicity, is an ancient Ibicencan love song given by two of the older members of the party.

Apart from dress one of the most impressive reminders of this bye-gone age is in some of the ancient techniques employed on the farms and in the fields of the beautiful Ibicencan countryside. Manpower and horsepower are still the driving forces in certain parts of this wonderful way of life.

This of course enables the farmers to work the smallest plots of land, some of which would be inaccessible to anything so modern as a tractor. You will see the skilful terracing on the side of the hills supported by solid stone walls. This not only levels the ground but prevents the soil from being washed away by the rains.

Horses are used for ploughing, harrowing and rolling. In the later case a large flat plank or even an old gate is often used for the purpose, tethered to the horse on either side by a stout rope. Standing in the middle of the plank the driver maintains a precarious balance hanging on to the horse's tail in order to control it and at the same time, adding weight to the roller.

Another interesting sight is that of threshing and winnowing the corn. After cutting the corn by hand it is then laid out on the threshing floor. This comprises a large circular area of hard ground or concrete. A horse is used to trample the corn by plodding slowly round in circles, controlled by a man in the centre, until all the grain has been expelled. The straw is then removed with forks and the wind left to blow away the chaff. You will see a number of these threshing floors around the island though with the innovation of the threshing machine fewer are being used year by year. Circular hors driven water pumps are also still in evidence. Windmills however first replaced the majority of these and then these gave way to electric motors.

In days gone by horses and carts were used both for personal transportation and for delivery of products, which although abundant in many parts of the island is now insufficient to supply the needs of the tourist.

Without irrigation the crops would be not only sparse but also poor in quality on this sun-drenched island. Therefore, for this reason land irrigation has been developed to a fine art throughout the centuries. You will scarcely fail to notice the concrete water ducts fed from large depositories, which are used so extensively in the fields throughout the island.

Completion: Some of these remarkable Ibicencan ways of life will hopefully continue for a long time. Others unfortunately, are already dying out far too rapidly as modern civilization extends its inexorable trends more over the island. May we enjoy it, as it is, as long as possible?

Gary Hardy