Ibiza: An island of tiny kingdoms by Rolph Blakstad

Continuing the historical tale of Rolph Blakstad’s arrival and assimilation into Ibiza in 1956, as taken from the (as yet unpublished in English) foreward to his book, La Casa Eivissenca…

In those days before 1960, a walk in the country was a Marco Polo journey through many lands. There was such variety, such difference from one farm to the next. Each had its own special flavour. There was something deeply satisfying in the atmosphere that set Ibiza apart from other places I had visited.

Feudalism had never existed on the island. There was no nobility, no landless peasants living in towns and working on another’s fields, as was the case on the neighbouring island of Mallorca. Society was completely decentralised. There was virtually no government, at least it was not felt on a personal level. Because the family was effectively the largest social unit, a spirit of independence and self-reliance prevailed. Each farm was a tiny kingdom that grew every kind of fruit tree and field crop, provided meat and wine, clothes and shoes; all the needs of the family were fulfilled on the farm itself.

A Spanish military psychologist once told me that the Spanish Army considered the Ibizans to be substandard material, that they could not be taught to march in step. I was proud of them. The Ibizans had a social structure that allowed each family to pursue its own life according to its own inner genius. An Ibizan may have been oppressed by the circumstances of life, but not oppressed by enforced behaviours imposed by an overseer.

Enslavement is a subtle thing. Most cultures practice it to a much greater extent than people realise. In Ibiza enslavement was not programmed into the cultural system. There is a very great difference between working under arbitrary rules and working according to the dictates of wind and weather – between orders based on human conceits and orders based on natural needs. The one kind of work constricts the soul; the other liberates it. One brings discontent, frustration; the other, ease of movement and contentment.

Oneness to the moods of nature engenders wisdom in a person and versatility. These are qualities I found in the peasant farmers of the island. If you live as a king, of no matter how tiny a realm, you are still a king, responsible to the microcosm that is a sample of all life. These farms, gardens, little kingdoms, breathed a sense of wellbeing seldom met with today. So much human care, contact with trees and animals creates something precious in the atmosphere. In the last analysis, what set Ibiza apart, for me, was its baraka, the feeling of blessedness.