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What I Learned from Growing Up in Magaluf

I spent my youth in the Spanish resort on Majorca island, surrounded by horny, pissed-up Brits on vacation. They were animals.

by Tomeu Canyelles
Apr 2 2015, 2:45pm

The author as a child

This article originally appeared at VICE Spain.

There was a time, just before the Spanish economy went to hell, that the people of the Balearic Islands thought they were kings. Back when Gabriel Cañellas was the President of the islands, our stock values had rocketed, and with that came all the usual prosperity, luxury, and, of course, utter chaos.

In those days, neither bricks nor land were particularly expensive, which meant that more or less everybody was capable of buying or renting a flat along the coastline. Most of my friends and their families went on holiday to places like Alcudia and Ca'n Picafort, but for some reason, which to this very day is still a complete mystery, my parents chose Magaluf as our vacation destination instead.

We spent our time in this quaint little village where people would bike to the shop if they needed bread. It was a place where it wasn't even necessary to lock your front door or close your windows. I always thought there was something so wonderfully rural about that.

The first summers in Magaluf, at the beginning of the 1990s, were actually pretty peaceful. I'd finish my homework so I could rush down to the beach with my mom and cousin. We spent every second we could in the sun till it started to retreat in September.

Photo by Paul Geddis.

Magaluf was certainly renowned for decadence in the 1980s, but, as far I'm concerned, it was 1993 when things kicked off. It was a little different to the Dominican nun school where I spent the other nine months of the year studying.

I remember the bonnet of my dad's R-18 being completely covered in this stinking crust of dried ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. Things like that were pretty common. You know, British lads thinking it'd be a bit of a laugh to douse cars in all manner of sauces.

It wasn't until much later in life that I found out that 1993 was actually the year that British tour operators dropped their prices so much that it instantly created this all-inclusive holiday paradise for herds of uncontrollable hooligans. All hellbent on sun, sea, sex, and generally acting like dicks.

Photo by Paul Geddis.

It's been years since I've been there, and I don't even know if any of the places I remember still exist or not. Places like Spiders, Prince William, Alexandra, and the Underground. It's probably for the better that the walls of those establishments can't talk. But there wasn't really a need to go to bars to get hammered.

I remember being able to buy alcohol absolutely everywhere. Even in the dingiest of souvenir shops, there'd be this huge selection of booze packed in between beach towels, hot pink dresses, and those classy little aprons with the boobs on them. You could get completely plastered for next to nothing. The stores didn't even bother to ask kids for fake IDs when buying their Rushkinoff—the putrid discount vodka that basically fueled the Majorcan summer.

Magaluf had a bit of a Spanish Bermuda triangle thing going on at the time—I guess that Hotel Sahara, BCM nightclub, and Punta Ballena were the corners of this phenomenon. Somewhere between those three points, people could get lost and disappear forever. The fortor, island slang for over-the-top sexual impulse, was so noticeable that you could almost taste it in the air.

I'm not only talking about the typical strip bars that were scattered under each and every building (let's not forget the legendary Top-Less Eva), but more of this sort of overt sexual revelry that was so obvious that even the kids picked up on it. In an era where there weren't any mobile phones or internet, a microclimate developed where free love was taking place whenever, wherever, and in front of whoever.



Photo by Jamie Taete.

This one morning on the beach, we witnessed a couple staggering down to the shore. They just laid right down on the beach and got to making out aggressively—sort of like Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr at the peak of their career, but a tad less sober. I don't remember if the police showed up to cool them down, but what I do remember is that the poor lifeguard hopped down from his post and came sprinting and shouting like a man possessed.

Things like that were common. There was this one summer when we were eating dinner on the terrace, while all along peeking from the corner of our eyes at a couple that forgot to close the curtains before getting their kit off. Trying clumsily to cover it up, my dad suggested that we go inside to eat with the curtains drawn. Well, at least he tried.

All this sex certainly wasn't just confined to the hotel, though. The constant flow of cheap alcohol had people going at it absolutely everywhere: on the stairs of our building, on beach hammocks, on car bonnets—provided they weren't smothered in condiments, of course. It was absurd, equal parts comical and kinky.

When you were tired of staring at all that intercourse, there was a great amount of entertainment to be found in the general mayhem around. Guests, who were obviously completely smashed, would throw all manner of furniture and fittings from the balcony of a third-floor flat. One time, someone threw a sofa out of a window, which for some reason inspired an obviously excited group of hooligans to launch into the worst version of Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me" that I've ever been punished with. To this day, I can't help but wonder if it was all just part of some weird performance art piece.

Photo by Paul Geddis.

Sure, there was plenty of fun on that island, but there was plenty of deeply disturbing, dark, sleazy, and dangerous things happening in Magaluf, too. Things like the sex assaults and violence that'd make newspaper headlines for months on end. Not to mention the deaths. In the 90s, tons of tourists fell from their balconies and died, along with hordes of unfortunate young men who were found floating face down in the ocean. I remember this one particular wooden pier being infamous for producing a broken neck almost weekly, because of all the young tourists that'd throw themselves headfirst into its super shallow waters.

In a way, I can still see myself there, in that small village, "Kill 'em All" blaring from my Walkman, spending my days trying to navigate unnoticed through the swarms of tubby, short-necked tourists in Aston Villa shirts. I'll never forget their discolored forearm tattoos and unique ability to throw back pints and empty entire bottles of HP sauce in one sitting. That was also the same set of guys you'd see, in the middle of the day, getting infuriated and throwing punches at the Telefónica phoneboxes. The same sunburnt chaps you'd see relieving themselves from each and every orifice on a street corner.

It was only three months out of each year, but the fact that I grew up in Magaluf and was forced to bear witness to the brutality and wildness of its summer, has served me pretty well. Not only do I have a bunch of anecdotes, I've also become much more conscious of the problems and contradictions of the modern-day tourist model. I guess that sometimes and in some places, the differences between humanity and the animal kingdom are pretty few.

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