Accepted Paper:

Not just any port after a storm: patronage, political opportunism, cultural heritage, and maritime identity on the Catalan Coast  


Eliseu Carbonell (University of Girona)

Paper short abstract:

In 1911 a storm battered Spain’s Mediterranean coast with dramatic consequences. Analysis of the local response, construction of a fishing port in a town without fishermen, engages key foci of the Anthropology of the Mediterranean and of disasters, including patronage, identity and opportunism.

Paper long abstract:

The 1st of February 1911 a terrible and unpredicted storm affected most of the Spanish Mediterranean coast, from Catalonia to Murcia, causing the loss of an unknown number of vessels and nearly ninety deaths, hundreds of injuries, mainly among the population engaged in fishing. Management of this catastrophe during the following weeks, months and years provides interesting examples concerning key foci of the Anthropology of the Mediterranean, such as patronage. But it is also useful to approach this event from the perspective of the Anthropology of hazards and disasters (Oliver-Smith, 1996) in order to analyze behavioral responses, social changes and what Terradas (2011) calls "the political opportunity of disasters".

As a result of this 1911 storm, a fishing port was constructed. This paper analyses the decision to build it in one of the rare villages on the Catalan coast with almost no fishermen, a village whose glorious marine past, related to commerce with America, ended half a century before the disaster. Drawing on ongoing ethnographic and historical research begun in 2009 in a fishing port of the central Catalan coast, this paper examines the management of this catastrophe as a process of re-construction of a maritime identity by local elites. Of particular interest is the place of attracting tourists in the decision-making of these elites. The paper closes with a brief comparison of two instances of heritagisation, processes subsequent to 1911 disaster and similar processes in the commemoration of 100th anniversary of the disaster in 2011.

Panel W069
Uncertainty and disquiet in the Mediterranean region