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Jackie Waldren – the outsider who became an insiderJuly 31, 2015

When I want to know something about Deia, I ask Jackie Waldren. She first arrived in Deia in 1959 and has seen the village become what it is today. My original copy of Jackie’s book Insiders and Outsiders: Paradise and Reality in Mallorca vanished so I was delighted to be able to pick up another from Jackie when she was part of the recent Conversations With Inspiring Women event at the Resi. I’ve just finished rereading Insiders and Outsiders and it’s every bit as fascinating as I remember from first time around.

Jackie Waldren

A nice contradiction

In her Acknowledgements at the start of the book, Jackie quotes Robert Graves’s poem “The Devil’s Advice to Story-Tellers”:

Nice contradiction between fact and fact

Will make the whole seem human and exact.

The story Jackie goes on to tell, of “Deianencs, Foresters, and Estrangers’, is born out of a “nice contradiction”. It’s the tale of a remarkable place which has survived because of the presence of outsiders not in spite of them.

As early as 1898, Jackie writes, a guidebook noted about Deia that “One of its chief characteristics is its collection of strange and eccentric foreigners.” No change there then.

Luis Salvador of Austria, who bought the beautiful Miramar – between Deia and Valldemossa – and all the lands either side of it in 1872. Robert Graves, who arrived in Deia in 1929, lived in the village for most of his life, became “the main figurehead of the foreign colony” and was made an hijo adoptivo de Mallorca (an adopted son – the same honour was bestowed on Paco de Lucia). The Americans funded by the GI Bill who washed up in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, intent on becoming artists, writers and musicians. The counter-culture characters from around the world who fell in love with Deia’s beauty and simple, good and cheap way of life from the 1960s onwards. The rather more well-heeled types who discovered Deia in the 1980s, perhaps as a result of staying in the Resi.  All were Estrangers made welcome in the village. Many made a home here.

Today, there are communities within communities in Deia but, whoever we are, whatever our relationship to Deia, most of us were once Estrangers who have come to love the place in our way.

(Incidentally, a Deianenc is someone born in the village, a “native or insider”. A Foraster is a Spaniard from outside Deia. An ‘Estranger’ is a stranger.)

Insight information

Insiders and Outsiders arose out of Jackie’s studies at the Institute of Social Anthropology in Oxford so its genesis was in academia. But, while this isn’t necessarily a book you’d take with you to the Cala on a hot afternoon, it’s perfectly accessible. And there’s huge pleasure to be had from sharing the fruits of Jackie’s knowledge. Here are a couple of things I’m glad I now know.

The name Valldemossa derives from Wade Musa or valley of the muse – Graves himself couldn’t have made up that one. The spring that supplies Llucalcari was the subject of disputes from 1480 to 1543 and is, to this day, called Ses Mentides or the lies. This is because water rights were and are so valuable, negotiations were always tricky and many promises were made and broken. Isn’t that great?

Becoming an insider

There’s no question that the lives of all who care about Deia are enriched in some way by the ever-changing mix of outsiders and insiders. Reading Jackie’s wonderful book once again, it seems to me that everyone who arrives in the village as an outsider has the chance to belong in some way. But, as another poet wrote, “In dreams begins responsibility”. Jackie and her work stand as an example of how it’s possible to share responsibility for nurturing this special village, its people and its culture.

Buy your copy of Insiders and Outsiders from the Deia newsagent or Jackie on + 34 699957902 or, as a last resort, from Amazon.

On 10 August there will be a concert for voice and guitar at the Deia Archaeological Museum which will be well worth checking out. It’s a beautiful setting. The music will be eclectic but will include bossa nova and folk.

David Holzer is a freelance writer who has been coming to Deia for almost 20 years. Apart from loving the village, he is fascinated by the – without being too pretentious – cultural history and significance of Deia.

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